Angus Davies interviews Françoise Bezzola, Chief Communication & Marketing Officer at Ulysse Nardin
Whilst attending SIHH 2018, Françoise Bezzola, Chief Communication & Marketing Officer at Ulysse Nardin kindly agreed to an interview with Angus Davies
Ulysse Nardin was founded in 1846. The company is based in Le Locle and is synonymous with marine chronometers.
Over the years, the Manufacture has demonstrated an impressive quotient of ingenuity and creativity. For instance, it was one of the first brands to utilise silicon (silicium) within its movements. The brand has also created breathtakingly imaginative watches such as the iconic Freak.
Ulysse Nardin is also famous for its astronomical watches produced in conjunction with watchmaking genius Ludwig Oechslin. It was Oechslin who was also responsible for some of the brand’s innovative watches such as the GMT± Perpetual. This particular watch employed clever engineering for the date mechanism, permitting adjustment in either direction without fear of damage.
Last year, Ulysse Nardin unveiled a plethora of watches and, despite my best efforts I was unable to review them all. Quite simply, there were too many. The Swiss company’s incredible rate of innovation cannot be overstated.
In recent months, the brand from Le Locle has appointed new personnel to head its hierarchical structure. Patrick Pruniaux has assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer and Françoise Bezzola is the new Chief Communication & Marketing Officer.
My own professional background is in marketing, specialising in luxury branding. I therefore relished the thought of speaking to Françoise and learning more about this prestigious maison, the products it makes and the marketing techniques it employs.
Interview with Françoise Bezzola (FB) by Angus Davies (AD)
AD: In the last 12 months, Ulysse Nardin has appointed a new CEO, Patrick Pruniaux, and, indeed, yourself. What changes should our readers expect to see with the brand?
FB: The fundamentals will remain the same. It is a great manufacture and the company makes stunning products, for example the new Freak Vision. I don’t want to change the DNA of the brand. The brand stands for exploration, innovation, disruption and freedom.
I don’t want to change the values of the company and I don’t want to change the know-how of the brand. However, I do think we can employ more ‘storytelling’. While the product has to be the ‘hero’, a product also needs a ‘halo’. This is where Patrick Pruniaux and myself can bring something additional to the company. It is our role to provide some ‘fuel to the universe’. Indeed, the product creates desire, the brand creates the dream and you need both to sell.
AD: Some of the new timepieces that you have released in the last 12 months seem to target a younger audience. Is this the case? How do you market products to younger individuals?
FB: Everybody is talking about ‘Millennials’, it is very fashionable to do so. All of the luxury brands are saying ‘how can I engage with the Millennials?’. In my opinion, I don’t think Millenials are very different today than the consumers of 30 years ago. The main difference is that you do not find Millenials in the same place, the difference is digital (online). It is not that the message is different, it is the medium for engaging with that audience which has changed.
In terms of product, I don’t think we are specifically targeting a younger audience. It is the way we engage with our audience and where we engage with our audience. We have to focus more upon digital media.
Ulysse Nardin is a brand for aficionados, for people who know about watches. My priority is to engage with individuals who know of Ulysse Nardin rather than people who have no knowledge of horology. This is more cost effective. The priority is to ‘engage’ rather than build up awareness.
AD: In 2017, Ulysse Nardin was prolific in producing numerous novelties. Can we expect to see as many new products in 2018?
FB: During 2018, Ulysse Nardin will release as many products as 2017.
Last year, many novelties were unveiled at SIHH. This year, the difference will be that we will release new watches throughout the year. Indeed, it is like a striptease, we will reveal a little at SIHH 2018 and then more during the year!
AD: The brand DNA of Ulysse Nardin has always been inextricably linked to the marine / maritime world. Is this likely to continue? Are we likely to see other genres of watch e.g. pilots’ watches
FB: Our history is about marine chronometers, so this cannot change. Our territory is primarily the sea. The brand’s values are more than just the sea. The brand’s values are about exploration, innovation and freedom. For example, if you want to explore new territories, you need to be free.
The sea will continue to be our territory, but perhaps the sea from another perspective. For example, next door (on the exhibition stand at SIHH 2018) we have Damien Hirst’s artwork on display which is another way of depicting the sea with an artistic dimension.
AD: My own background is in marketing and I am intrigued to know what do you think is the single most important thing when marketing fine wristwatches?
FB: To tell the right story, to the right person.
The branding of a timepiece is not merely a sales tool, cynically employed by a company to increase revenue, it confers benefit to the consumer. The notion of a luxury product is that it has both intrinsic worth and a name which engenders desire.
Often, I write about the physical attributes of a watch. However, without suitable branding a product will lack the necessary cachet to arouse desire. This can often be seen with watches where they are fundamentally great but sadly no one cares.
In addition, those watches which do have social status are more likely to retain their value better than those watches which lack any kudos.
Ulysse Nardin are adept at crafting sublime timepieces, often imbued with a palpable dose of ingenuity. The arrival of Françoise Bezzola has clearly imbued the Ulysse Nardin brand with remarkable zest.