India feature big in Jaeger-LeCoultre's plans. Their Reverso collection is proof enough of that! We find out more from Renaud Pretet, Brand Director for India at JLC
By: Karishma Parkash
Posted on: March 10, 2011
Defending the very existence of fine watchmaking and craftsmanship for more than two decades now, Salon de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) took itself to a new level at their 21st annual show this year. Taking advantage of the occasion, we had a brief chat with Renaud Pretet, Jaeger-LeCoultre Brand Director, Middle East, Levant, India and Turkey.
SIHH, the invite-only trade show, is an annual pilgrimage for many. It also continues to be an enviable and aspirational clique for some. An absolutely enchanting place to be, Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) upped the charm with the collection that the brand showcased. Proudly showing off their newest babies with style and pomp, JLC was at its best with a sea of the world’s greatest watch retailers out to find their finest catches for the year.
JLC considers 2011 to be an important year because it marks the 80th anniversary of their emblematic Reverso line. As one would already be aware, this watch was born in India in 1931 to cater to the needs of British officers and Maharajahs who challenged the brand to create a watch that was both elegant and yet sturdy enough to stand up to hard knocks and survive a polo match. Marking the birth year of the iconic watch, SIHH witnessed the launch of new innovations in the Reverso line, including ultra thin - new ladies model and a high-complication model – the Reverso-Repetition-Minutes-a-Rideau.
Show and tell
What is showcased at SIHH can often decide the fate of the collection because the event is usually attended by everyone important to the word watch. JLC also showcased a variety of watches, but everyone has their favorites. And the most important from JLC’s end was, of course, the Reverso line “The ultra thin Reverso line was probably the most important piece as it was created to cater to a strong need of traditional watches which could be worn with corporate wear. Likewise, re-edition of the original 1931 Reverso was also widely liked by collectors for its contemporary yet traditional beauty,” Pretet explained.
Time for India
With a variety of watch shows taking their stuff up a notch, one may wonder why SIHH still manages to command the respect and awe that it does. According to Pretet, what the SIHH has, no other show does. “Jaeger-LeCoultre is one of the most prestigious manufactures which crafts more than 120 different references, comprising 50 different movements. So when it comes to exhibiting its finest fares the obvious choice is SIHH where the crème de la crème of watch making industry gather to exchange ideas, discover novelties and high complications. Moreover, this place of mutual exchange also draws retailers from across the globe who attend it to appreciate and buy the potential bestsellers from different brands,” he said.
With our nation exploring new boundaries and reaching new heights, it is not out of the blue to wonder whether India could have a watch fair of a professional level. Delving deeper into this idea, Pretet said, “Proximity of the fair to the manufacture is a key and necessary asset to the success of SIHH. Retailers can really feel the spirit of Swiss watchmaking while coming to Geneva. To be candid such watch fairs can be a success in India once the consumers open up to luxury watch making.”
If there are hundreds of watch brands offering a variety of options, there is also a mixed bag of consumers waiting to be satisfied. Some appreciate and understand the complexities of a watch while some simply judge the timepiece on generic parameters. Pretet pointed out that India was getting more mature in terms of fine watchmaking. “Indians now are well-travelled and well-read. They understand the nuances that accompany the complexities in watchmaking. But one can also not ignore the fact that this population is scarce and the remaining potential consumers will take time to move from judging the watch by its cover to appreciating the process that goes into creating them,” he explained.
Not undermining the importance of advertising and the effect that proper consumer education had on any brand, Pretet shared that Jaeger-LeCoultre was indeed a brand that spent its money in educating than advertising and is recognized by all as a brand with more than 350 patents and 1000 different movements crafted since 1833. “However, we feel that there is no hurry as it would require massive investment to persuade a ‘brand lover’ to become a ‘fine watchmaking connoisseur’. We know Indian connoisseurs, we work with the best retailers and our products are the best to convey our message - slowly but surely,” Pretet said.
Exploring the potential that India has as a watch centre, Pretet was also quick to point out that unlike Europe, which was already a mature market with fine watchmaking craftsmen and connoisseurs present there for 300 years, India was still growing. He opined, “India is a young market that has opened to Swiss export a decade back and hence, will take time understand the value of fine watchmaking. But knowing that India has a long history of art, beauty, tradition, I have no doubt they will catch up quickly.”
Talking of JLC’s future plans in India, Pretet positively stated that 2011 “is the Year of Reverso, a watch born in India in 1931. So it is only fair that we find a way to pay tribute to this beautiful country for having given us the chance to craft such an iconic creation. Stay tuned!”