We sat down and spent a good hour with Christian Lattmann, CEO of Jaquet Droz. A long time Swatch Group employee, Christian have held parallel appointments in Breguet and Jaquet Droz as Senior Executive Vice President since 2009. He was appointed CEO of Jaquet Droz in June 2016.
Christian Lattmann started his career in the Swatch Group at Longines in St. Imier in 1989 before moving to Omega six years later, where he occupied positions in procurement and as product manager responsible for the Omega Seamaster and Speedmaster lines. He moved to Breguet in the Vallée de Joux in 2002, still working as a product manager, and was appointed Vice-President, Head of Product Management, in 2006. And from 2009, he held parallel appointments in Breguet and Jaquet Droz, and finally last year he became the CEO of Jaquet Droz.
It was the first time we had met with Christian, and he seemed to be very warm, friendly with a genuine and open personality. We discussed many issues focusing on the key philosophy of the brand and the direction in which he is leading a company which have been making interesting mechanical works since 1738.
Jaquet Droz have a place firmly in the hearts collectors of automaton, of grand feu enamel dials and lovers of the métiers d’art watches. Their signature Grande Second is a masterpiece in simplicity and elegance. While many of their automaton watches like their Bird Minute Repeater in 2016 feature movements with great complexity.
We started the discussion with the Jaquet Droz basics. Tenets and principles of the brand. How he sees the brand fit within the product range and strategy of the Swatch Group. Christian was candid in his responses. He spoke about the artistic approach that Jaquet Droz takes great pride in establishing. Driven by the Eight Codes of Jaquet Droz (click on the link for a desctiption), he promises that Jaquet Droz will stay within this niche, making watches with interesting complications while all the time being true to the artistic (and perhaps dramatic) elements.
“Some watches tell time, some tell a story”
Christian is keenly interested that the Jaquet Droz watches not only tell the time, but also eloquent in telling a story. As such, the watches must fall within this doctrine. And the mix is a masterful blend of the classical craft and contemporary style that he strives for.
For the watch movements, Jaquet Droz do not make their own in-house, but work with sister company Blancpain to create movements which are specific to JD. These specifications govern the finishing, functionality, and even a specific colour palate. The layout and design of bridges, the rotor and other elements are unique to Jaquet Droz. The leverage on Blancpain’s manufacturing capability is also seen in the use of silicon escapements, as an example. He emphasized that even though the movements are made by Blancpain, they are not used in Blancpain’s own products in the same finish style.
His long term goals are priortised to ensure that the basics are strong, the strategy is stable and that the growth is aggressive. To support this, he identified the single most important area where he will be focusing on – increasing awareness of the rich artistic heritage and technical savoir faire of Jaquet Droz. “Jaquet Droz is loved by the people who know, but there are not enough people who know.” His mission is to evangelise.
Of the product lines within Jaquet Droz, he highlights that the Métiers d’Art collection as well as the Automata are in very high demand. Not only because the production process by nature requires great skill but are also very slow, laborious and very intense. And among the cognoscenti, the appreciation is great.
He pointed out that Jaquet Droz have a long and illustrious history in China. From the early days in the mid 18th century, supplying the Imperial Court of China with various automata, watches and fine mechanical works. And to this day, he explains that Jaquet Droz continues to enjoy the brand recognition, and is successful in China.
Interestingly, he listed Switzerland as his second largest market after China. But admits that many of the customers who buy in Switzerland are Chinese nationals. The value of the strong brand recognition in China, extends beyond her shores, and the Chinese seek out Jaquet Droz even when they travel.
The market which is new to Jaquet Droz is the USA, where the brand is starting almost from scratch. Christian and his team are making big efforts to establish themselves in the US. However, the focus for the next few years continues to be in Asia. Continue to build in China, but also increase awareness in other Asian countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and others.
Character of the manufacture
Perhaps some may accuse Jaquet Droz for being a manufacture catering to the feminine. Not so, declares Christian. While there brand excels in ladies watches, he defends that the character of the manufacture is not feminine. But one which caters to collectors who treasure elegance and style. He went on to elaborate that 70% of what Jaquet Droz makes are men’s models.
This is particularly evident in the complicated watches, but also in the simple classically elegant watches like the Big Seconds. Shown below, the new Grande Second Off-Center Silver, announced in Baselworld 2017.
Thoughts on digital media
The discussion went on to what Christian thought was the role of digital media. He asserts that the use of digital media is central in his strategy for Jaquet Droz. Digital lends itself easily to the use of interactive material and video, which he sees as a critical tool for the watches to tell a story. For example, video through digital media is able to demonstrate the animation of this year’s talking piece: the Loving Butterfly, which is not possible through traditional print.
He then elaborated that he will use key digital media, like Deployant.com, as roll-out platforms to promote and educate, to increase awareness and to showcase the Jaquet Droz brand.