The great turnaround

The great turnaround

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Place : L’Orient – Vallée de Joux, Switzerland Date : 2004
Venue : The new Breguet Manufacture
Occasion : Guided tour of the factory

A visitor is being taken on a guided tour of the new Manufacture Breguet – reorganised and refurbished with a 15-million-Swiss-franc makeover. The man behind this new Breguet makeover is Nicolas G. Hayek, 75, President and CEO of Montres Breguet SA and Chairman and Co-founder of the world’s largest watch company, Swatch Group. The investments in Manufacture Breguet are direct results of the Swatch Group’s takeover of Breguet in 1999.

The watch industry was rife with speculation about the fate of a horological gem like Breguet in the clutches of an industrial giant like Swatch. Sure, Hayek is a brilliant man and has revived Swiss watchmaKing. But what does he know about very high luxury watches? What will he do with precious little Breguet?

Five years later, one did not ask this question, as the answer was far too obvious. Hayek has initiated the most rigorous turnaround of the brand Breguet and revived interest in Breguet, the man and his immortal creations, the watches.

Between 1999 and 2003, Breguet watch production has tripled from 4,000 to 12,000 pieces. Sales have grown from CHF 30 million to CHF 200 million. Annual production of tourbillon watches (A.-L. Breguet’s signature piece) have jumped from 150 pieces in 1999 to more than 1,000 in 2004. Signs of the Breguet revival abound. In Paris’s Place Vendôme, a luxurious Breguet boutique houses a new Breguet museum, opened in September 2000, displaying 80 of the master’s masterpieces. In Tokyo, in a building for the Swatch Group, Breguet houses a combination boutique and a museum. The Breguet boutique is the sixth around the world, up from zero in 1999. In watch auction centres, Breguet watches are fetching historically high prices in response to Hayek’s efforts to obtain original pieces for the Paris museum. In St. Petersburg, Russia, the State Hermitage museum, in summer 2004, devoted an exhibition exclusively to Breguet. When we started analysing the reasons for this amazing turnaround and renewed interest in the brand, we summed them as follows:

First, it is Breguet’s enigmatic leader, Nicholas G. Hayek. TaKing an extremely personal interest, he remains the President and CEO of Montres Breguet SA. He believes Breguet is the brightest star in the Swiss watch firmament. He has made it his personal goal to restore the legacy and splendour Breguet once enjoyed.

 

Second, Hayek repositioned Breguet as a part of the cultural heritage of Europe. The result was an award winning ad campaign which had two waves. The famous Clients campaign presented images of Napoleon Bonaparte and Winston Churchill, noting that each was a client from 1798 and 1901 respectively. The famous Writers campaign quoted references to Breguet watches in books by great Europeon authors, Balzac, Dumas, Pushkin, Stendhal, John Fowles and Patrick O’Brian. This new positioning highlighted Breguet’s cultural importance in an emotional way and set the stage for the rebirth of the brand.