Matthieu Haverlan

Interview With Ulysse Nardin’s Chief Growth Officer Matthieu Haverlan: “The Brand Is Growing In Terms Of Value”

Ulysse Nardin is emerging as an intriguing brand undergoing pivotal transitional shifts in both its allure, product line evolution, and the newfound acclaim of the Freak platform as a timeless icon. In an exclusive conversation, we delved into these dynamic changes with Matthieu Haverlan, the brand’s uniquely titled Chief Growth Officer, who candidly shares the brand's current trajectory and the factors propelling its exciting journey.

By Ash Longet
PR & Business Development

Over the course of your seven-year tenure at Ulysse Nardin, how have you witnessed the brand's evolution, particularly in terms of product development and overall transformation?

few things have changed, but the products lead the way. The product categories have shifted, including the Marine and the Diver, as well as the Blast (author's note: UN’s Blast used to be the Executive), which is actually a new collection developed in the last seven years. And obviously, the significant development is the Freak: we’ve introduced the Freak, alongside Freak S and Freak One.

The second change is in distribution. Essentially, we are not sold today in the same points of sale we were seven years ago: We used to have 700 points of sale worldwide; now we have 280, and we continue selling our products in fewer points of sale. We have five directly operated boutiques and 13 franchises. We continue to open two to three boutiques every year, with the vast majority being franchises operated with partners.
 

We have witnessed some more changes this year regarding Ulysse Nardin: Your recent achievement in winning the GPHG prize in the Iconique watch nomination with the Freak One. What factors do you believe played a pivotal role in influencing the jury's decision?

It’s all about the watch itself. For me, what stands out about our award-winning product is its status as the most advanced Freak we've ever produced. Technologically, it represents a significant leap forward. The patented Grinder, a revolutionary automatic winding system, is a testament to our commitment to innovation. It stands as the most effective winding system globally. The inclusion of a silicium escapement and an oversized balance wheel further solidifies its technological prowess.

The case of the Freak One is an entirely new development for us. It is smaller, allowing us to gain a crucial one-millimeter advantage, which holds substantial significance for our brand.
 

You participated in the buy-out of Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux. How does the independence of your brand translate into tangible benefits for today's end customers?

Approximately a year ago, I conveyed to the team that our most successful PR campaign to date was the announcement of our brand's independence. The significance lies in the fact that existing customers, who were already familiar with our brand, began to view their potential purchases in a new light. The decision to become independent acted as a catalyst, prompting a shift in their purchasing behavior. This transformation has been particularly evident within the collector community. Also, over the past year and a half, a key focus has been to intensify our engagement with end customers.

So I'm very much more active myself, as much offline as on social media commenting and replying on all the messages, because they need to feel the proximity to the people that are behind Ulysse Nardin.
 

What is the best working distribution model for you today?

The UN brand believes in the wholesale approach, emphasizing a strong belief in our wholesale partners. Our primary focus is on crafting exceptional watches, while our partners excel in the art of selling them. While many brands are exploring alternative routes, especially in integrated business models seen in other industries like fashion, I remain a firm believer in the added value of collaborating with experts in the watch retail sector, such as the iconic Bucherer, Watches of Switzerland, or the Hour Glass.

For me, the priority lies in a multifaceted environment, not necessarily emphasizing just an aggressive retail strategy. Retail outlets should be strategically positioned in key countries and cities, ideally established in collaboration with premier partners. Take, for example, our boutique in Dubai, which we opened five years ago with Seddiqi. It has become our top-performing point of sale globally, thriving even in challenging market conditions. This success reinforces my belief in prioritizing quality partnerships over extensive retail investments.
 

Can you share with us any business-related numbers for the past few years?

I can say that we produce less than 10,000 watches, and we are talking about flat production over the last two years. So basically, we are producing the same amount of watches, and we only grow in terms of value.

Globally, I can say that the market is down because the two main markets, U.S. and China, are down at the moment. You can see that the displays are full. But not for us, the inventory has not grown.

Basically, the brand is growing in terms of value because of growing demand on Freaks, on Blasts, and on haute horlogerie in general. So we sell more expensive watches in the mix, and I'm pretty happy to have done that.
 

You can learn more about Ulysse Nardin at the brand’s website.

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