One-On-One With TAG Heuer CEO Stéphane Linder

TAG Heuer’s new CEO Stéphane Linder recently sat down with Haute Time to share his vision of how the brand will evolve over the next few years. Mr. Linder told us about his plans to release the world’s best chronograph, and his plan to conquer China.

Here is our exclusive interview, and photos from our shoot at the TAG Heuer boutique in Moscow:

Haute Time: Stéphane, you were appointed head of TAG Heuer just last year, so let us ask the traditional question – what’s your plan, and are you going to change anything in the way the brand works?
Stéphane Linder: I wouldn’t talk about changes in light of my coming to the position of TAG Heuer’s CEO. I prefer the word “evolution”. I’m not the person who’s going to change the brand, which has existed since 1860. Working in the company for over than 20 years, many years I was occupied in marketing, creating a final product, and was involved in the process of taking all key decisions. So I can’t negate everything I worked for, for so many years; I intend to continue to move in the direction specified by our team. For many years we’ve been researching precise chronometry and earned an innovator status. In 1969 we released one of the world’s first automatic chronographs and it’s our engineers who have made a powerful breakthrough in the last few years, creating models such as the V4, Mikrograph and Pendulum.


HT: That’s the problem – do you still have a goal ahead after you’ve already achieved so much success?
SL: For now the most important thing is to invest in our own production, in what is called the manufacture. We have enough potential to produce our own mechanisms. We will focus on chronographs and want to increase their production. The company releases 50,000 chronographs a year, but we want to produce 200,000. So now we are buying equipment, increasing our capacity. And I want to note that five years ago we didn’t have anything; step-by-step, we adjusted our complex manufacturing machine.

HT: For what?
SL: We want to extend our capacity for innovation. To produce not only the V4, but also other watches. For this purpose we need own manufacturing system. Think about it – how you can develop innovations, buying the standard mechanisms from Swatch Group? It’s not just about taking the case, putting the mechanism into it and selling the result. The manufacture and the innovations are our main work streams; so we tied them together. Our goal is to make the innovations more reasonable, to make sure that we can use our best advances in a more affordable watch segment, with the price range from 5000 to 10 000 Swiss francs.


HT: Can you elaborate on that?
SL: My main goal is to turn TAG Heuer into the best chronograph manufacturer on the market. I’m not talking about haute horlogerie and one-of-a-kind timepieces, but about regular watch market. Chronographs are all about the same, although they differ in thickness, power reserve, counters are arranged differently, and some are equipped by a column wheel, some are not. These characteristics aren’t very significant and in between these pieces there is no fundamental difference. And we want to create THE BEST CHRONOGRAPH IN THE WORLD. That’s the way – write it in capital letters.


HT: So what element will make your chronograph the best in the world?
SL: My task is to ensure this question won’t appear in people’s mind. I think we will solve this problem by 2016. I can’t enlarge upon this theme, but we are going to increase the precision of our chronographs significantly.

HT: Well, for example Omega produces coaxial mechanisms, houses them in their watches and declares that their pieces are totally unique. Do you propose to do the same?
SL: We’ll go further; we’ll have a unique mechanism in general, not just a single element.


HT: We’ll have to discuss this more in 2016! On another note, TAG Heuer has paid special attention to pieces with a smooth classic design of late. How come?
SL: I believe we need to redistribute the proportions. Nowadays, the company produces seven times more chronographs than regular three-handed models. We decided to produce more regular pieces with clear and simple designs. This is due to the fact that our positions aren’t very strong in China, unlike Swatch Group, which has been in this market for many, many years. Chinese people love thin, simple watches; they don’t like chronographs, and avant-garde sickens them, so we offer them our three-hands.

HT: You decided to produce three-handed pieces just for the Chinese market?
SL: No, I think that it’s not right to produce only the avant-garde watches. Recently we announced the V4 Tourbillon – we intend to offer new and innovative materials to our customers, and the V4 is great, but it’s just a small market segment. So we’re going to produce more classic watches for everyday wear.


HT: How will this embrace of a different style be reflected?
SL: We want to reposition the brand. For example, Patek Philippe has a very powerful advertising concept. Multi-series watches are the perfect message. Now we have only ambassadors who wear our watches. This is not enough and we want to specify our positioning, not to produce watches for Leonardo DiCaprio or Maria Sharapova. That doesn’t mean we will withdraw our relationship with the ambassadors. In June, you’ll see how our advertising concept changes. For example, I can say that in-store, we will offer more information about the mechanisms and how they work. This will be reflected in the design and interactive elements of the boutiques.

Photo credit: for Haute Time Russia.

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