Lex Vincent, please allow me to first of all thank you on behalf of OceanicTime and all my readers for your valuable time and for giving us this rare insight into your plans with TechnoMarine, it is very much appreciated and I am very honored to have you answer my questions.
Vincent Thank you Lex. This is part of my duty to explain and communicate the passion that we have at TechnoMarine to make the brand a reference again in the watch making industry.
Lex How did your partnership and position as new CEO of TechnoMarine come about?
Vincent Well, after 3 years of business at Concord, I started to receive a lot of different offers to turnaround brands. Last May one phone call came from a headhunter and they asked if I would be interested in meeting with Mr. Christian Viros, former CEO of TAG Heuer and former President of LVMH Watch & Jewelry division…
The top reference in our industry. The man who really created the hype with TAG during more than 10 years. One of the most visible successes of our industry. You cannot resist to such an invitation. So I met Christian and after 15 minutes, I was “in”.
All the ingredients that I love: turnaround, great goodwill, huge amount of work to turn the brand to a success, fun, talents… They needed a new creative mind to bring “electricity” back to the brand…
Lex Why TechnoMarine?
Vincent Well because the challenge to turn the brand around into a success is really big. The brand used to be hot; used to be cool… And to bring back the hype, we will need a lot of creativity, network and hard work. I love these three things! It’s always more fun to take a brand where if you do a good job, the visibility will be better because no one expects to see TechnoMarine to be hot again…
Guess what, I have lived that already 3 times: Audemars Piguet (1995-2000 brand turnaround; 2001 Hamilton brand turnaround; 2006-09 Concord brand turnaround… and each time, the same situation: poor brand recognition, “used to be” something but lost its point of view, etc…
Lex Since its inception in 1999 Techno Marine has marketed themselves as a lifestyle and fashion forward brand. I can never forget their marketing campaign using nude models draped in sharks. How far removed is your new vision of TechnoMarine from Franck Dubarry’s of 10 years ago. Will you continue to head down the same fashion / lifestyle path?
Vincent In the late 90’s the brand was hot. It went way further than “fashion” and “lifestyle”: the brand was “talking” to trendsetters, fashion forward BUT also to watch fans or aficionados… If you remember, at that time, people were swapping their Rolex or AP to put their TechnoMarine on for the week/end. In another words, the brand was “cool”.
The DNA of TechnoMarine was the ability to mix or merge two universes: the low end (= plastic) meets the high end (= diamonds). This is the core essence of the brand. The ability to be 100% disruptive.
So don’t put TechnoMarine into a “box” or a “category”… We are way beyond that… and that is why a lot of people in the industry are wondering what we could possibly be imaging for the rebirth of this brand… Guess what… We have fund. That’s a surprise, of course. But we are willing to “talk” to the same crowd back in the late 90’s…
Lex What do you see as TechnoMarine’s main strengths and weakness?
Vincent Strength: disruptive mind-set. Audacity. Market leader (in the late 90’s).
Weakness: today, no more point of view or motto… But we are working on it…
Lex How do you plan to build on their strengths?
Vincent That’s my little secret! Remember with Concord. Everybody laughed at Concord. The brand was nothing but a gold platted watch at 1500 $... and 18 months later… the brand launches and delivers 100 Tourbillon C1 Gravity at 300,000 $ / unit… Sold out in 2 days in Basel 08 and we win the Grand Prix de Genève / best Design 2008!
Lex What is / will be your design philosophy?
Vincent Work with the best designers. Find new talents. Give them a precise and focused briefing to make sure they match what we are looking to launch.
Lex Will you now have a new demographic / target? If so who will this be? What sector of the luxury watch market will you be focusing, on?
Vincent When we launched the Offshore of Audemars Piguet (1995) there was never a demographic: the watch was as appealing to a 25-year old man driving his Ferrari in Los Angeles as it was to a 60-year old banker in London. I don’t really care about demographics in the high-value market; I care about the social profile and aspirations of the consumer. Much more interesting because it is NOT connected to his age.
With TechnoMarine, it used to be (and it will be again) a state of mind. A spirit.
Lex As you know the internet has become a powerful marketing tool for modern watch companies, with sophisticated and expensive websites and Facebook accounts. What will TechnoMarine be doing to market themselves in Cyberspace?
Vincent We are going to invest more than 3/4s of our marketing money in electronic platforms and channels of communication. The watch industry keeps thinking it understands this media… That’s not true. A few brands have understood it. We (my new team and I), we are part of these few brands and we will maximize our efforts, I can guarantee this.
Lex What are your immediate goals for TechnoMarine? What are your long term goals / ambitions for the company?
Vincent My immediate goal (when I started in mid August 2009) was to redefine the vision of the brand to be able to illustrate it to my people and my boss, Christian Viros. Then to express this vision into a product program for Basel 2010. We aim to be credible and respected again within 18 months.
Step 1 is Basel 2010 where we will bring a new brand identity: new people, new talents, new Corporate Identity, new brand image and communication concept, new products.
Step 2 is Basel 2011 where we want to surprise and buzz the watch industry with product concepts that recreate the energy that we had in the late 90’s… We have the concept… You can’t imagine how cool it is…
Lex TechnoMarine by name already hints strongly at nautical and diver themes. What proportion of your new line up will actually be dive watches?
Vincent It will be always a combination of diving watches (sport); urban watches (trendy); and leisure watches. But the entire design is re-assessed and we are working on a totally new collection.
Lex You had told me earlier that within the next 18 months you will have developed some serious dive watches. What does that actually mean in terms of specifications and models?
Vincent Within 18 months we should be able to re-create a “market space” that no one in the watch industry owns… like the “plastic meets diamonds”. We were the first ones, and the only ones to create this disruptive product. We led the market for a while. We believe we can recreate this scenario with something totally different 10 years later.
Lex Dive watches by their very nature are defined by their depth ratings and functionality. They should be utilitarian but often (unfortunately) follow fashion.
What of; Water-resistance, lume, case materials, movements, function, ISO standards, etc.?
Will function follow form or form follow function when designing your dive watches?
Vincent At TechnoMarine, there is « joie de vivre » and lots of colors… it is not about performance but useful technique; a kind of “plug and play” system where you don’t need functions or features that you will never use in your whole life… So, we keep this in mind and we are designing watches with that DNA in mind.
Lex Will the flagship model be a diver? How many diver models are planned?
Vincent Maybe. Too early to say. Not because we don’t know, but because we don’t want to tell it at that point. Let’s keep a little bit of suspense here.
Lex What part / role in the design process will you play? To what degree are you involved?
Vincent TechnoMarine is a small brand. I am therefore involved in everything, including marketing, product design, sales, administration, etc…!
Lex Please tell me about your team? Does TechnoMarine have a completely new design team? Did you hand pick them yourself? Did you bring people with you?
Vincent Yes, a totally new creative team. In fact we are now working with 4 different agencies on lots of concepts. Some for 2010 but already on the 2011 – 12 designs, where and when the brand will be aligned with our vision…
Lex I was very flattered when you previously told me that you had referred your team to OceanicTime for inspiration, where else will they be drawing inspiration from?
Shouldn’t you just send them all off to the Maldives or the Great Barrier Reef for some inspiration? If you do, can I come along? ;)
Vincent Great idea!! Who pays for it? ;)
Yes, it is true that I asked them to spend some time on OceanicTime. We need to get professional input BUT we need to be able – at TechnoMarine – to translate this into our brand, with our touch, with a twist and to remain true to our DNA and our audience.
Lex What of the current line of Techno Marine divers, namely the Royal Marine?
Vincent Yes, but Royal Marine will be gone in around 6 months now. It is not part of our future collections…
Lex When do your expect / hope to launch the new lines?
Vincent Basel 2010 more than 100 new references… This is what I call « our home-work »; a natural thing to do as a manager since there were a lot of issues in our previous collection.
Basel 2011 the talking piece, the concept that buzz the industry…
Lex Will you be hinting / previewing anything at SIHH or BASEL 2010
Vincent Basel 2010… Imagine, we have started on September 1, 2009… 7 months before BASEL. If we make it for BASEL, this will be a record by itself.
Lex Please tell me / us about your personal experiences with dive watches. Do you own one?
Vincent Of course I own some. But do we consider an Audemars Piguet Offshore a diving watch… of an urban watch with a lot of guts and some reference to the diving universe? This is quite subjective I think.
Lex Will the new Techno Marine diver / divers be something that any discerning dive watch collector / enthusiast should aspire to have in their collection. Why?
Vincent Yes, you got it. We are doing things to appeal to the collector/enthusiasts. But this will be achieved after step 1, in 2011. You will have to see the evolution and the achievements in 18 months.
Lex Do you have a final message that you would like to relay to the OceanicTime readers and dive watch enthusiasts who will hopefully one day be sporting a TechnoMarine dive watch?
Vincent Expect the unexpected. But give us some time. More than 6 months! We are working hard.
Lex Vincent it has been an absolute pleasure to hear from you. I am very excited about what you will be / are doing with TechnoMarine. And I look forward greatly to seeing your new dive watches in the future. The best of luck to you, and all of your team at TechnoMarine!
Vincent Thank you Lex. You know, we need luck. This is one of the key components of success. Without it, nothing really happens. The talent, hard work and experience is key of course. But luck brings the magic touch that makes the total difference! Speak to you soon ...