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Fabienne Lupo is managing director of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, the industry body that organizes Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) each year. This year, she spoke exclusively to Mint Indulge about the challenges her foundation is grappling with on behalf of the industry. Edited excerpts:

In this particular economic environment, and given what is happening in the industry, what do you think the foundation’s job is?

I have so many things to do, you cannot imagine. I think the biggest challenge for the foundation is to raise awareness, especially among young generations, about the incredible know-how and culture about fine watchmaking. Today, you don’t need to have a watch to know the time. Everybody has a mobile phone. It’s really important, therefore, to preserve this industry, this know-how...and to raise awareness. It is particularly important to inform and educate the young generation. Because they are all our future clients.

This is, I think, the main challenge that we have to face.

How do you solve that problem? How do you connect with the younger generation?

This is the important question. I think we have developed different tools for that. Especially information tools and training tools along with our websites. Perhaps you’ve had a chance to look at our DVDs. They are available in French, English, Japanese and Mandarin.

These DVDs function something like an encyclopedia...a Bible if you prefer, of fine watchmaking. These products will connect not only with connoisseurs and collectors...but also with the general public who are just interested in fine watches. We are also trying, through the Internet, with blogs and with mobile apps, to get through to this young generation.

And in addition, we do shows like this (SIHH). But sometimes I wonder where to conduct shows in such a way that we touch new consumers and future clients. This is something else I keep thinking about.

You know the foundation is like a kind of ministry of fine watchmaking. Our mission is a culture mission, it’s an education mission.

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Some of them are quite successful in this objective, especially with the Internet, social media and everything. They’re very active, some of them. And they are having different levels of success with these efforts. For example, there is one brand that says that their watches never belong to you. You are merely taking care of it for the next generation. This is really a great campaign.

But, to a large extent, these efforts depend on the DNA, the history and the strategy of the brand itself. Brands can’t ignore these elements in their effort to reach out. A balance has to be struck. But, each year, the brands are coming to terms with this.

You must have a responsibility towards the companies as well. This is a turbulent time for the industry. Given the crisis over movements, the big groups fighting each other... There is a lot of money and some very big egos involved.

(Laughs) Oh yes. Very big egos. My goal is to make a difference through the foundation. You must remember that the foundation is a trade organization. As far as SIHH is concerned, we are just the people who organize this event. But overall, like I said before, we are the ministry of fine watchmaking. Right now, we bring together 27 partner brands, some of which are not here at the SIHH.

There are still gaps in our membership. But we’ve achieved legitimacy, even if some major brands are not with us.

Having said all this, our job is not to involve in commercial matters. Our job is not to engage them in mutual dialogues or intercede. Also, when we talk about Swiss watches...it is not a marketing speech. We are merely trying to be a common voice for all the maisons.

One last question I was saving for the end. How has the fair been so far? Is the sentiment positive?

Yes. They’re very positive. It is a surprise though, given the fact that there is an economic crisis going in some countries and in many industries. It is incredible how well the Swiss watch industry is doing. Exports this year should be more than $20 billion. Sometimes, it seems that it will never stop, but probably it will stop because, as we say here, the tree can grow, but it will never reach the sky.

Overall, the mood is good, really good.

I got the feeling that everyone is very positive, but the brands are slightly careful. Few brands are taking big risks. They’re being somewhat conservative.

This is, I think, a Swiss attitude. It’s natural to be careful and not to say, “I’m the best". I think it’s kind of Calvinist.

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