Any executive within a luxury brand conglomerate will tell you that with the world economy as it is today, the fine goods and exotic materials industry isn’t quite what it used to be. One might imagine that Jean Marc Lacave, President of LVMH Watches, would be losing sleep over this. He isn’t.
“I’m looking after several brands in several markets. The most important of which is Asia, the fastest growing,” he says with aplomb, pre-empting the Financial Times’ report of China’s new status as the world’s second largest economy. “I have to allocate the right resources, the right support for the right brands and the right markets. China’s consumers are having growing aspirations and the luxury industry is about selling that. We have to grab ideas and inspirations to act as a bridge between Asia and Switzerland.”
As a venerable 40-billion-euro firm with annual revenues of over 17 billion euros, Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton S.A. has certainly earned the right to rest on its laurels. However, Jean Marc’s leadership has LVMH reinvigorated in his belief that it’s no longer about innovation but the speed of innovation. Jean Marc identifies the huge difference between the two economies in terms of taste and design sensibilities. “In the past, it was simpler. Consumers in Asia were happy to follow European trends. That time is over. Today, we have to integrate Asian inspirations into our watches.”
For LVMH, there’s no better evidence of strong business fundamentals and strategy at play. TAG Heuer dominates South-east Asian and even Australian markets to such a degree that other brands are just scrambling to cobble together some measure of response to their marketing onslaught. For Jean Marc, his positioning for TAG is crystal clear, “In order to be avante garde, TAG has to be about strong concepts. What other brands have been doing for the last 30 years is merely refining or improving existing 300-year-old technologies. I want to look to the future as a serious watchmaker.” He smilingly adds, “There are three principles in watchmaking — creating energy, storing energy and transmitting that energy. The V4 was our way of saying that TAG can renew an old concept with a new mechanism through pinions and wheels. With the pendulum, it was about recreating energy without the strings. We want to produce successful products that push the innovative envelope and have connoisseurs recognise and want them to be part of watch history and their collection.”
“TAG is about looking at the future rather than refining what has already been done in the past.”
TAG isn’t alone in its continued march up the ladder in terms of brand recognition and market share. Zenith, another brand under his portfolio of watch brands including Hublot and Chaumet, has made a strong comeback with their El Primero Striking 10th. “There were many great strides and improvements made but the brand was swept up in the whole large watch craze and lost a bit of its way. Today, Jean-Frédéric Dufour has gone back to the roots of putting high end quality complications in very simple cases. Sometimes, you can go too far and just follow trends of the moment, straying away from what makes a Zenith a Zenith. We’ve pulled back from the brink in less than a year and brought the company back to what it’s about. It’s Zenith reborn.”