Six questions to Geoffroy Lefebvre, CEO Baume & Mercier
If I had to describe how the Baume & Mercier's booth was looking like at the 2019 SIHH, I'd say the brand seemed the most understated and sober among the ones belonging to the Richemont Group. It has nothing to do with style and elegance, but with the brand's new vision that is geared more towards products and technical features than partnerships and co-branding projects. Baume & Mercier has this year decided to bet entirely on the Baumatic collection, and the new direction the brand has embarked on is visible.
Each time a new CEO is appointed, a different strategic approach usually follows, and the same happened since Geoffroy Lefebvre has taken over from Alain Zimmermann. The outcome is a brand where product value holds hands with product appeal. Geoffroy Lefebvre is regarded as a very pragmatic Top Executive, but he's not just all about facts and figures, although he conveys a sense of concreteness not so common in luxury watchmaking. End of January, we spent some time with the new CEO and asked him six questions about the product, future, and after-sales business.
1 - The brand launched new variants of the Baumatic this year, what can we expect from the brand in the coming years?
The Baumatic is present and future of the brand, and we focused our attention this year on two aspects: the first is the aesthetic one, we have launched a new version with a smoked blue dial and another with a gold case, both COSC certified.
The brand's goal is to keep offering exceptional value at a fair price. The second is related to offering refined mechanical complications: the new Baumatic Perpetual Calendar watch is proof positive we have not abandoned high-end watchmaking.
2 - A modern brand's strategy often includes cross-sector partnerships. Do you think that, despite the intense focus on the Baumatic, there is still room for launching new co-branding agreements?
We are currently not in search of new partnerships.
The collaboration with Indian Motorcycle, however, continues, but the focus is and will be on the Baumatic collection and the message it conveys: useful innovation, reliability, fair price.
3 - The second-hand market is growing at a great pace. WatchBox and Watchfinder are competing for the first place in this new segment, what do you think about it?
We are in front of two different businesses: the first one is the second-hand market. When a used timepiece is certified and guaranteed (WatchBox offers a 15-month warranty, for example), it represents an excellent opportunity for any brand, not a threat. Vice versa, the gray market is extremely dangerous, as it tends instead to destroy a brand's value.
4 - What is your opinion about mono-brand boutiques, will Baume & Mercier ever increase its number of factory stores?
We have a few mono-brand boutiques, but they are not the pillar of our product distribution.
At Baume & Mercier, we still believe authorized dealers are the way to go, but we need to train them on new products correctly. With the Baumatic, we introduced a lot of new technologies that require our network of dealers to get prepared to explain them to potential customers adequately.
5 - Let's talk about Experience. A brand of the group (Panerai) is investing a lot in reinforcing the link between brand and fan base. What do you think about it?
Panerai is pretty unique in the watchmaking industry. The "Paneristi" are die-hard fans who are very loyal to the brand. We don't know yet who are the quintessential Baume & Mercier's fans and how to engage with them. However, there are many!
As soon as I was appointed CEO, some of them wrote to me directly, claiming: "My first luxury watch was a Baume et Mercier!" That's a good starting point.
6 - I come from the after-sales business, and I think that overhauling a watch is way too expensive. What should I expect once I take my Baumatic to a Service Centre, for an out-of-warranty full-service program?
We designed the Baumatic to solve this problem up-front. Moreover, we have last year not just reduced the price list but further increased product reliability too. A Baumatic is today guaranteed for seven years, and we look forward to expanding the warranty period in the future, hopefully. A challenge that we can not, for the time being, deal with a Classima for example that, even though it boasts excellent reliability, has an outsourced mechanical movement.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting by Peter Tung)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®