One Year After The Appointment Of Georges Kern, A Look At Breitling 3.0
Breitling is one of the oldest independent watchmaking brand dating back to 1884. Its history and heritage is rich, including the invention of the chronographe. A year ago, it was taken over by CVC Partners with whom Georges Kern associated to become CEO and shareholder in order to give a new boost to the mythical brand. Route point analysis.
State of play
On the opening night of the new mono-brand Breitling boutique in Zürich, this August 28th, Mr. Kern held a press conference a stone throw away from the new address at Rennweg 7, 8001 Zürich. He gave a clear view of where the brand was when he took over, where it is now and what the mid-term objectives are. The potential of the brand always existed with its large production and distribution. But the product portfolio was too complex with no less than 12 families. The image was diluted and far from the expectations of the contemporary consumers. Likewise, distribution was based on an obsolete model of local, non-integrated agents (65% of the distribution!).
A year in and results already show
The goal is clear: reduce and simplify the collections, rejuvenate the image, open the Chinese market (greatly under-developed) and regain control of the distribution by integrating it. The new management team rapidly put in place by the young CEO had its work cut out and in a minimum time succeeded in:
– Launching the new Navitimer 8, which is reaching stores as we speak and whose clients are 70% new comers for the brand.
– Creating a new store concept being deployed around the world with openings in Zermatt, Beijing, Shanghai, Zürich and Dubaï. The aim being to regain control of 85% of the distribution on the long term.
– Starting the new Blockbuster communication campaign with the theme #squadonamission to reach a larger, younger audience while keeping the brand’s values of self-surpassing, of precision and of team spirit. Always keeping in mind the social media appeal as a new communication tool. After the pilots, came the surfers to breathe a fresh spirit into the brand. More will follow, just as inspiring for younger (and older) generations.
A deep cleansing
Breitling has also started a lean diet on its distribution aiming at reducing its ‘doors’ from 2000 currently to 1400 or less within 3 years. Mono-brands stores numbers should on the contrary increase. The new team also had to tackle the grey market issue and buy back some overflowing stocks in order to sanitize the network. Still, the brand managed to show some significant growth. The trend should accentuate with the asserted focus to increase e-commerce for the brand from Saint-Imier. This distribution channel could account for up to 35% or even 50% in the future according to the CEO. The world is changing, so is Breitling!
Not bad for a year’s work! Georges Kern does not take the laurels for himself for this good start. Instead he emphasizes the work his teams have achieved and the positive environment the industry is experiencing at the moment. Breitling shows impressive growth numbers in the 10% range for this first semester of 2018. The launch to come of the second lead collection, inspired from the 50’s, should further confirm the trend. By his own admission, decision making is clearly faster in such an independent brand as Breitling and it facilitates their quick implementation.