In the sea of luxury watches that flooded Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH), one name stands apart as one of the oldest continuously operating watchmaking firms in the world: Vacheron Constantin. Started in Geneva by Jean-Marc Vacheron in 1755, the storied brand boasts over 260 years of watchmaking expertise, innovation, and excellence.
Having refined its output and messaging over the centuries, Vacheron Constantin is synonymous with the highest quality, most luxurious timepieces imaginable, evidenced by a stable of famous fans like Napoleon Bonaparte, King Fuad I, and Harry Truman. Furthermore, John Reardon, International Head of Watches for Christie’s, personally named Vacheron Constantin as one of the most valuable watchmakers when it comes to complex timepieces that fascinate horologists, connoisseurs, and collectors alike.
It’s safe to say that if time is a measurement of change and adaptation is earned over time, Vacheron Constantin might be one of the most evolved brands in the world. It has certainly had plenty of time to develop its offerings. In 2016, Laurent Perves took over at Vacheron Constantin as the Chief Marketing Officer, tasked with growing the modern-day messaging of the brand. Haleh Nia, Savoir Flair’s Founding Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, had the pleasure of picking Perves’s brain at SIHH 2018 about how a 260-year-old brand stays relevant in today’s market, what its DNA entails, and what the future holds for the legendary watchmaker. Here’s what he had to say.
Talk to us about your roots as a brand. How does a brand dating back to 1755 remain relevant and modern in today’s world?
Vacheron Constantin’s core values of watchmaking excellence and understated elegance will remain relevant to horology connoisseurs. Staying true to these values while adapting the way they are translated and communicated in the present has always been the maison’s key to success. Vacheron Constantin also keeps the necessary humility and open-mindedness to listen to our clients’ and fans’ expectations and needs. This has enabled us to innovate and develop products that are and remain relevant through the years.
What are some of your most important tasks as CMO of Vacheron Constantin? How do you reconcile modernity and heritage?
The mission of marketing – but also of all key functions within the maison – is to perpetuate Vacheron Constantin’s values, craftsmanship, and spirit of innovation in everything we do. From products to communication, from print insertion to social media, from our high-end ‘Les Cabinotiers’ offer to our more outdoor ‘Overseas’ timepieces, we make sure that our DNA is respected while keeping an absolute focus on the satisfaction of our clients.
Illustrious figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Harry Truman have been fans of your watches. Who are some of the icons wearing the brand today?
A very wide range of famous or renowned people have been wearing Vacheron Constantin timepieces through the 263 years of our history. They usually have a passion for excellence and beautiful timepieces, but also a certain sense of discretion and understatement, in common. Our watches do not shout or show off – they rather show discernment and knowledge. Consistently with this, we make a point not to reveal who our clients are, famous or not.
Our watches do not shout or show off – they rather show discernment and knowledge.
In an increasingly more global world, do you see the need for localized communication and content?
Vacheron Constantin was one of the first luxury maisons to explore the world and bring its creations overseas. From this open mind and spirit of discovery, many watches were developed on the basis of local inspiration, especially in the fields of arts and culture. Today, however, we see borders falling apart as our clients are traveling and often spending a significant part of their time abroad. This enables us to keep a very global approach and leverage global content everywhere we are present. We nevertheless highly value local creation and collaboration, as it has been the case when we developed our Journey to the Middle East campaign with regional talents and artists.
What are some of the most luxurious and exclusive experiences you offer to your customers? And what do customers expect from your brand?
Our clients have the highest level of expectations and demands towards the maison, and we therefore focus all our efforts fulfilling their wishes. One of the best examples is our ‘Les Cabinotiers’ offer of unique and bespoke watches. [These] are quite unique and allow our most discerning collectors to acquire unique timepieces and even have their watch made to measure, choosing everything from design to complications. This offer is extremely successful, and generates more and more interest from clients and watchmaking connoisseurs.
Is it increasingly difficult to communicate a brand such as Vacheron in a saturated market?
Fortunately, our maison has been active long enough and communicated stable messages since 1755, hence we are very well-established in our clients’ minds. The values we are defending are also very relevant today, as we see current but also new clientele being highly receptive to excellence, elegance, understatement, and craftsmanship.
As a brand, you have four crafts that you specialize in: stone setting, engine turning, enameling, and engraving. Is it a challenge to create new artistic and technical visions when all the brands are trying to outdo one another?
Our four historical crafts are present within the manufacturer since the very early years. Our main challenge is to capitalize on such crafts as they are a central element of the Vacheron Constantin style. We don’t necessary try to incorporate ‘new’ crafts within our ‘Métiers d’Art’ creations. We rather concentrate on the following aspects: creativity (which plays a central role), storytelling, and an impeccable realization, both from the technical and aesthetical points of view. ‘Métiers d’Art Les Aérostiers’ is a perfect example of this product philosophy.
As an online publisher, I am curious to know about your approach to the online sales of high-end luxury watches. We see more and more brands coming onboard either on their own platforms or others such as Net-a-Porter. What are your thoughts on this and your strategy as a brand?
We are extremely ambitious and optimistic when it comes to e-commerce – and digital services in general – as we see it as the perfect complement to the experience we offer through our points of sales. We are already selling watches online with select partners in the US and Europe. We also offer online-to-offline services such as booking and deposits in Asia. We will keep actively working on these projects in the years to come, but with the ambition to better serve our clients’ needs and offer them the best service possible rather than increasing our online sales.