Patrik P. Hoffmann is stepping up.
Hoffmann has taken the helm at renowned timepiece manufacturer UlysseNardin as the successor of beloved President and CEO Rolf W. Schnyder, who passed away unexpectedly in April.
“He left an extremely healthy company behind,” Hoffmann said of his predecessor. “He was a radiant guy. He was never short on words.”
And he left behind a prosperous company.
“[With] some companies, new management comes and they have to turn things around,” Hoffmann said. “We don’t have to turn anything around. We can keep going the way it was done. There will be changes, but it’s going to be an evolution.”
Other members of the UlysseNardin family were nothing short of supportive of Hoffmann in his new role.
“I feel very fortunate to know Patrik Hoffmann, and to be able to call him not only a work colleague but one of my best friends,” said Bobby Yampolsky of East Coast Jewelry, who opened the first UlysseNardin boutique in the United States in Boca Raton last year. “And [while] Rolf’s passing is very sad and unfortunate, UlysseNardin and Rolf should be very proud to have Patrik at the helm.”
Hoffmann’s career start with UlysseNardin has a bit of an interesting backstory. Hoffmann and Schnyder were actually neighbors in Malaysia.
“One day I had a colleagues dinner at my house and [Schnyder] asked ‘Do you want to work for me?’ and I said ‘No I don’t want to work for you, I never want to work for you,’” Hoffmann said. “And he didn’t say a word.”
But Schnyder didn’t give up that easily.
“The next day [Schnyder] called me up, I was driving the car with my wife,” Hoffmann said. “He called me up and said ‘Hey, yesterday when I asked do you want to work for me it was not to go and work in Switzerland, it was for you to actually go and work in America to open a subsidiary there in Florida.’ I said ‘Oh, Florida, that’s an interesting place. I could imagine living in Florida.’ So he hung up on me, he didn’t even finish, he didn’t say goodbye. And he called my wife, who was sitting next to me in the car. He called her and said ‘Hey, I talked to your husband. He wants to move to Florida to work for me, what do you think? And she said, ‘Florida, oh yeah, I could go to Florida.’”
Schnyder then called back Hoffmann.
“He said to me, ‘Oh, your wife, she wants you to move to Florida. Come to my home over the weekend let’s talk about it.’ And that’s how it started.”
And so, in 1999, Hoffmann began his career with UlysseNardin as the director of the United States corporate offices in Boca Raton, Florida.
Hoffmann was born in Switzerland and got his Swiss Federal Certificate before moving to the United States to earn his degree at Andrews University in Michigan. But he wasn’t done with his home country yet, returning in 1991 as the regional sales manager at Oris SA. Five years later, he moved to Swiss Prestige Ltd. as the managing director of the firm’s Swiss Prestige SdnBhd, Kuala Lumpur, and Swiss Prestige Pte Ltd, Singapore, moving his family to Malaysia. In 1997, he took on another role, managing Oris International Ltd., Hong Kong and in 1998, became the managing director of the Asia Pacific regional office of Oris SA Switzerland.
It’s no surprise, considering his long list of career accolades, that Hoffmann is largely credited for building UlysseNardin’s presence in the United States.
“I really came at the right time to the right place really at the right moment,” he said. “It was a growing market for that segment at the time, and it was really around the time when we found our reach and our way with our collection. When I came over there it was just myself and one additional [person.] It was two people. I think the product started to be just right at that time. The market was very small for [UlysseNardin] and it could really start from scratch.”
During this time, he dedicated himself to building the brand, traveling, opening new accounts, nurturing existing accounts and working with trunk shows.
“I can really say it was a completely new start,” he said. “It was very exciting.”
Hoffmann soon realized that his new home was much different than Switzerland.
“I realized in America things move faster, sometimes things might not have to be that perfect, but many times they say do it, let’s try it, and then we can make corrections on the way,” he said. “In Switzerland for example, we plan sometimes forever and then we don’t get it done.”
But Hoffmann obviously knows how to get it done. In the more than a decade since he has been with UlysseNardin, the company has grown exponentially, gaining notoriety from Beverly Hills to the East Coast to Miami.
Hoffmann, however, is reluctant to put an exact percentage on the company’s progress.
“I couldn’t even give you a number how we grew because it’s a percentage which is outrageous,” he said. “But what is more important for me to look at is we gained market share every single year. Of course, the market grew in total, but we gained market share every year, even in the years 2008, 2009 that the crisis hit, we gained market share.”
With that growth comes respect.
“I still remember 10 years ago, 11 years ago over and over and I walked to stores and they had no interest, they didn’t see the potential of UlysseNardin,” Hoffmann said. “Today, they knock on our doors.”
But he remains humble.
“I have to say that’s not just my doing,” he said. “At the end, it’s the product. If you want to be successful in the long term, it has to be the product. And I also believe if you want to be successful, you cannot be really successful in just one market.”
Hence UlysseNardin’s expansion across the globe, something Hoffmann himself directly influenced.
“What I did in the United States was only possible because I had the support from Switzerland,” he said.
As for what’s next for UlysseNardin, Hoffmann has a few things in mind.
“The watch industry is actually very old-fashioned,” he said. “I think the way things are being put together are still the same, but the materials we work with have a lot of potential. You know, in the past you had the time where everything had to be complicated. The more complication you could put in the watch, the more proud you were. Today, I think it’s going back to simplicity.”
This simplifying state of mind can be noted in the recent wave of thin watches that have inundated the market.
“A lot of companies are going to go thin,” he said.
But UlysseNardin will keep its feet firmly planted in each market, serving their needs and wants respectively.
“One thing that is a very healthy aspect of UlysseNardin is the distribution is mixed very equally. So the Americas, Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia,” he said. “The growth is going to be in India, in the Eastern European countries, it’s going to be in China. And Brazil is a place where luxury is going to have a big place in future.”
But UlysseNardin still counts the United States as one of its major markets – a fact Hoffmann has a personal stake in.
“The United States was the biggest market for UlysseNardin for many, many years, even in crisis it was still the biggest market, because we didn’t give up. We kept investing in the marketing and now we benefit.”