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Category: Interviews

Iñigo Ohlsson presenting the Jaeger-LeCoultre  Dazzling Rendez-Vous Moon and Polaris Date Blue
Iñigo Ohlsson presenting the Jaeger-LeCoultre Dazzling Rendez-Vous Moon and Polaris Date Blue

Iñigo Ohlsson, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s managing director for Southeast Asia & Oceania, admits that his background is atypical for someone in the watch industry. His foray into the horological world did not begin until he joined Jaeger-LeCoultre as country manager for Mexico in 2011; and before that he had worked in other industries across different regions around the world.  

But Jaeger-LeCoultre has proved to be a great fit nonetheless for Ohlsson, who has had an affinity for the brand since being gifted a Reverso in his teens.

“As a consumer,” he said, “I [have chosen] to wear Jaeger-LeCoultre because I appreciate its understated sophistication.  I wear it not because I want to show off; most people won’t know what it is I’m wearing. But whoever knows, I’ll form a very particular association with because of it.”  

When asked what else he thinks sets the brand apart from other luxury Swiss watch brands, Ohlsson is quick to say that it’s the culture at the manufacture. “When you visit, you’ll come across people in the corridors, and every single time that happens, they will say hello. This familial atmosphere in Jaeger-LeCoultre is unique.” 

And the feeling of family isn’t just because the people working there happen to like each other; there are real family ties because generations of families work at the manufacture. “At some point,” Ohlsson shared, “we had three generations concurrently employed by Jaeger-LeCoultre.”

The draw for watchmakers and their children to come work for the manufacture is the chance to be part of continuous innovation. No other watch brand can boast having developed over 1,200 calibers in-house, and there is a limited number of other brands that release several new calibers every year. As Ohlsson put it, Jaeger-LeCoultre is the watchmaker of watchmakers. 

Ohlsson added, “The watchmakers of Jaeger-LeCoultre are challenged and motivated by the way we work and what we can accomplish and produce. In one year, our watchmakers may be working on a carillon. The next year, they’d be working on a tourbillon set in a Reverso. The year after that, they could be working on something like the Gyrotourbillon.” 

But in recent years, Jaeger-LeCoultre has been working to improve not just the quality of their watches, but their value proposition as well. On this Ohlsson said, “We realized that there’s been a shift over the years to what is perceived as valuable for the people that choose watches; we need to provide more [after-sales] service, and be closer to the end user.” 

With that, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Care Program was created. The most popular benefit of the program has been the eight-year warranty, which was a first in the industry when it was introduced earlier this year. Other perks include free periodic evaluations and a platform where customers can register their timepieces and get information about the products. 

Ohlsson says that this new platform has given the brand a better connection to their clients and that, in true Jaeger-LeCoultre fashion, “we will continue to evolve it in the future.”  

Lucerne Managing Directors Emerson Yao and Ivan Yao with Hublot Chairman Jean-Claude Biver

Jean-Claude Biver: A Living Legend

Jean-Claude Biver’s reputation precedes him wherever he goes. A veteran of the horological industry, his career is marked by pulling brands back from the brink of death, and, in the case of Blancpain, reviving one completely. He has been characterized as a real-world King Midas who turns everything he touches into gold. But even if he has every reason to gloat about his successes, he does not. In a recent conversation with Lucerne Luxe Magazine and Mantle Magazine, Biver made it sound almost as if everything he has become known for was happenstance.

Summarizing almost half-a-century in the industry

With such a remarkable career under his belt, we asked Jean-Claude Biver to talk about what it was like when he first entered the industry. He told us he was lucky.

“My first stroke of luck was to have a passion for watches,” he said, “and my second stroke of luck was to find a job in my passion. Many people have a passion, but cannot work in it. They work somewhere else then come back on the weekend. For me, my job and my passion are one.”

The lucky streak continued, he said, by getting employed by a boss who gave him time to be immersed in watchmaking. Recounting his first year with Audemars Piguet, Biver described a life far removed from what he has today: “I had no office, no secretary, no traveling, no phone line, nothing. Why? Because they said I had to learn how to make watches. They told me, ‘You must understand the history and you must understand the art. And then after one year, you will be in the marketing and sales department.’ My passion became deeper because I went into the details of [watchmaking]. Very often, we like things superficially, but when you go deep down, the real love comes.”

After four years with Audemar Piguet, Biver moved to Omega where he says he was, again, lucky. Lucky because now he had the chance to learn how to manage large-scale operations. Comparing this company to the previous one, he said, “Audemars Piguet was small, Omega was was big. Audemars Piguet was art, Omega was industry. So I saw the two sides of the watchmaking business.”

Eventually he decided to try his hand at building a watch brand from scratch. He and a friend bought Blancpain, which at that point, “had no activity. No brand. No watches. No collection. No factory.  No contracts. No employees. So we bought a name because that was all that was left. And this was a privilege; to have the chance to find and buy a name that had stopped activities 22 years before.”

As Blancpain grew into another successful endeavor for Biver, his personal life took a negative turn. Telling us the story with eyes downcast, “My first wife and I – we divorced. And that broke me down. And because I was down, and so depressed, I sold Blancpain to the Swatch Group.”

Brightening up again, he continued, “Incredibly, this personal tragedy and my decision to sell turned out to be a good thing.”

After Swatch’s acquisition of Blancpain, Biver and Swatch Group co-founder Nicolas Hayek built a relationship that allowed Biver to come back and work for Omega. It was during this second stint with the company that he brought in the big names now associated with the brand: James Bond, Cindy Crawford and Michael Schumacher. He was also responsible for putting the spotlight back on Omega’s history with NASA and their space missions. Although Biver says that this was an incredible time in his career, after 12 years with Omega he wanted to go back to a small company.

Enter Hublot.

When Biver got involved in Hublot, it was a small brand that had put together precious metals and rubber. It was a fusion of materials, as he described it, and so ‘The Art of Fusion’ became the messaging that Biver pushed. “And from there,” he said, “we knew why we were here.”

Biver stressed that the messaging of any brand is important because it defines what kind of decisions should be made in the future. Since declaring Hublot’s was The Art of Fusion, Hublot has fused many unexpected materials and has pioneered unlikely collaborations between the arts and horology. The success of Biver’s messaging has essentially led Hublot to be known as the brand that tests the boundaries of haute horology.

Doubt and Success 

Accompanying the litany of successes credited to Biver was an even longer list of things that could have possibly gone wrong.  We asked him if he had ever doubted what he was doing, and without batting an eye, his response was, “Doubt is my friend [and] if somebody has no doubts, I will not work with that person. I only work with people who have doubts, because doubt is a way to ensure that the direction [you are taking] is right. So did I have doubts? All the time!”

In fact, he said, he has never needed an alarm clock because the constant doubts that plague him wake him up in the early hours of the morning. “If I have a lot of doubts, I wake up at 2 o’clock. If I have very few, I wake up at 5 or 6 o’clock.”

On average though, Biver said that he wakes up at 4 a.m. While he said that this is the norm for him, he also said that he would never ask the people he worked with to do the same. On this subject he said, “You cannot ask people what you ask of yourself because no one is made like you. Some people have other responsibilities. Some people have kids. Some people have problems at home. You must respect people for what they are [if you want them to stay].”

Expounding on his philosophies around team management, he added, “If you want your team to be creative, you must accept that mistakes happen. You must accept that failures are part of the process. If you cannot forgive mistakes, you will never have an active team. ”

And having a creative, active and stable team, in Biver’s opinion, was instrumental to his success. He pointed out how the individuals in his core team had worked with him since the 1980s and 1990s, moving with him from one company to the next.  “My success is the success of my people,” he said. “People make me successful, and I make people successful. It’s a partnership.”

Biver’s success, of course, is unquestionable. But the people he talked about in his team, such as Ricardo Guadalupe (current CEO of Hublot) and Jean-Frédéric Dufour (current CEO of Rolex), have also made names for themselves in the industry.

The bridge to the future

Through Hublot, the watchmaking world has seen things such as watch cases carved out of sapphire crystal, scratch-proof gold (also known as Magic Gold), and timepieces that look like car engines. Unconventional is their conventional, and the brand is what Biver calls disruptive. He also praised smaller, independent watch houses that deal in the unusual for bringing fresh ideas to the industry.  Likening the disruption of Hublot and other avant-garde watch houses to that caused by impressionist artists, rock and roll and rap, he says, “Disruption keeps the watch industry from falling asleep, and to constantly connect with the future. We need to go to the future because the past is finished. There’s only one way to go: it’s to tomorrow.”

MANTLE is a lifestyle-oriented multimedia brand focused on bringing new experiences to its audience around Asia. Whether it’s about watches, cars, style, gear, people, or places—it’s things you’ve never seen, or have never seen the same way.

During the Philippine leg of the Swiss manufacture’s 150th global birthday celebration, IWC Schaffhausen’s very own Stanislas Rambaud, Managing Director for Southeast Asia, sat down with Lucerne Luxe Magazine to talk about the brand’s advocacies, its consumers, and how it manages to stay relevant in a quickly digitizing world.

Lucerne Luxe Magazine (LLM): How do you think IWC, with its 150 years of history, manages to present its heritage while still reaching a younger, more digitally-inclined market?

Stanislas Rambaud (SR): I think it starts from the very beginning—it starts in our DNA. Just to give you a bit of a background, our founder, Florentine Ariosto Jones, was an engineer and watchmaker from Boston. His idea was to travel to Switzerland to combine his engineering skills with the savoir faire of Switzerland in watchmaking. I would say innovation is part of the IWC DNA, and has been from the very beginning. It is how we grew over the years: by being loyal to the heritage of our founder, to our products, and to this innovation. Our watches remain mechanical, but the way we communicate is embracing digital. We were the first to have a strong community on social media, we have been very advanced in e-commerce, and in all our partnerships, such as the 360-activation campaign with Bradley Cooper and many digital touchpoints. Digital is a great way to speak to our customers and to reach new, younger audiences.

 

IWC’s recent campaign with Academy Award-nominated actor and watch enthusiast Bradley Cooper broke new ground with the use of interactive technology.

 

LLM: What are the insights that you’ve gleaned from your audience and how are you going to integrate them into how the brand markets itself?

SR: That’s the beauty of digital and all this transformation: we get a lot more information compared to 10 years ago. Our role is to better understand our customers through social media, through digital. With all this information we understand what our customers like in our products, if our partnerships are in line with our customers’ values and expectations. You can communicate almost instantly with your customers and you can get almost instant feedback. That way, you can also adapt and react quickly. Everyone talks about multi-channels or omni channels, but today, there’s really no channels: you have to be everywhere. Brands will be able to sell products on their websites, their partners’ websites, Instagram, Facebook, through apps…Now, you have to make sure that you can reach your customer wherever they’re shopping. This brings new challenges. It is the challenge of the industry, ensuring a consistent and qualitative customer experience across all these channels.

LLM: IWC’s sustainability efforts are something to be very proud of. Is giving back something that matters more to and resonates with your audience now, compared to how it did in the past?

SR: It is all about giving back. Today, we are a successful brand and we believe it is important to give back. Part of our values—which include a passion for perfection and precision—is our passion for protecting the environment. Over the last few years we have forged partnerships with different organizations and people who support the same causes, and it’s not something that’s going to change in the next few years. We are strengthening our existing partnership with the Costeau Society, and the Laurel Foundation, and other foundations all over the world. We are giving back to society, and I believe we are the first watch brand to be carbon neutral—it’s a commitment and statement we made years ago. We are all responsible for the future of this planet and the future of our children. Everybody has to act—whether they’re an individual or a company—and IWC is a leader in bringing the industry in that direction.

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