< CEO SPEAK >
In a tete-a-tete with Mitrajit Bhattacharya, Francois Thiebaud, President, Tissot, reveals that T-Touch, with its tactile technology, brings additional value to a watch
The world is not going through very good times now. When we last met, things were much better. How do you see the effects of recession on a brand like Tissot and address them?
At Tissot, we do not yet feel recession the way we see worldwide in many different fields. Of course, we don’t have as many orders as we had last year. But if I look at the first two months of this year, we are just slightly below 2008 levels. But we are well ahead of 2007, which was also a great year. The Swiss watch export has been excellent since 2004, when it was 11 billion Swiss pounds. We expect it to be about 18 billion Swiss pounds in 2011. Maybe, now is the time to be more reasonable, look at the details, be closer to the end consumer and the trade and see what has to be modified to be even more qualitative and more in line with the expectations of the end consumer. A crisis brings a way of thinking differently. A difficulty is challenging and I love it. If life is too easy, then you do not have to make your mind work.
What are you looking at in 2009?
If we want to be still good and welcomed worldwide, we should see how we can be even more innovative. The economy will certainly bring a lot of damages to the trade. Some companies are closing while some retailers are having financial problems. So, we must create what is needed. Last year, with the tactile technology, we launched a new product, T-Touch Expert, that brings something additional. So, let us say that we have things that we did not have earlier and we are still offering products at an attractive price point.
You are now launching a newer and upgraded version of T-Touch: T-Touch Sport. Can you tell us what this is all about and the need to launch it now?
When we launched the T-Touch, the idea was to implement the tactile technology to our product to show that we can look at time in different ways and can provide some more accurate multi-functions that you may need to use compass, altimeter, barometer, etc. Then we saw that because of the chip inside, it was possible to bring some additional functions. And we had some request from an alpinist who said that if he knew where he was and what the altitude was, it would be good to know how much he could go up or down in the day with an altimeter. We implemented a technology for that. So you now know how much you climbed or descended in a day even if you are sking, biking or are on foot. So, it is a second function that is linked with the altimeter.
And how much would this be priced at?
If I understand correctly, your heart is still very traditional but all your functions are innovative and ahead of time.
We provide functions and facilities that are ahead of time. Tissot was a family name in the beginning. But then it became a watch name. Tissot, to me, means we have to make time that can really be in line with what has been in the last models but more qualitative, affordable and very innovative. Innovation can be in the design, the technology or even in the materials used. We always try to bring some additional value, but still we do not forget that we are not a fashion brand; we are a traditional brand with a watch name. So, we have to respect our DNA.
Tissot is also a brand which has very successful sporting associations.
Our name is involved with time and a lot of timekeeping activities. For timekeeping, you have to be accurate. If you are not, you cannot succeed. And if you can make accurate timekeeping possible, it is confirmed that you can make good watches. It is all linked. Being close to timekeeping is also a way of improving our own product and getting linked with sports. That is why we get linked with ambassadors like Michael Owen, Danica Patrick and Thomas Lüthi among others.
Your brand ambassadors have been extremely high-profile. How have they contributed to the success of Tissot and how do you choose them?
They are all so different and it is amazing to see how they have contributed to Tissot in their own different ways. Michael Owen has been with us for more than eleven years. He was earlier not very known in Asia but has now become more popular, with various pictures of his at many points of sales. One thing I can see with all of our ambassadors, including Deepika, is that they are wonderful people and share family values. At Tissot, we are one big family.
What are the qualities that you look for in them?
I look for tough, committed people. Since we started, we have not changed our ambassadors. We started with Michael. It has been five years with Danica and we are very close to her. The same is the case with Barbie Hsu in Asia. So we look for people who are really nice, along with being competent and dynamic in what they do.