WorldTempus: Last year was an eventful year for Raymond Weil, wasn’t it?
Elie Bernheim: It was an emotional year for the brand. At the start of the year my grandfather passed away. He was the man that started the brand, in the middle of the watchmaking crisis in 1976, with nothing more than his passion for watchmaking and his contacts with suppliers.
Then the second emotional aspect just after Basel was that the family, and in particular my father, decided to place their trust in me by appointing me CEO. From that point out I have been travelling almost non-stop.
Do you plan to continue with the same strategy for the brand?
I have been working with my father for ten years now, so it’s not as if everything is completely new for me. In terms of strategy, I have been responsible for product development and communication since 2008 anyway, so I will be responsible for my own continuity in a way.
We have a very clear positioning in the price range between 750 and 3,000 Swiss francs and this is where we are strong and the customer knows where we are. This is what I aim to strengthen, in a segment where we are among the top three brands in certain countries. One of the most notable differences that I hope you will see in the future is that we will concentrate on markets where we are strong and where the brand has genuine potential for development.
The Raymond Weil brand has numerous associations with the world of music. How did these come about?
We have always been attached to the world of music, ever since 1982 when my father first started to take an interest in communication and, as a family company, we had to decide in which area we wanted to focus our attention. Since the family has always been interested in music and we are all music lovers, music seemed the logical choice. So we have been building up our associations over thirty years, whether in classical music, pop and rock or even ethnic music. We work on different things and often adapt our activities to the local markets. We have some very interesting projects in the pipeline for this year, including one major new product launch.
Do you see a threat from smart watches in your segment?
No, I don’t think so but I do think we need to keep an eye on the situation. For me, a smart watch has no similarity whatsoever with a traditional Swiss watch. Someone who buys one may well buy the other and the brands are not targeting the same customer. Our price is higher, too, so I don’t think we will be affected by it.
So you will not be considering producing your own smart watch?
I don’t want to lie to you by saying no. We are thinking about it because we would be crazy not to. But we need to be very careful. It has to be positioned very astutely.
Do you think the economic uncertainty will continue in 2015?
Yes! I may be one of the few people in the industry to say this but we need to be rational. You only have to watch the news to see that there is no short-term positive outlook anywhere. Look at the price of oil, or gold, or currency markets, or Asia, or Russia…