Exclusive Interview: The younger generation is the custodian of time. Frederique Constant’s Managing Director, Niels Eggerding explains how the brand is their quintessential playground
Editor’s note: This feature with Niels Eggerding, Managing Director of Frederique Constant, is our latest interview with industry leaders for our segment of talking about everything from upcoming 2020 novelties to COVID-19’s impact on the Swiss watch industry. For our introductory ones with Maximilian Büsser, Founder of MB&F watches, Ming Thein, Founder of MING watches and Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie, please head to our interviews page here.
The Swiss watch industry is at an interesting turning point; the old guard will have to let go soon, and the new generation will be taking over the reins. The younger generation will be the new custodian of time.
The opening lyrics to a song by the British band Amen read as follows, “Passion (Running Through My Veins), running through my veins”.
The younger generation will need loads of passion for this industry to write the next chapter.
And one way of ensuring that is to equip them with the one thing that will help them understand the importance of this, a mechanical watch.
The problem often is, that for starters not every youngster can afford a finely made Swiss watch. And if they can, in an age of ever-growing information technology, they might not be that interested in conventional watches. The millennials will have to be taught the inexplicable beauty of winding a watch every day in order for them to convert their interest into passion.
In an interview with Robb Report, the living watch industry legend Jean Claude Biver said: “If we cannot get them attracted to the idea of a watch when they are 18, 25 or 30, how can we sell them a watch later?”
Enter Frederique Constant.
“Frederique Constant’s aim is to reach young graduated upcoming businesswomen and men starting at an age of 25, who look up to high-end brands, but can’t afford such expensive watches yet. We are thus giving them the opportunity to access luxury timepieces featuring a similar look and feeling when wearing them, at a much more accessible price,” says Mr. Niels Eggerding, Managing Director of Frederique Constant.
“Moreover, we have noticed a growing interest in the Brand from an even younger audience, early twenties ladies and gents’ individuals, thanks to our smartwatch product developments over the past five years. From now on, this is an audience that we will also consider and try to please with innovative products.”
The Right Direction.
Mr. Eggerding is correct. And the brand under his guidance is headed in the right direction. He has been with the company since 2012. From helming positions like the commercial director for Frederique Constant and Alpina to Vice President Sales to the Managing Director, and from overseeing the success of the brand in the Middle East to extending Frederique Constant’s manufacturing facilities from 3200m2 to 6200m2, Niels Eggerding has been at the forefront of pioneering the Swiss brand.
A majority of the enthusiast market associates prestige with Swiss watches. “Watches are about status”. The popular Colombian reggaeton singer José Álvaro Osorio Balvín nails this very sentiment.
Frederique Constant understands this and seems to know what today’s customer is looking for.
“On one hand, I believe that today’s customer is still very focused on a certain statement related to the most renowned high-end brands,” says Eggerding.
“However, the digital revolution has showed us that people also have much more access to worldwide pricing strategies and have become aware of quality finishing behind the watches,” he adds.
Frederique Constant has managed to carve a niche out for themselves and are working hard at acquiring and keeping the youth market.
“And this is Frederique Constant’s greatest strength: for over 30 years, the Maison has held an accessible luxury positioning and has never deviated from it. Finally, I think that given today’s economic situation, customers are more and more responsive to quality versus price balance,” says Eggerding.
Powered by the if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them attitude, Frederique Constant is at the front line of adaptability.
The millennial market is not simply about mechanical watches. With the advancements in technology, it is also about smartwatches as a quarter of US millennials now use a smartwatch. According to a report by Bloomberg, “Swiss smartwatches are multiplying as makers hunt millennial buyers“. BBC quotes Ariel Adams, the force behind A Blog To Watch in explaining how smartwatches are playing an important role in getting young people “to think and wear watches”.
So it comes as no surprise that understanding this is vital in tapping into their passion.
“On the other hand, we witnessed a growing interest in smartwatches, a new segment which has had a major impact on the Swiss watchmaking industry,” says Eggerding.
Going into more depth about this, Eggerding explains: “Frederique Constant has succeeded in the past five years in developing connected technologies, and our Maison is now the only one to offer Swiss Made smartwatches, which functionalities are related to an App available for iOS and Android. On the long term, I am persuaded that connected watches will strengthen their position within the watchmaking industry thanks to the younger generation, which is eager to learn about watches and starts looking up for Swiss Made quality.”
The 2020 Novelties.
For a brand that is relatively new on the scene — 1988 — it has managed to spend the last 32 years shaking up the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Visually striking and featuring a very distinctive and charming elegant appeal, their watches are the definition of high end looks meeting entry level pricing.
In-fact, this even resonates with how Eggerding describes the brand in a nutshell: “High-end finish Swiss timepieces with a classical touch at an accessible price,” he says.
Look at their new 2020 novelties for instance. The brand has catered to both the men and the feminine markets with their new releases.
“We have launched three product novelties already. Four new Classics Quartz Ladies models, a new feminine line, the Classics Art Déco Round, and two new variations of our Flyback Chronograph Manufacture timepiece,” lists Eggerding.
The Gateway to Paradise.
Frederique Constant watches can be looked as an entryway to luxury high end watches. A tunnel you may say, giving you your right of passage to the world of high horology. And while the band is aware of this, the irony is, some of their watches are so good that perhaps people might not want to cross that tunnel. One that comes to mind is the recent Flyback Chronograph.
The new Flyback Chronograph replaces the standard column wheel — usually several column wheels are used that act as a system of clutches — with a star-shaped wheel that has resulted in a thinner movement with fewer parts and operations that ensures that the new watches have a movement that is simpler, smoother and more reliable.
Offering classic appeal, handsome looks, high legibility and great value for money (3’895€), these new chronographs are the embodiment of the brand’s values.
He talks further about these new releases. “We decided to give our in-house developed, produced and assembled chronograph a sportier look by playing with contrasts: the counters are now silvered on a blue or chocolate dial. As this timepiece’s demand has been increasing rapidly, we wanted to offer our watch aficionados two new striking yet elegant variations.”
In addition to the chronographs, the brand is also offering new models for the feminine market.
“Regarding the feminine novelties, we added a new dimension to the Classics Art Déco collection by launching a new line composed of five round graceful timepieces. With this new shape, the Classics Art Déco Round adapts itself to a modern lifestyle while bearing the delicate and classic hallmarks of its elders. Finally, the new variations of the Classics Quartz Ladies redefine the boundaries of accessible luxury and offer ultimate refinement at an unbeatable price. A premiere in this line, these timepieces feature a mother-of-pearl dial and a diamond set bezel, for an even more luxurious appearance,” expands Eggerding.
The Bright Future.
But that’s not all; tapping back into their youth market, the brand has a few exciting offerings for 2020 in the pipeline that have gotten us excited.
“We have a very exciting year planned! Last year, we have been consolidating and preparing collections for an impactful year 2020. Despite the Covid-19 consequences, we are organising two key product launches. First, we innovated in smartwatch technologies again. Then, we will present a very typical design we have created for men, relaunching a product line aimed to please a new and younger audience,” he affirms with energetic conviction.
This promising year ahead for the brand apart, it is very well aware of how the current global pandemic is affecting its business and how the brand need to deal with that to come out on top.
“Globally speaking, when the Covid-19 crisis began in Asia, we noticed an impact on sales and we felt our retailers were under pressure. We also witnessed an impact on the supply chain, both in Switzerland and in Asia, due to production sites’ lockdown. Hopefully, the industry is slowly starting to recover, some countries are bouncing back already and Frederique Constant’s teams across the world are flexible enough to quickly reschedule their planning,” he tells us.
Countering the Global Crisis with resilience.
The Swiss watchmaking industry is not new to challenges. Take for instance the quartz crisis of 60s and 70s. Or the global financial crisis of 2008. But somehow it always manages to bounce back. Now faced with the COVID-19 crisis, it may be feeling the heat, but if our interviews with industry leaders has taught us anything so far, is that resilience is one word that runs in the veins of the industry.
Frederique Constant understands it is not alone in this struggle and fight. Eggerding is well aware of the context surrounding the brand.
But has faith in the Swiss watchmaking industry’s ability to fight and bounce back from crisis.
“The Swiss watchmaking industry always faced ups and downs. Since 2015, the industry has been struggling and the pressure has even strengthened because of this pandemic situation we are going through. I believe this past five years’ heritage, along with the worldwide crisis we are now facing will expand the gap between big and smaller brands. I assume that well-established brands or groups will become stronger and will find some new opportunities out of this situation, while weaker companies will face serious difficulties, as well as some retailers. We are happy to be part of a reliable group such as Citizen and benefit from its support to move forward and survive this situation,” he explains.
The Next Chapter.
Like the lyrics of Amen song we spoke about in the beginning of this interview, resilience seems to be running through the brand’s veins. Frederique Constant will be marching on, forging new pathways and establishing new benchmarks along the way.
“Frederique Constant will continue to develop Manufacture calibers featuring complications in ever more inventive ways, as well as new connected technologies, in order to offer beautiful timepieces with major innovations to the greatest number,” says Eggerding.
“Finally, we will also progressively broaden our e-commerce platform worldwide, working hand in hand with our retailers in order to operate this evolution together with them,” he wraps up.
Charles Babbage, the father of the computer, inventor of the first mechanical computer once quipped: “The half minute which we daily devote to the winding-up of our watches is an exertion of labour almost insensible; yet, by the aid of a few wheels, its effect is spread over the whole twenty-four hours.”
Time being immortal, the importance of watches in our lives is in the very essence of our existence.
With the new generation wearing Frederique Constant and equipped with passion for the industry, we can expect a bright future.