Corum’s reversal in fortunes over the last six years has been remarkable. In 2005, the brand sat on a bloated, fading product line-up that had lost almost all of the brand’s watchmaking creativity and allure. The turnaround began when Antonio Calce joined the brand that year and began, what he calls, a “total transformation”.
At BaselWorld 20011, Corum marked two important developments in that journey of transformation. The first was a remarkable new automatic in-line movement for the brand’s Golden Bridges collection. Besides being a superb piece of watchmaking, the automatic movement opens up a whole new world of opportunities for Corum. This is a movement of which much will be heard of in the future.
Premium positioning: Corum chief executive officer Antonio Calce. (Anoush Abrar)
Secondly, the brand announced the new Legend 42 range in its iconic Admiral’s Cup collection. Priced competitively, this could potentially bring the brand closer to a younger clientele and wider market. Corum chief executive officer Antonio Calce spoke to Mint on the last day of the fair. Besides talking about new references, he touched upon his ongoing strategy and plans for India.
Plenty of Corum pieces to talk about this year starting with the Admiral’s Cup Challenger 44 Chrono Rubber...
Let me tell you a small story. Last year, here at Basel, a female journalist asked me why all Corum watches were in the same colours—black and white. So I told her that we would do something about it. And here you have it. These are limited edition high-end watches even though they look young and fun. Some people ask me if it is a fashion watch. I don’t like that. I think that is the wrong way to put it. This is a proper, truly high-end watch, with a great movement inside. It is a proper Admiral’s Cup.
What was the rationale behind the Legend 42? Are you trying to reach a new audience with this price point?
One of the main reasons is that I want to increase rotation in stock for my retailers and for the company. But it is also part of my strategy. If you look at the two or three main pillars of Corum, you will see that they are at various maturity levels. The Golden Bridges and Ti Bridges collections have beautiful products and a good range. But they are niche products. They are not meant to sell in large numbers. I think they are quite mature and I don’t want to expand these niche pillars. The Legend 42 will bring maturity and volume to the Admiral’s Cup range. Yes, this will bring a lot of new consumers. But most of all, at this price point, it will increase rotation of our products. Also, since 2009, people want more quiet, classic designs. I think this model is very good for that market.
From a strategy perspective, I do not want to have many dials and shapes and references. My strategy since 2005 has been to have smaller number of case shapes with a few dial choices per shape. The Legend 42 is part of that strategy.
The new automatic Golden Bridge movement must open a whole new world of options for you...
Yes. I have been working on this for six years now. Now this line is unique for us. There is simply no other competitor for the Golden Bridges. Nobody else does anything like this. Today, it is part of the brand’s DNA. And we have several more developments on this in the pipeline. There are more projects with this movement. Which will be revealed in the next two or three years.
But... it is amazing, no? An automatic movement for an in-line movement. Amazing.
Technically speaking you could even use this movement inside a round Admiral’s Cup case. Nothing stops you from really exploiting this innovation.
(Laughs) I could. But that would be too opportunistic. We are not an opportunistic brand. And for me...I want to build exclusivity into the Bridge collections. I want to give that niche line real value. Today, movement is really important.
Ten years ago, nobody cared for the movement. Men’s or women’s watches. Nobody asked what was inside the watch. Today, I assure you, if you want a good strong business, you need to have good movements in your collection. This brings credibility. Without content in your product, there is no point.
Once again, this is part of my strategy. We don’t want to increase SKUs (stock keeping units). We want to reduce them! In the next two to five years, I want to reduce it to the point where each movement has two cases and two dials.
How many SKUs did you have?
You won’t believe it. But in 2005, we had 2,000 SKUs. Maybe more. Today, we have 170 or 180. I want to reduce it further.
But that is a risky strategy. Will you be overly dependent on too few references?
It is a challenge. But it is not a new challenge for us. Not many other brands are dependent on two main pillars—Bridges and Admiral’s Cup—like Corum. But still you need to manage properly. Sometimes, I see 40 or 50 Corum models in a store and I feel like killing my local commercial guy. We are a niche brand! We should have 17 or 18 references at maximum in a store.
I keep telling my local people. You need to know your local market. You need to manage references very well. You keep few but then you rotate stock frequently.
The Admiral’s Cup Legend timepiece.
Yes, we have a great choice today. But we need to focus more now. I want exclusivity. If you go to store and see 30 pieces of TAG Heuer, it is ok. I respect that brand of course. But Corum is not in that same game. Our strategy is not the same as TAG or Rolex. I sell 17,000 pieces a year. Rolex sells 800,000.
But you are looking to expand from that number?
Yes. I want to double it in the next four years or so.
A lot has happened with the brand in the last six years. You’ve slashed references. Launched products. How do you communicate all this to consumers?
It is a serious challenge. But now we have a brand new advertising campaign. Also, I do want to reach out to a younger audience.
We need to use this communication to convey the fact that we are no longer the brand that was dead from 2000 to 2005. We are no longer a “fashion brand”. When I joined the brand in 2005, people in the watch industry told me: “Antonio, you are crazy. The brand is dead. The market is mature, nobody wants Corum.”
We have to communicate the fact that today Corum has credibility and legitimacy.
What are your plans for India?
We have a legal subsidiary there. But I want to play a strong game in India. I want to start with a strong team, media and a marketing plan. And build a strong business. I believe in the Indian market. We are the right brand for this market. And we have right products. It is a big step for the brand in terms of distribution. But I believe that it will be worthwhile.