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Q&A: Olivier Bernheim, President & CEO, Raymond Weil

'India is a ladies market for watches'

Praveen Bose 

Raymond Weil, one of the last independent brands in the Swiss luxury watch industry, is widening its footprint in India. It is opening exclusive boutiques and shop-in-shops. Olivier Bernheim, President and CEO, Raymond Weil, shares his company’s plans in an interview with Praveen Bose. Founded by Bernheim’s father-in-law in 1976, it recently set up its 100 per cent subsidiary in Bangalore. Excerpts from the interview:

What are the trends that are unique to India in the luxury watch market?
India is a big “ladies market”. There’s a large range of women’s watches. This is important. Men are moving away from quartz watches. Today there is a trend of youngsters looking for mechanical watches. They are looking for new designs and quality and casual wear. It’s one line of products in which RW is very strong. And, they are moving more towards mechanical watches and self-winding watches. India is the second fastest growing market while China is the fastest. India is among top 10 markets in terms of volumes.

How’s your spread in the market?
We have two standalone boutiques, 14 shop-in shops and 25 outlets that sell our watches. We also plan to set up one outlet in December in Mumbai and one more in another city.

Do so see any disadvantage of being a family-owned concern?

We are more flexible as a family-owned concern, and are closer to our customers and have built up family ties with many of our customers. The customers have the advantage of always meeting the same people as there is no change of managers.

has been quick to exploit the social media circuit. Has it helped cut your advertising and marketing costs?
My two sons are into it in a major way. With a lot happening in the social media scene, their vision is to use it as a means to increase market visibility. As of now though it has not helped us cut our advertising costs. It might happen in future. We are preparing for the future.

When a consumer buys, he wants to be up to date and we try to use social media to get through the message about our latest products.

A lot will happen in the social media. It’s a way of marketing for us. As of now it does not make a major part of the marketing, though we believe it might help us cut marketing costs in future.

How’s your spend on R&D, and do you outsource any product R&D?
R&D is all done in-house. It has to be that way so that there’s secrecy. Almost all technologies going into our watches are developed in-house. We have nine persons in our R&D team and 7 per cent of our revenues go into R&D so that we get the right quality and design. It takes 18 months to bring out a watch, from conception to design.

Luxury brands were hit hard during the recent slowdown. How’s it now?
The year 2009 was tough on luxury brands, though India was not hit hard by the recession. Some of the major European countries are still feeling the pangs of recession. The outlook for the Swiss Industry looks better in 2011 because of the Chinese market which is enjoying a spectacular growth. It is followed by India.

First Published: Mon, November 01 2010. 02:48 IST