A talk with Mr. Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO of Omega, at the much anticipated Omega Dubai Desert Classic 2018
From your old role to the current one as CEO of the company, on a broad basis as well as on a daily basis, what has changed?
First of all, while on the one side there have been many changes, on the other side there is the same old passion. If you look back at my career, I have been for a very long time leading the evolution of our sales, retail and distribution across the world; including here with Rivoli. So when you are leading the operations in a country, you are already the boss for that country. You have to implement the rules and take decisions, and you are [therefore] ‘Mr. Omega’ to all the people concerned. So I already have a working relationship with our affiliates across the globe from Brazil to Indonesia, to the Philippines, to India and so on. At the headquarters, being a member of the management of the group, and being part of the decision-making process gave me a broad understanding of the functioning of whole Swatch Group.
What has changed is that now I have the role of leading everybody at our brand headquarters. It is now about bringing my experiences from being in the stores and talking to customers, to all my colleagues in logistics, finance, production, and marketing. On a daily basis, I have as many meetings as I used to have before, but I have fewer trips. It is now more of continuing with the strategy that has brought Omega to the level we are at because of customer orientation, of being close to market trends regarding estimates and expectations, and of focusing on our strengths and trying to improve on them. As the CEO, I also have to manage, coordinate and find solutions to interdepartmental matters and challenges. Most importantly though, create and spread this vision for our brand, both around the world, and even more so here at our headquarters where the product is developed and marketed from.
“It is now more of continuing with the strategy that has brought Omega to the level we are at because of customer orientation, of being close to market trends regarding estimates and expectations, and of focusing on our strengths and trying to improve on them”
Omega has long-standing associations, famously with space travel, with the Olympics, and regionally there’s the long-running Omega Dubai Desert Classic. How do you see such relationships moving forward?
Our main objective is to keep it fresh, to keep it magical. You don’t do it because you must do it, but because you want to bring in some new ideas. I like coherency, and I like the continuity but not boring ones, and not because you’ve done it forever. The industry has sometimes been in trouble because of this. You do it to create your DNA. So Rory [McIlroy] and Sergio [Garcia] participating in our constellation clinics for youngsters make our brand fashionable to them while still maintaining our standards.
What do you see as your vision for Omega going forward?
I have been in management for a very long time, almost twenty years now which has made me very much a part of the system. In that time I have had opportunities to discuss and challenge my predecessors’ visions. But when I was elected by the board there was no discussion about bringing in a revolution of any sort. They wanted continuity, and having me as the CEO was a very clear sign that they wanted continuity because I was also very much of this opinion. The focus was on what was happening in the world, on what the challenges are, on how do we react or be proactive in facing them.
How do you see Omega fit in with the current online generation which is exact in its demands and which is quick to give its feedback?
I think this development is the best thing that could have happened to a brand like us because our success is based on bringing our message, our image, and our products directly to the customers. For me, it is also about transparency, about being very clear and very straight with the customer. That is why we brought in the METAS certification [by the Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology] instead of just putting a Faraday cage like some of our competitors do to deal with the problem of magnetism. In fact, our customer can go on the Internet [Omega’s website] and [using the individual watch’s serial number] find out its performance during the certification process. Why should the watch industry hide things that are very important to the consumers? People don’t just want to buy; they also want to know things about what they are buying; even more so for Omega customers. So the demands of the digital age is not an issue for us. We want to be transparent with our customers. We want to be close to our customers. We want their instant feedback. We have invested a huge amount of money to communicate with them, to explain who we are. We are not just about creating a buzz around an image.
“Our customer can go on the Internet [Omega’s website] and [using the individual watch’s serial number] find out its performance during the certification process”
There has been a lot of ‘Fresh’ in the last few releases. Was it intentional?
It is, and it is not. It would be a bit arrogant of me to say it was all planned. First of all, the luxury industry is all about creating emotion with reason, but if you don’t have the backbone behind it, then I truly believe that you cannot sell for long. But then you also have to communicate your new ideas; you have to surprise them. If it works they respond by coming to your store, and by buying your watch. Now there are new ways of communicating with people which I love to use. One result of such a process is the ‘Speedy Tuesday’. Not every brand could have created this limited edition series because ‘Speedy Tuesday’ was inspired by a community on Instagram. The way in which it sold out proves that it was the right decision. This is why we have to be ‘fresh,’ as you say because the brand and its customers deserve it. So not all of the brands will be able to create the magic that this brand can create whenever we push it to the next level. We still have plenty of other new ideas in the works. When I am travelling, when I talk to people, when I listen and exchange ideas with Omega customer, I realise that the Omega brand has that potential to surprise.
Baselworld is in March 2018. What can we expect from Omega?
“Our Seamaster range will be celebrating 60 years, while the Seamaster 300M, the ‘James Bond Watch’ will be celebrating 25 years”
I’m not going to give you too many details because it’s confidential. I can tell you that there will be two big celebrations which are very important for us besides the limited editions. First, our Seamaster range will be celebrating 60 years, while the Seamaster 300M, the ‘James Bond Watch’ will be celebrating 25 years. This is going to be a very important theme for us. This is an iconic collection that we are very well known for. We will also be celebrating the launch of a new range of ladies watches which will only be available in the States and Japan called Trésor. It’s a very feminine watch, beautifully finished with gold and diamond on the dials, and 6-millimetre thickness across the whole range.