Walter von Känel, president of Longines, was an officer in the Swiss army for many years before becoming one of the most well-known and outspoken managers in the Swiss watch industry. He spoke to Indulge about the position and the development of Longines in the Indian market. Edited excerpts:
How was India for you last year?
India is not an easy market, but despite governmental barriers, high taxes and duties, we are doing very well there. We will continue to develop and open new stores in India during the next years and keep working with this market following our three key words to success: continuity, consistency and focus.
There has been some progress in retail now in India. There are many riders attached to permits. But it is improving...
Each country has its own rules and you also have to consider the history behind the policies. We have been present in India for many years now. The first Longines watch was sent to Madras in January 1878. We are also working with Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, who is our ambassador of elegance since 12 years. Also, India is a fast growing market when it comes to watches and we can meet a lot of watch lovers there. So I think we will go on in this successful way.
Walter von Känel, president of Longines
You’ve been in India for many years. Do you see greater competition now? More evolved competition?
Longines designs and sells high-range watches. We certainly aren’t alone in that segment but we strive to give our products a peculiar character, the aesthetic refinement we all know as “elegance”. Be they glamourous ladies’ watches, traditional designs or sports-spirited models, there’s always something about a Longines that spells elegance. We aim for timelessness and believe in a long-term strategy. Our strategies in the fields of product development, marketing and pricing are matching the needs of the customers in India. So for the time being, there is no reason to change anything or to worry about our market position.
No company can last as long as Longines without altering and maturing. But the passage of time has only confirmed the pertinence of Longines’ initial areas of interest.
Last but not least, we benefit from the efforts of the Swatch Group in terms of support, customer service and distribution.
How did you cope with the economic crisis? And, more recently, with zooming commodity prices?
So far we have to say, we are among the lucky ones who have felt the difficult times, but are not strongly affected by them. We are even proud to say that so far the results are rather good. Our only measure is to keep a close eye on our expenses. We are also happy to be part of the Swatch Group which is a key factor for our success.
Our aim is to maintain our leading position within our price segment of 1,000-4,000 Swiss francs. With our pillars—elegance, watchmaking tradition, sport and heritage—Longines proposes a wide and well-balanced offer of watches that have a strong legitimacy of coming from our long history.
One final question. You’ve seen the Indian customer for so long. The general impression is that they are very sophisticated and well informed. What do you think?
The Indian customers are quite mature; both design and technology are important to them. On the one hand, our elegant range that includes Longines PrimaLuna, La Grande Classique de Longines and Longines DolceVita sells well, and, on the other hand, the watchmaking tradition pillar that includes The Longines Master Collection as well as the latest The Longines Saint-Imier Collection evokes many enquiries.
(Sent via email.)