Wolfgang Sickenberg is celebrating his first year as Director of Operations at Christophe Claret with a short trip to London. Yet, there will be no time to savor the brand’s most recent achievements, despite winning the Grand Prix de Genève award for the best ladies’ watch only a few weeks ago. Instead, Mr. Sickenberg is in London for business. Or rather, to expand it.
When you look back at your first 12 months with Christophe Claret, what do you see?
When I decided to join Christophe, I found an authentic manufacture. And that really amazed me. Whenever I visit, and it ranges between once a week to once a month, I always find the level of craftsmanship to be unbelievable. There are more than 30 different profiles and specializations in our team. In some ways it’s a challenge also for me, because whenever Christophe Claret has some budget to allocate, he’ll put it in the manufacture first. But the end product is our best communication tool. So I’m not always complaining…just sometimes [He smiles]. His commitment to the manufacture is incredible, and I think that is why Christophe Claret has done in five years, what it takes other brands decades to achieve.
Where do you go next?
One of the strategies that Christophe Claret has been talking about over the past few months is to start building a distribution network. The brand is now five years old. The manufacture is already 25, but the brand was launched in 2009. Before we had a complete collection it was difficult to build distribution. Today we have ten different models. With that we can invest in distribution and build an ambassador network. I’ve been in the industry for around 25 years, so I know whom I want to see in London. The names will be familiar to many, and they are stores that support creative brands, and understand and can explain what is going on inside our watches.
What are your objectives once you are in London?
The main objective will be to bring watches from each of the four families in the Christophe Claret collection, to showcase the DNA of the brand, as well as its depth and diversity. London is great for its local and international exposure. England has a very sophisticated clientele, and is one of the most important capitals in regards to culture. It’s also a hub for other markets, such as the Middle East and China. Bond Street and Mount Street are both very interesting locations right now, with all the new brands coming in, as well as the upcoming Patek Philippe store. That will surely bring even more traffic to the area.
Christophe Claret recently picked up an award at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. How do awards impact your reach into new markets, and are they pivotal in building brand awareness?
Christophe Claret has gained recognition over the years by winning awards with other brands. But the Margot was a Christophe Claret watch, and it was his first ladies’ watch with a very distinctive complication, made specifically for ladies. So he was very happy to receive this prize for his first attempt in that market. Especially following nominations in the high complication’s category in the past. We do have ideas for future ladies’ models, but I think we will give Margot more time in the limelight. Behind the scenes, we have been talking about that piece for two years now, but it’s new to the market [The first pieces were delivered in September of this year], and it needs time to mature there. Right now, we are receiving very positive feedback from the market. Following the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, I was delighted to receive phone calls from all over the world regarding the piece. [For a full hands-on review of the Christophe Claret Margot, click here].
It’s only been a few weeks since the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève and already it feels like SIHH is just around the corner. Is it too early to share what Christophe Claret will be presenting during the salon in January?
We will be presenting a few novelties at SIHH in 2015, but the highlight will be a watch featuring Christophe Claret’s passion for archeology and historical sites. In particular, a city in Switzerland called Avenches, which was the capital of Helvetica (now Switzerland) two thousand years ago. Mr. Claret wanted to celebrate that anniversary next year with a watch themed around it. It should contain materials found in the city’s museum, but I cannot say much more. In Basel, we will be presenting another historically themed watch featuring the father of the Métiers d’Arts, the French King Charles X. But in general, we will be moving away from too many limited edition models. The goal is to present products that are relevant ten years from now. We are already starting to see brand recognition grow, as clients today recognize pieces, such as the X-TREM-1, that ten years ago were harder to recognize as Christophe Claret creations.