Haute Time recently had the chance to sit down with Daniel Riedo, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre. Riedo, who took over as CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre in July 2013, had been with the company as an Industrial Director since 2011, and, prior to that, had been with the Rolex group for 12 years.
A student of both corporate management and engineering (he studied at the University of Geneva), Riedo brings a unique perspective to Jaeger-LeCoultre, balancing mechanical art and business with a deft hand.
Here is our exclusive interview:
HT: You’ve been with Jaeger-LeCoultre since 2011. How did it feel to get the call that you would become CEO?
Daniel Riedo: It was a real opportunity of course, and a real honor for me. Mainly, it’s a lot of work to do, and days are not long enough to cover every subject. The second change is that I have to travel much more than before. But in fact, because I know Jaeger-LeCoultre’s production system so well, that’s a part of my responsibility that I can delegate easily to my team and be sure it is performing well, so I can concentrate much more on the development of products.
Haute Time: Earlier this year you joined the Richemont Board of Directors. What significance does Jaeger-LeCoultre have within the conglomerate?
DR: Probably first that the company, the brand is really focused on product. Jaeger is part of the Richemont group, but it’s also treated like if it’s an independent company. Our position within the group is to be very independent. Even if we have the roof of Richemont, we can decide with a large degree of liberty. So it doesn’t change anything, compared with other brands, even if we are part of the Richemont group. In fact, Richemont is a huge help for a brand like Jaeger-LeCoultre. Probably the development of Jaeger-LeCoultre would not have ben possible so fast without the support of the Richemont group.
HT: You’ve been in the watch world for nearly two decades. What changes have you seen within the industry during that time?
DR: If I compare to the 2000-2010 years, the distribution today is much more global, especially for Jaeger-LeCoultre – we opened a lot of new boutiques around the world, and this distribution also gives us more detailed information about our customers. But the markets today are more global than they were in the 90s, for sure. Travel between countries is much faster than before, so today we have to face a common global market with a common global image of the brand. That’s part of the goal for the manufacture for the next few years.
HT: Jaeger-LeCoultre recently marked its 180th anniversary by revamping its historic Place Vendome flagship in Paris. Is this part of the brand’s increased eye focus on the international market?
DR: That was the first one, but we are continuing to develop this position. For example, we will soon open a new flagship here in New York, at the end of this year. And we try to have some good, very good locations, in each big or main city around the world. We try to focus on the connoisseurs, or what we call the amateurs éclairés, really high-end people who know exactly what we are doing. To have this direct connection through our boutiques is really important to us; even if we don’t want to develop that [local] distribution much further than we’ve already done it’s very important to have this connection, to have an awareness of what are the perception is of our products from the customers, country by country, worldwide, and also to have the opportunity to show them what Jaeger-LeCoultre is about, outside of a multi-brand distribution.
That’s really part of the development of the brand. The New York location is not the only boutique we will open in the US market in the next couple of years. We will be opening one in Miami and another in Toronto, which is not the US market but is very close. This continent is really important and there is room to access this market more than we are doing today.
HT: You also have boutiques in Russia and the United Arab Emirates. Can you tell our international readers about those markets?
DR: Russia is a really mature market in terms of the knowledge of the products. There are a lot of people who know a lot about the watch industry, and it’s one of the markets that has a big history in terms of connection with the watch industry. Even if sometimes the sales are not done really at the boutique at Moscow, because people are traveling a lot, it’s important for us to have this connection and to give customers this direct link with us in their country, even if they can find the pieces somewhere else in Paris, London or Geneva. In the UAE, mostly we are represented by Rivoli. They are our partners in several boutiques, including one at the Dubai Mall. We will continue to develop that strategy in the UAE.
HT: One of your main ambassadors is the actress Diane Kruger. Will this carry on?
DR: We will continue the partnership with her. She is a friend of the brand, and she’s still our best global representative, even if we have another one specifically for China with Zhao Wei, for example. This partnership is now seven years old, and increasing year after year. She also has better visibility around the world, because she becomes more famous every year. That’s part of the development not only of us, but of her.
HT: What is your everyday watch?
DR: Today I’m wearing the Hybris Mecanica 11, but it’s specifically because there is an event tonight – this one is a prototype, so not finalized! But the Hybris Mecanica 11 is something incredible, because it features the latest technology that we developed for our first ultra-thin minute repeater automatic. Since we now have a mastery of this technology, it’s possible to apply it to the high-end pieces, the high complications.
HT: This year at SIHH Jaeger-LeCoultre unveiled some incredible timepieces, including the Hybris Mechanica 11 Minute Repeater and the Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu. What has been the reaction so far to these pieces?
DR: The response is really huge. We introduced these products, but deliveries won’t be before next year. So we showed the Hybris Mechanica 11 Minute Repeater to the public, but knowing that we are still developing this piece and not really all finished, that we have to modify a few elements, and that the first deliveries will be only next year. So it’s been a huge wow factor, and at the same time, ‘Oh, only next year, we have to wait once again.’ But that’s very common for this kind of high-end piece. For the Master Ultra Thin Grand Feu, nearly every piece is sold. The same for the twelve Hybris Artistica that we showed this year; nearly everything is sold. But these [Hybris Artistica] are more pieces for communication, and to show the public that we have also the capacity for artistry, and not just technical mastery.
HT: This summer you will have been with the company for a year. You’ve already accomplished so much – what’s next?
DR: One year [already]? Time is running. I started yesterday! We will continue to have a good presence in film festivals. We have now two new projects connected with film festivals. We will continue to be present in the polo fields. We have now a new partnership in Argentina with the best location possible for polo with the Palermo tournament. And that’s part of the continuation of the development of the company. But more than that, we work on the future development in terms of products. We now are working on the collections for 2016, 2017 and preparing 2018, in terms of the new calibers.
Creativity and innovation is part of the DNA of the brand. We developed many calibers over the centuries, and that will continue. Not necessarily with the same amount of novelties every year; probably we will focus a little bit more on some specific lines that we have, some iconic lines like the Reverso. But that creativity is really part of the brand; we expend a lot of effort to create new pieces and to push the limits.