Sascha Moeri, CEO of luxury Swiss watchmaker and jewellery brand Carl F. Bucherer on ancestral luxury in the modern age.
At the house of Carl F. Bucherer, family, tradition, class and exclusivity reign supreme.
One might think, that with its over 125 years, little has changed for the Swiss watch brand, established in 1888. But quite the opposite. The retail network has gone international, the traditional brand has branched out into the digital landscape and there’s a new face since 2010 at the top – Sascha Moeri.
Equipped with a business acumen and haute horlogerie background, formed by his time at luxury magnates such as the Swatch Group and Milus, Moeri has in many ways walked the path which Bucherer Group CEO Guido Zumbühl once said he would. He has truly “assured the ongoing successful development of the Carl F. Bucherer brand”.
Arguably though, his greatest strength lies in his utter dedication to maintaining the ways and values of the independent, exclusive brand Carl F. Bucherer. We are speaking of traditions that are based on an over 125 years of experience in outstanding watchmaking and technological leadership.
“The way I see it, the most important thing for a luxury watch brand is to remain unique and to confidently go its own way. Despite international differences, the root of the brand identity must always remain the same. This distinctive character of a brand, reflected in every timepiece of the portfolio, is luxury”, he states.
In a time where markets, consumers, currency and concepts of what luxury represents are constantly changing, Moeri’s steadfast attitude is rare. It rings with a confidence and belief in a brand which refuses to bow to mediocrity – and what he has achieved with Carl F. Bucherer to date is a testament to its legacy.
“ Every luxury watch manufacturer needs to uphold the highest quality standards, but should equally strive for innovation ”
What are your thoughts on the evolution of what luxury represents today and how Carl F. Bucherer fits into that?
Without a doubt, the luxury industry is very complex. It’s hard to describe in just a few words. Basically, there are important values that should always be represented in luxury goods. I really believe that it’s all about tradition, passion and outstanding quality. Sophisticated craftsmanship is becoming more and more popular.
Timepieces that are the achievement of advanced skills and a long-standing tradition have an inestimable value – unique and lasting. However, as much as the customers appreciate continuity, they also want to be surprised by new, extraordinary models and features. It is absolutely essential to build a bridge between the two.
Therefore, every luxury watch manufacturer needs to uphold the highest quality standards of traditional watchmaking, but at the same time should equally strive for innovation. This progressive approach is deeply rooted in our DNA. Our philosophy says “bound to tradition, driven by innovation”.
“ Our philosophy says ’bound to tradition, driven by innovation ”
The roots of our brand date back to 1888, when Carl Friedrich Bucherer, an ambitious young man and pioneer, opened his first retail shop in Lucerne, selling watches and jewelry. He was so successful that he decided to start his own watch company, Bucherer Watches. They did well through the 20th century, but you could only get a hold of them at Bucherer stores.
In 2001, Jörg G. Bucherer, the grandson of the original founder, decided to go international, regrouping the watch business activities under the name Carl F. Bucherer in honor of his grandfather. It’s a brand with a huge tradition and history, though it is quite new from an international market standpoint.
Pathos Diva Rosegold
These days, Carl F. Bucherer is known as an exclusive watch brand in the luxury, high-end and premium segment. There is no upper limit though when it comes to special luxury watches.
For example there are Carl F. Bucherer special editions with rare, exceptional materials and designs for around $400,000. It shows that we are firmly anchored in the luxury segment and also our production figures have continued to rise steadily over the past few years. In 2009, for instance, we were selling around 6,500 watches, but in 2015 we’ll already be up to 25,000.
The striking designs and the quality of our premium watches have a big part in our success. Another important part of that success is our in-house manufacturing and production, that brought to life a movement of which we are very proud: the CFB A1000 – the first caliber with a peripheral rotor. It combines the technical advantages of the centrally mounted rotor with the optical virtues of the micro-rotor.
Since the launch of the CFB A1000, we have combined and refined it with several modules and now have a range of five top quality calibers that are based upon the CFB A1000. At the moment, we are working on a totally new caliber family and are aiming to present it in 2016.
“ The Carl F. Bucherer customer seeks a timepiece that is extraordinary ”
The world’s wealthy are becoming increasingly nomadic. How important is it for you to capture those consumers and what are the challenges?
A very important factor is to have a strong international retail network. Carl F. Bucherer thinks globally – in terms of distribution and in terms of product design. Our timepieces aren’t designed with a specific market in mind. It is important to us to appeal to watch enthusiasts all over the world.
The Carl F. Bucherer customer seeks a timepiece that is extraordinary and cannot be found on everyone’s wrist. Instead, he is looking for a timepiece that reflects his individuality and represents exquisite taste. Therefore, our watches’ sophisticated exterior in combination with outstanding technologies inside the case are internationally popular.
Furthermore, as the modern business man becomes more and more mobile, we developed a traveler’s watch that is as simple to operate as possible: The PATRAVI TravelTec that already celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.
By using the multifunctional pusher at 10 o’clock, you can easily preselect the direction you are travelling in – either east or west – and simply jump over time zones by pressing the button. The PATRAVI TravelTec uniquely combines this 3 timezone-display with a complete chronograph.
Due to the tremendous popularity of the PATRAVI TravelTec family, in 2015, we have created the new exemplary PATRAVI TravelTec II: It comes in a bold compact case with the third time zone positioned on the bezel. The PATRAVI TravelTec II is the ideal companion for travels around the world, because it provides clear time orientation and convenient functionality. With this impressive new model, we have outdone ourselves once again.
Manero Power Reserve
In terms of production numbers, is 25,000 a number that you would like to stick to, to maintain the exclusivity, or do you see the brand going beyond that?
For us, luxury is very personal and therefore exclusive. Individuality and the expression of personality plays a big role in our self-perception. Products that have a unique character and reflect the personality of their owner – they are genuine luxury pieces. They tell personal stories. Hence we are striving for further growth to be able to provide our customers with more individual timepieces, but most of all, we aim to strike a balance between growth and exclusivity. It is safe to say that we will continue our successful path of the recent years.
“ I don’t think it’s possible to exchange the personal contact a customer receives in a boutique with e-commerce ”
E-commerce is also changing the landscape in terms of distribution. How do you feel that this might impact on the business and what role will it play in your brand in the coming years?
Without doubt, e-commerce has influenced the watch market, too. Nevertheless, I don’t think that it is possible to exchange the personal contact and consultancy a customer receives in a boutique with e-commerce. We truly believe that it is crucial to see and feel the timepieces, because pictures alone can’t convey the fascination our high-grade watches can evoke.
What’s more, we at Carl F. Bucherer have the great advantage of being under the same roof as Europe’s best watch retailer and most exclusive jewelry-maker: Bucherer AG. Our connection to the parent company provides us with a clear path to the sales front, and that’s ideal for us. But Carl F. Bucherer can stand on its own merit, too.
We benefit from our own broad international retail network, for sure. It’s complemented by the beneficial cooperation with strong distribution partners all over the world. With this background, we are ideally prepared to remain successful in the highly contested watch market.
CFB Look Instagram Campaign
In terms of information about models and products then, how much do you think you should share online?
In my opinion, it’s crucial to provide our customers with all relevant information about our timepieces. Without doubt, their presence online also plays an important part. Therefore, we present the Carl F. Bucherer portfolio on our website and share facts and figures about the material as well as the functions. Often, the purchase of a mechanical watch is a long process, because it isn’t just a decision based on design. Mechanical watches possess complex technology and fascinating functions.
For watch enthusiasts, it is indispensable to know about every single little mechanical detail. It comes as no surprise that customers, for the most part, take their time and carefully read up on their favorite models before they even visit the boutique. The web is a great platform to publish information about our collections and new timepieces.
“ We are planning further steps to strengthen our position in social media ”
What about social media? What role does it play for the brand and what is it helping you to achieve?
Social media has become a big part in our lives and is also becoming more and more important in the watch industry. Carl F. Bucherer works with the Digital Luxury Group (DLG), a very reliable partner with great expertise in digital communications. Since we have started working together, we were able to push our brand immensely in various different ways: we’ve enhanced the visibility of the brand, brand awareness and desirability.
At the moment, we are presenting our brand and products on our website as well as on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The public’s response has been enormous and very fortifying. We especially enjoy the possibilities for direct contact with our consumers and followers. For the near future, we are planning further steps to strengthen our position in social media.
“ Long-term planning and provident investments has always helped us to not be affected in a substantial way ”
How are you trying to manage currency fluctuations and pricing in terms of travelling consumers within your business?
Long-term planning and provident investments has always helped us to not be affected in a substantial way by such fluctuations. We only had to make slight price adaptions when the Swiss franc’s exchange rate with the Euro soared in January.
Are there any particular markets, geographically, that you feel quite cautious about in 2015?
Actually, there are a few markets that we plan to further explore. We intend, for example, to effectively consolidate our position in the US market in a sustainable way. American customers are enthusiastic about our sporty, prominent watches, particularly the PATRAVI TravelTec and the PATRAVI ScubaTec.
The American market represents a great example of efficient cooperation with our strong retail partners, such as Feldmar Watch Company, Westime or London Jewelers. We can rely on a fantastic team that is united in solidarity and respect. It is a true, mutually beneficial relationship.
But we also seek to grow organically within the European market with the Bucherer Group and with our absolutely dependable and capable European partners. However, let’s not forget Asian markets. They remain very promising for Carl F. Bucherer, so we plan to extend our distribution network in various Asian countries. Right now, we are really zoning in on Greater China.
Bucherer Boutique Beijing
India is quite interesting in terms of retail because of the local foreign direct investment laws. What is your strategy to go into India?
We are constantly striving to strengthen and expand our position in the Asian market in general. India has a special place in our efforts. Our network in India is built on a healthy, strong foundation and has brought us equally great relationships to retailers: Ethos Watches, India’s largest retailer for luxury watches, is an excellent partner. They had a key role in establishing our position as a high-end watch brand in this important market. And we have plans together for the future. We will continue to cooperate with them and expand our activities in India.
“ For Carl F. Bucherer, the greatest success is the trust of our customers ”
How do you measure success at Carl F. Bucherer, and how is this different from larger brands which are constantly chasing growth?
For Carl F. Bucherer, the greatest success is the trust of our customers. They appreciate Carl F. Bucherer as an independent premium watch manufacturer that represents inestimable values such as tradition, innovation and uncompromising quality standards.
Each timepiece of the Carl F. Bucherer portfolio perfectly embodies these values, our heritage and innovational spirit. With one glance, you can see that they are examples of genuine craftsmanship. They have a unique character and an incomparable charisma – perfect for every gentleman or lady that prefers an individual timepiece that expresses the personality of its owner.
“ I am excited about what lies ahead for Carl F. Bucherer ”
What’s the next big opportunity you would like to seize with the brand?
I am excited about what lies ahead for Carl F. Bucherer. One of our main goals, but also opportunities, is to further develop the brand internationally and to strengthen our market position in various countries.
And of course, we will continue to present new and amazing timepieces that will astonish our customers. Grand complications and beautiful ladies’ watches will be launched to continue the evolution of our collections. As in the years before, exquisite materials including platinum, white gold and rose gold will play a major role.
This year, Carl F. Bucherer launched the filigree PATHOS Diva and Queen in rose gold with sparkling brilliants, as well as the sportive yet sophisticated PATRAVI ScubaTec in full rose gold. The rose gold material radiates a noble character and adds a new, splendid dimension to these models. The response was amazing!
For more in our series of conversations with Luxury Leaders, please see our most recent editions as follows: