Alpina’s Ingredients For Success: An Interview With Oliver Van Lanschot Hubrecht
Alpina is one of those rare brands that was able to revive its enviable legacy in the watch world and continue to bring true tool watches to new customers. This strategy has served the brand well, but ongoing improvement and innovation is what completes the story. We sat down with Alpina Brand Director Oliver van Lanschot Hubrecht and spoke about the key milestones for the brand’s continued success.
Ash Longet: Until five or six years ago, Alpina was still seen by many as an off-shoot of Frédérique Constant, and may have lost a bit of its strong identity. Now we are seeing that change with the launch of the Alpiner Extreme Regulator and Automatic. What was the trigger for that development?
Oliver van Lanschot Hubrecht: Alpina has been trying to find its way ever since it was taken over in 2002 by Peter and Aletta Stas. A lot has happened in this world recently: There has been the take over by Citizen Group, which had a strategy to have a more entry-price collection in order to be sold in volume.
Now we have seen some success with that, but, honestly, in terms of brand recognition and re-bringing the DNA into the products in that entry-level segment, it was really not possible. So we moved away from that strategy, as well as from the smart watches (which were very strong, like the AlpinerX for instance).
But, indeed, we lost the heritage part of the brand, the rich history of a pioneering watch brand. But now, with the Extreme collection we managed to tackle all these boxes: heritage (we see consistent sales of the heritage sea and pilot watches), values of traditional watchmaking, and price positioning (the sweet spot between 1,200 EUR and 2,000 EUR).
AL: Alpina is on its way to a kind of global acceptance, I would say. What would be the three magical ingredients to Alpina’s pushing over the top?
OLH: I think the availability of the watch is one of the main factors: We are not exactly where we should be in terms of points of sale, retailers; and this is key. Nowadays, going back to the market, back to the retailers, showing where we are now; is another key. And you are right, there must be a bit of confusion in the past, but now we have this possibility to get back to the market.
The second ingredient is recognition: For sure, we need to be recognized as Alpina. We have several universes, everything is legitimate, but if you give too many messages and too many focus points, I think it can be confusing. So we want to put Extreme in the spotlight. Our aim is to turn Extreme into an iconic piece. So we want to hammer on that nail and make it visible across different platforms.
And finally, product development: Different calibers, sizes, materials. This watch is a perfect playground for our watchmakers.
AL: Do you know exactly who your final customers are? And what is your mode of development in terms of new client acquisition?
OLH: Honestly, I would love to have more data. Of course, we know our current customers: The people who are buying consistently are men, above 35 years old (between 35 and 50), who live in Western Europe, in general, and the U.S. It’s a person who has a professional and urban life and who is strongly inspired by outdoor activities.
Obviously, our aim is to become more attractive for a younger generation; that’s the reason why we have partnerships with our ambassadors. We need to be sure that we continue to feed this generation.
AL: What is your approach in terms of working with niche communities, such as groups of watch collectors and enthusiasts?
OLH: This is absolutely massive for us, being an historical brand, a manufacture who is able to interact with watch lovers and passionate people about horology and design. We see a huge interest for Alpina’s historical timepieces, and we should definitely continue that engagement.
Are we going to make limited series with some watch communities? Absolutely! We will continue to invest in those kind of interactions. I think it’s a very strategic activation to give third parties a chance to give their view on our products.
AL: Coming back to your fascinating novelties launched first at Geneva Watch Days earlier this September: Why have you decided to reintroduce the Alpiner with a regulator? A regulator is far from the easiest way of reading time, and it’s not a display that an be understood and accepted by just anyone.
OLH: Back in 2005, our regulator was an iconic piece from Alpina, and people bought it. At the end, it was one of the most sold pieces within the collection. At GWD 2022, we launched this limited edition of 888 pieces. and first of all people appreciated the design: a regulator with the contrast of the sub dials is really something special.
AL: When we see the new Alpiner Extreme Automatic, we guess that you would probably be coming out with an integrated bracelet? Could you unveil any future developments concerning this piece?
OLH: Well, your guess is a logical development move. The case of this timepiece could potentially work very well with such a bracelet. Today, we present just the first steps of the come-back of the Extreme line. So you can expect new bracelets and logical caliber developments, like a chronograph or other movements. I am not setting anything in stone, but it gives you an idea!
For the latest on Alpina’s developments and products, visit the brand’s website.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel. Front image © Alpina)