Founded in 1737 by Abraham Favre in Le Locle, Favre-Leuba is the world’s second-oldest watch brand and comes with a solid history in Swiss watchmaking. Philippe Roten, Chief Executive Officer at Favre-Leuba, comes with an impressive 18 years of international experience in the watch industry, managing brands from the Swatch and LVMH Group. As an avid sportsman, Mr. Roten looks forward to drawing on these qualities and passion ‘to grow the business and brand to great success and celebrate its meritorious achievements with our investors and the team’. Favre Leuba is part of the part of the prestigious Tata Group – A 100 billion dollar conglomerate, with over a hundred companies across all key continents.
In an exclusive interview with EE, Philip Philippe Roten shares interesting insights on the luxury industry, the challenging times the world is facing, and coming out with flying colors.
Q: How has your experience been at Favre-Leuba so far? How does it feel to work for the world’s second oldest watch brand?
A: For me, the start at Favre-Leuba in January was very positive. It was great to see the spirit and the ethical behavior of the Titan group. It was reassuring to see everyone working together as a team and to witness the focus on the people and the brand while maintaining high ethical standards. This was refreshing for me because nowadays, it isn’t common to see this in many brands, where turnover and business is put above everything else. Hence, the first steps in the Titan group have been very happy and positive. I am also very motivated to work for the second oldest watch brand in the world.
But on the other side, there are a lot of regions and countries where the brand is still unknown, and this is a challenge I look forward to. I want to take this great history and this long tradition, of the brand and connect its past to a successful future. I also have to say that I really have the possibility to bring in new things. Titan has r given me the liberty to develop the brand and its future. This is a motivating situation to step into.
Q: What is it about the brand that you admire the most?
A: What I really like about Favre-Leuba is the spirit of the Titan family. I really believe in my gut feelings and thus for me it is important to have a comfortable, positive environment where I know I can go ahead and develop this brand.
Another thing that I admire is Favre-Leuba’s rich heritage. Being the second oldest Swiss brand in the world, Favre-Leuba has a long and illustrious journey, tied deeply to the history of horology. But, at the same time, the brand does not just rest on its laurels. We are a forward-looking brand, constantly working toward past into the future towards conquering frontiers. This is one of our biggest strengths.
Q: Name some of the challenges you have faced during your tenure, biggest being the Covid-19 challenge.
A: For me, one of the main challenges is to find the right balance between wanting to be premium and being focused on our brand, but at the same time looking out for the interests of our retail partners and clients, and taking them along on our journey. In the watch industry, a lot of times, brands which are successful get arrogant and lose the focus on the end consumers and the brand itself. So, this is something where we really should find the right balance.
Another challenge is to adapt quickly to the changes accelerated by Corona virus, such as e-commerce. The Swiss watch industry is a very traditional industry and it will be a challenge to be connected to all these fast-moving changes, happening now and in the future.
Q: What strategies has Favre-Leuba implemented to tide over the challenging scenario? What have been the business styles observed during this period?
A: We have worked on our web presence and our e-commerce shop. We are much more active in the social media space. We are also holding webinars and online events to connect with audiences virtually. There has been a shift in our marketing budget towards social media.
For me what is more important at the moment is to make sure that the product is the star. We are working hard on our product presentation and on the whole collection. This is for me, this is the first step necessary before we go into the market. We must do our homework.
For us, the Corona situation has not been too bad as, from the beginning, we were treating this as a transaction year to see where we are and what we need to change. This year, we could focus on our internal projects, do our homework, polish our product and be ready for Post-Corona times.
Q: What has been the impact on the luxury market during the pandemic?
A: Like most industries, the luxury industry has been hit hard by the pandemic as well. However, I believe that it will be among the first markets to recover strongly. This is because it is human nature to want to pamper yourselves after overcoming adversity. This nature of consumer sentiment can already be seen in the international markets that are slowly opening up. However, there will surely be a change in the way the luxury industry moves forward, particularly in terms of a prominent shift of focus to ecommerce and digital platforms.
Q: How has the cancellation of BaselWorld impacted the watch and jewelry industry?
A: I don’t necessarily think that the cancellation was as bad for the watch industry, as it was perhaps for BaselWorld itself. Over the last few years, they were losing a connection to the brands and to the visitors,and brands had started pulling out already as they felt that times were changing. Coronavirus just speeded up the process. There are also many fairs which are coming up across the world and replacing BaselWorld.
Yes, there will be a loss in terms of tourism sales as many people visited Switzerland mainly for purchasing a watch. But now these people will buy locally. So overall, the turnover will just be transferred from Switzerland to other countries. Therefore, for me, cancellation of BaselWorld has not majorly impacted the industry.
Q: What is the future like for the luxury watch retail industry globally?
A: The watch industry has always been quite traditional in its retail approach. Now post the pandemic, they will certainly realize the value of moving towards digital and integrating ecommerce along with traditional retail. I also think this pandemic has accelerated the green movement across all industries, including watches. Not only sustainability the need of the hour for our planet, but the newer generation of customers are quite environmentally and socially conscious, and buy brands that reflect their moral ethos.
Q: What are the plans moving forward for the brand in India?
A: Favre-Leuba has a long association with India since the 1890s when we started distribution and retailing within the sub-continent. A lot of the current generations associate Favre-Leuba with nostalgia since their fathers and grandfathers often owned our watches. Moreover, Titan is an Indian company. So, India is one of our key markets and going forward, this year we are launching a limited Indian edition celebrating our long association. We are really looking forward to it.
Q: Which is your favorite timepiece in the Favre-Leuba collection?
A: This is a very tough question for me because every time I get a closer look at the collection, I have a new favorite watch. I keep changing my watch as often as every two weeks. This also gives me a chance to get feedback and opinions on different watches from friends and family. As we are working very actively on the collection, I am motivated to share our work with others and get their inputs. So, I genuinely can’t pick anyone favorite timepiece.
Q: Has the brand launched any new timepieces this year?
A: We have launched three new variations of the Sky Chief Date with green, white and green with rose gold bezel dials. We also plan to launch two more timepieces this year, including the India-only time piece.
Q: What do you enjoy doing apart from work?
A: I really like sports, and for me working is also a lot like sport. I enjoy the competition in the market, and I like to be offensive and attack. Sports also teaches you to work in a team.
I also think that as the first ambassadors of our brand, we have to be the first ambassadors for our brand, we must be the first ones to show the spirit, the power and he potential of the brand and its connection to sports and keep challenging ourselves.
Q: Share your favorite motto?
A: I believe in the luck of the brave.