Johann Rupert, chairman of the Swiss-based luxury-goods conglomerate Richemont (parent company of brands such as Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Van Cleef & Arpels) wasn’t joking when he said, “I want to see less grey-haired men [in management]”.
Meet Geoffroy Lefebvre, deputy CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, and widely expected as next in line to helm the brand since Georges Kern left Richemont in 2017. The 40-year-old INSEAD graduate worked at management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company before joining Richemont in 2011 as its global industry director. Since then, he was Vacheron Constantin’s managing director of operations for slightly more than two years before assuming his current position at Jaeger-LeCoultre.
SEE ALSO: #Hashtag: Haute Horlogerie
Will you be implementing changes to Jaeger-LeCoultre’s current positioning?
I think we are lucky to be serving male and female clients equally and we don’t want that to change. We won’t see a change in the price brackets. The level of quality and the amount of work and passion that we put into our watches, and specifically our entry-level products, provide an excellent price-to-value ratio today so this is something we do not want to change. Our prices are not going to go up: We still want to be present in the entry range segment — and I mean entry range as defined for Jaeger-LeCoultre to be about $10,000 for men’s watches and a little lower for the Reverso line. The new Polaris collection we are introducing at the SIHH will have an entry price similar to that of the Master Control.
Tell us more about the Polaris collection.
It’s a new line in the sports elegance segment for men. All of our products are deeply inspired by the Jaeger-LeCoultre DNA and we went back into our archive to find the most relevant model that would inspire us on the creation of this line. As it turns out, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the Polaris, which was launched in 1968 as a very interesting and useful diver’s watch that came complete with a vibrating alarm. What we’ve done is to design a complete line, with the main objective being to offer useful complications. We have the entry watch which is automatic with three hands, as well as a range of 42mm watches with auto date, alarm, world time and chronograph. Also very important to us is the introduction of a really cool metal bracelet that is very well-integrated to the Polaris case design and very pleasant to wear — exactly designed for the contemporary sportsman.
What are the main drivers behind introducing this new collection?
There are two: First, we want to compete in a segment of the market where our presence was rather small. We had the Master Compressor with very few references and models that are very identifiable but did not really fit into the Master collection. With the introduction of the Polaris collection, we now have a very consistent offering in that segment of the market that is matched with a very consistent price range. The second is to tell a very important story for Jaeger-LeCoultre: Our products are always systematically inspired by our history as watchmakers and also by our connection with another field. For instance, when we launched the Rendez-Vous, it was at the Shanghai International Film Festival because it is very much inspired by the universe of film-makers. For Polaris, the watch is linked to the world of divers and explorers. However, what we also wanted to revive was the connection between Jaeger-LeCoultre and the world of prestigious race cars. As you may know, in 1921, Edmond Jaeger, who was one of our namesake founders, worked on dashboard dials that became very popular because of their unique design. They were quickly requested by automobile manufactures in the 1920s such as Bugatti, Aston Martin and Hispano-Suiza. With this story, we feature a universe of what we call the man in motion: The dynamic man who is the do-er, entrepreneur and sure of himself; the man who wants a watch that can resist everyday challenges. That is really the spirit of the product.
Is digital communication growing in importance for the brand?
This is a very important topic for us. Part of our digital strategy is to leverage the digital communication abilities of our press partners and to animate our own accounts on social media. Digital communication is also a very important traffic driver to our stores. At the end of the day, people still want to come down to the boutiques to talk to experts, and see and touch the products before they buy them. However, we need to be relevant and bring the right people to our stores, and tell them the right stories. Everything is about storytelling today, and I want to tell our story at Jaeger-LeCoultre. Since we have such a rich and powerful history that spans 180 years, going digital is a great way to convey all those elements.
How is Jaeger-LeCoultre embracing e-commerce?
E-commerce is a very important phenomenon. Since more and more people are exposed to global e-commerce, they are acquiring consumption reflexes and have new ways of consuming. And we need to adapt ourselves to these ways. In the future, being able to offer the entire boutique of Jaeger-LeCoultre online, being able to offer click and collect, being able to offer, I don’t know, an Uber delivery service of our products — those are going to open up a lot more opportunities.
Yet there are those who say e-commerce is the opposite of luxury retail.
For me it’s complementary. We are investing significantly in digital, but ultimately, the Jaeger-LeCoultre experience is when you walk into the store, touch the product, feel it and can discuss it with someone. Some get the opportunity to visit the manufacturer, where you see the real Jaeger-LeCoultre in action. However, eventually the consumer is king and he or she chooses his or her way of consumption. It’s not for us to force people into this or that way of consumption — we have to use digital to drive more traffic into our boutiques to bring the people to the brand, so that they enjoy the real physical experience.
The digital age also brings about a new demographic of consumers. How do you plan to reach out to them?
Two ways: First, speak their language; second, use their tools. We are present on Instagram and Facebook and are very active on the social networks. I think having a professional and analytical approach will allow us to crack the codes of the younger generations. By the way, I’m 40 so I’m not so old! Perhaps this is also part of the reason why there is a younger generation now accessing Richemont’s management team.