What have your priorities been since taking over the brand in March 2013?
From the beginning, our discussions with our clients have led us to improve the quality of our watches and increase the amount of jewelry offered in the boutiques. While the design of Harry Winston watches has never been called into question, and even less so with the very creative saga of the Opus models developed with authentic watchmaking, the number of remarks with regard to the reliability of the technical content persuaded us to strengthen this aspect immediately. Aside from the movements, we have also taken a fresh look at the construction of the cases, as well as the manufacture of the strap attachments, whose comfort needed improving. Our target is irreproachable quality… at every level. Parallel to this, the former owners had decided to cease production of the Avenue line, but its iconic character convinced us to keep it. We are committed to offering a wide range to women, and not only in the field of jewelry watches.
And on that note, what have you decided as far as jewelry crafts are concerned?
Historically, Harry Winston’s High Jewelry workshops have been located in New York on 5th Avenue, where we have maintained this decision-making center, as opposed to watchmaking, which we felt it would be better to repatriate to Geneva, within our Manufacture. We have made two major changes in our jewelry entity in order to better meet the needs of the clientele: firstly, by opening a second workshop in order to double our production capacity, and then by investing in precious stones in order to work less on a consignment basis. Carried out simultaneously, these two operations enable us to have larger stocks and a broader range in our boutiques, which are also increasing in number.
To what extent?
Harry Winston will never be one of those brands with boutiques on every street corner. Having said this, at the beginning of the year, we had around 20 Harry Winston boutiques, and by the end of 2015, we will have more than 30. While expanding existing points of sale such as Beijing, we have just opened several in Cannes, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Macao, three in Japan and in the next few months are planning others in Dubai, Istanbul, Miami and Rome, not to mention a second boutique in Switzerland along with St. Moritz this winter, as well as the first one in Germany, which will welcome clients on four floors in Dusseldorf! In parallel, our head of distribution, who is based in Geneva and who came to us from Breguet, oversees a network of around 200 retailers all over the world.
What is the main change with regard to jewelry? And watchmaking?
There is no question of revolutionizing Harry Winston’s jewelry collections, but instead of expanding and energizing them. The pillars will remain, such as the Iconic, Cluster and Incredibles lines. Platinum and diamonds will always be on the agenda. We might offer greater choice with creations mounted on yellow or white gold in the more accessible ranges. We have just launched a new collection, Secret by Harry Winston, while maintaining the brand’s DNA and history, which holds that behind each piece lies a secret. The range of ladies’ watches will be expanded, notably with automatic movements and small complications. The jewelry watches will be given several variations that are better suited to retailers than our flagship pieces, which can cost up to a million francs in our boutiques. Men will be delighted to learn that the Opus saga will start again after Baselworld, where our teams will unveil not just the Z9 in the sports line in Zalium, but also the sequel to the Histoire de Tourbillon concept, for which we have already worked on developments 6, 7, 8 and 9! Generally speaking, all the movements in the men’s and ladies’ watches will be specially developed for Harry Winston either by Blancpain or by ETA, the Swatch Group’s integrated Manufacture.
The new releases at Baselworld 2014 focused on exceptional dials. Is this a new trend?
Special dials are part of Harry Winston’s territory of expression. This strength in the creativity of the Premier line, embodied here under our Métiers d’Art label, will reach unprecedented heights at Baselworld, with particularly innovative new dials. We will doubtless be copied but we will be the pioneers.
Your passion for horses hasn’t yet become a source of inspiration for Harry Winston?
Drawing one’s inspiration from the things one loves is natural and easy, but unfortunately I don’t think there is any link between Harry Winston and horseriding! We won’t go down this road unless we do it within the exceptional framework of the Year of the Horse in the Chinese calendar, which will obviously not leave a single brand indifferent.
How do you judge the results of the Geneva boutique that opened a year ago?
Every boutique opening brings its own sources of satisfaction as well as aspects to be improved over time and Geneva is no exception to this rule. Especially seeing as the past year saw fewer tourists than usual on the banks of Lake Léman and we hope for more in 2015. Harry Winston’s clientele traditionally consists of locals, but mainly of Arabs, Asians, Russians and Americans. What has been very interesting in Geneva is that people from the region have been able to discover our universe and make their first purchase. That included watches, engagement rings or charm bracelets, but a significant number of first-time Harry Winston purchases by local clients took the form of a watch. Given that the least expensive sells for just under CHF 20,000, that’s not bad for an initial contact with the brand!