All-change and no change is how one might best sum up Olivier Müller’s road map for Leroy, which is not as paradoxical as it might seem. The CEO, who has been at the helm for around a year, is planning to steer the brand through one of the most fundamental changes in course of its contemporary history. The objectives are clear: to reach a balance point of 500 watches a year, and then to continue sailing at cruising speed towards double that figure. The goal has thus remained the same, but Olivier Müller has revised the route being taken to reach it.
Before Baselworld 2015: six months and four major projects
Four projects are currently on the CEO’s desk. The first and most important concerns the restructuring of the Leroy product range. It is no secret that the upcoming Baselworld will be crucial to its future. The collections are to be entirely revamped in order to broaden and intensify their appeal. Most of the 2014 lines will thus not be on the 2015 menu. “We are going to completely redeploy two new lines, based on two new Manufacture-made movements”, explains Olivier Müller. “A first line will be the flagship of the Manufacture, notably featuring considerable work both on the escapement and the finishes. While these models will be more expensive, it is our duty to convey the historical heritage of Leroy in terms of both the R&D involved and the finishing that will need to surpass the level to which collectors are already accustomed”.
While this high-end line will be priced somewhere between 150,000 and 250,000 CHF, a second will anchor the brand in more accessible waters: “We are still in the development phrase for the second in-house calibre that will serve as the bedrock for this collection, but we will aim for around the 35,000 CHF mark”, says Olivier Müller.
Nothing more can be revealed for the time being regarding these new collections. The only model to be maintained will be the famous Deck Chronometer, embodying the brand’s maritime legacy. The two new Manufacture-made calibres will be chronometers: the first, a tourbillon chronometer ; and the second a chronometer with the same escapement but no constant-force device. The chronograph will follow later. These models will be introduced in diameters ranging from 38 to 41 mm. Olivier Müller confirms this deliberate choice of moderate sizes: “These are timeless diameters that should probably never have been neglected. There is probably a very good reason why a House such as Patek Philippe has remained true to such sizes…”.
Transforming the MHVJ
The second main project is that of product development. Alongside his responsibilities at Leroy, Olivier Müller recently took charge of Leroy’s industrial facility currently known as the MHVJ and which the CEO will soon be renaming “Manufacture Leroy”. Its competencies will be primarily devoted to the eponymous brand, but not confined to this role. “We are going to maintain our external partnerships”, says Olivier Müller “at least towards our own brands within the group”. Between the lines, the CEO is evoking Perrelet, whose delicate field of Turbine production has already been relocated back to Le Sentier and entrusted to Leroy.
The third project involves reinternalising certain key skills. As far as the movement side of things are concerned, meaning the R&D department, Laurent Besse (who formerly worked for Corum) has taken the reins of product development. His daringly creative strength will doubtless help give Leroy the new lease on life sought by Olivier Müller.
Finally, in its T2 department that notably includes finishing, Leroy is planning to enlist its own artisans to finish the brand’s timepieces and, as the CEO boldly states: “We aim to raise the bar extremely high in aiming for the ultimate degree of excellence in finishing, reprising methods that have been extinct for two centuries.”
All about chronometry
Last but not least, the fourth project concerns brand awareness. Leroy is planning to enter unexpected territory by choosing to leverage social networks in order to make the brand better known. This will echo the successful path taken by Olivier Müller with Laurent Ferrier, and should enable Leroy to assert itself on some markets that have become somewhat tougher to impact in the course of the year, such as Asia and Russia.
Europe nonetheless remains equally important: “It’s our native market”, points out Olivier Müller. “We are Swiss Made and I have indeed taken the decision to relocate the brand to Le Sentier for obvious reasons of consistency; but Basile Le Roy was French and we will continue, just as we have always done, having the precision of our models certified by Besançon Observatory. Leroy, the father of chronometry (precision timekeeping) will be very much the focus of our future development.”