Omega’s Secret Snoopy Recipe – Raynald Aeschlimann’s Unique 361-Degree Approach
Our interview with Omega’s President and CEO, Raynald Aeschlimann.
On the occasion of Mr. Aeschlimann’s visit to the United States, Watchonista sat down with Omega’s President and CEO for a wide-ranging discussion. Under Aeschlimann’s leadership, Omega has seen a resurgence in interest for the Speedmaster and Seamaster, and now the brand is revisiting their past with an eye to the future.
Our Interview with Raynald Aeschlimann
Josh Shanks: 2018 was a huge year for Omega, so let’s first look back, how has the brand performed over the last year?
Raynald Aeschlimann: I think we can be very proud of Omega! Because this year we worked on many aspects of the brand, and aspects where we had to be very, I would say, careful. We are finishing now with the Seamaster 300m (Read More HERE), and I can see the success – I feel it!
I hear about boutiques yelling at each other because they have two watches in the show window when we’ve told them, "You always have to have a minimum of eight in the show window! You have to show all the strengths." And they say, "We don't have any watches!” And you know, for me, this is all about the magic of the brand, the magic of the team, and what I wanted to do as CEO.
JS: From a marketing standpoint, how do you see your efforts paying off at the cash register?
RA: We’ve managed to spend continuously – for some time – on the Speedmaster and the Seamaster to make them more attractive and to respect what they are. But also, by presenting them in a way that’s coherent for the brand. And I think we can see it in the sales. We can see it in the market share. We can see it in this country (US) and the sales of the stores. People are getting our message, and they are willing to come and to visit us. There’s much more traffic than ever before in our stores. So yes, we are going into, I think, a very, very good year (2019). And, yes, the brand has evolved its strengths. Also, with the new De Ville and Trésor collections, and Kaia Gerber, we are showing the world that it’s good to talk about your pillars, but it’s also very interesting to see that Omega is now aware of what is happening in the world.
It’s not millennials for millennials, but about the new generation that we know very well are very interested in bringing a new line that is definitely a first, only for ladies. And that’s very important for me. It's about proving that we are solid on our pillars and that we can also add to where we feel there is a niche, where there is a market, and where there is a demand. Because more than any niche or market you have to follow the demand. So I’m expecting our retail sales to reach a very, very high level and for new customers to come into our stores and discover our brand.
JS: There’s good energy for the brand. Case in point, I bought this [points to Speedmaster 60th Anniversary on the wrist, [READ HERE] last year, and I feel like I've been buying a new Speedmaster every year.
JS: You talk a lot about pillars, and people ask me all the time about the watch market as it exists today. The way I explain it is with an analogy. Essentially, there are two main pillars to today’s watch market. First, the highly desirable modern pieces of which there are maybe 10, and Omega is undoubtedly included in that conversation. Second, there is the vintage world, and after that, there is everything in between. Omega has always done an excellent job of always being in the highly desirable modern conversation. You look at the Snoopy, the Speedy Tuesday, and the Hodinkee edition, it’s like one hit after another. Is there, in your mind, a secret recipe?
JS: Without giving away state secrets obviously. [Laughs]
RA: No, no, no! Honestly, they call it that sometimes, and I’m humble enough and hopefully because, at the end of the day, it’s the teamwork. Apollo 8, Dark Side of the Moon, and more it’s almost poetic. This is exactly what I call Omega's 361 degrees. The team, my team, the brand, I always tell them, do everything right, plus bring the passion into it and have ideas and we'll support them.
We have an incredible backbone from the management of the Swatch Group helping the brand and not because we're the biggest. But because we have ideas and we're developing. This morning, I had another discussion from my bed, well he didn't know I was in my bed [laughs], with one of our suppliers telling him, "I need more support from you." And he said yes because we want to develop and because I want this 361-degree approach, and I think this is precisely not the secret because this is not in the book.
JS: So what is the last degree in your 361-degree playbook?
RA: The last degree, that one magical degree – actually I call it the “Omega degree” – it’s the one that makes the whole difference. It’s about spirit, and it's about leadership. This is about our brand. I think you’ll see – you mentioned Snoopy, you mentioned Speedy Tuesday, and you obviously know watches very well – let’s say, a CEO of another brand, goes to his product guy and says, "Make me a Speedy Tuesday" and he takes that, and he says, "Ok, take that and put it on Instagram,” that guy should be fired because Speedy Tuesday is not about the success, it’s not about selling anything to anybody.
It's about 361 degrees. It is having the courage to do it. To have the right product at the right moment and to talk with the community and talk to people who are just feeling, "Wow! I need that watch." For me, this all starts with respect, having the best team, the history, and then, afterward, the passion that adds on top of this — plus being backed by an incredible range of boutiques, suppliers, and advertising! Look at (the ad) with Daniel Craig. I mean, there is no contract where it was written, “Please go in the swimming pool for 5 hours.” You know, there is a relationship that brings us every day to the next level. And it’s a great pride.
I have to admit this is one of the biggest feelings of pride that we can have in management, and it's just to do things with a passion but first to do the right thing, so it's not just a passion. I'm sometimes very difficult with that. I say, "Don't start to be easy going. Don't start with Speedy Tuesday 3, yes, one day, but make it even better than Ultraman!” And everybody looks at me like, “Wow, that’s no discussion. If we don’t have it better, then we don’t do it.” So, sorry, there is no recipe. And if there is one, I wouldn’t give it to you.
JS: But you look at these pieces, and I can tell you're happy with them. But, are you ever 100% pleased?
RA: No, I’m never pleased.
RA: No, how can I be? Because I think that I’m somebody who is impatient, but I'm pleased because I see that there are people on our waiting lists, but then there are people that start to yell at me, "You should not do that!” or “You should do that." But many of them, they don't understand that there is a reality behind that.
JS: You mentioned the word community a lot, and I think that Omega has done a phenomenal job of embracing the collector community at large. Forums, websites, social media, you've just brought them all together.
RA: I agree, and you know what? I think because our biggest base is also being transparent. I love to explain, I love to talk, I love to show, and we may not do everything right, but we do it because we’ve thought about it. And I think that, yes, this is a good base. And I love these people. I love the people that, like when you were showing your watch, they can have a lot in their lives, but it's just that one (watch) they need to have, and boom! They buy it.
JS: Let’s talk Bond. In all your years at Omega, do you have any good James Bond/Daniel Craig stories?
RA: Yeah, I have a lot [laugh]. I have to admit the best stories are about him. When we met him at the Beekman Hotel that was, for me, one of the highlights of my career as a new president and CEO because it was about creating something around his passion for watches. More than just being James Bond and I think that was a very, very good moment and he felt the same.
For me, this comes back precisely to what you said about the community. This was kind of the first moment where we brought him into that community that he belonged in more than anybody else because, first, he's James Bond and secondly, he loves watches. So, that felt like it was a win-win. And from that point of view now, the story is about him continuing to support by doing this new campaign which is the first time he’s done it with a Seamaster 300m. Which, by the way, is not the watch he’s used to wearing. And our partnership continuing into the next movie. So, we are extremely happy about his commitment to Omega which goes further than just being an ambassador.
JS: Last question, you’ve been at the brand now for, what? 22 years? So naturally, you’ve seen a lot. In your opinion, what’s one Omega timepiece that might be either underappreciated or misunderstood? What’s the one piece in your mind, where you’ve wondered, “Why didn’t that become a thing? Why didn’t that become the Snoopy?”
RA: That is an excellent question. I genuinely believe that in the modern collection that our Vision line was maybe a line that came too early. There was a long history of making the De Ville in our collection, classical watches, and there are a lot of requests for classic watches. And I think that the creation of our Vision (collection) with a sapphire that presented even more of the watch and it was not only limited edition, but it was maybe too early for us to come with this kind of very, I would say elegant watch.
I truly believe that there is significant potential in very, very classic pure watches, but the Vision gave us a bit of a feeling that people were not interested in this. So, for me, I think we are still missing a bit of success in this world. You see people coming with an old Seamaster, a very traditional watch with a long history in the mind of the collections. For the Vision, success should have occurred, but it was maybe too early. And at that time perhaps the link to the whole DNA was not good enough. If I may add something, I think the Speedmaster in the past 20 years has not been appreciated at the levels it now is. Speedmaster is almost equal with Seamaster in the US.