Interview with Patrick Pruniaux, Chief Executive Officer, Ulysse Nardin

Interview with Patrick Pruniaux, Chief Executive Officer, Ulysse Nardin at SIHH 2018. Mr Pruniaux discussed the company’s success at GPHG 2017, smart watches and provides an insight into the company he manages.

During this interview with Patrick Pruniaux, Chief Executive Officer, Ulysse Nardin discussed the company’s iconic watch ‘The Freak’ and the company’s expertise with grand feu enamel.

Patrick Pruniaux - CEO Ulysse Nardin - appointed in 2017

Last year, 2017, Patrick Pruniaux was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of the historical maison, Ulysse Nardin, a company which can trace its origins to 1846.

Mindful of the huge responsibility this role represents, I was eager to learn more about Pruniaux and his plans for deftly navigating this legendary brand to further success.

While attending SIHH, Pruniaux took time out from his hectic schedule to answer a few of my questions.

Interview with Patrick Pruniaux (PP) by Angus Davies (AD)

AD: Congratulations on your success at the GPHG in November 2017, winning the Sports Watch Prize. Will you be entering another watch in 2018?

PP: Probably. I like sports and believe you need to show up for the competition. It is fun to give it a try and see what happens. We were lucky last year, let’s see if we can be lucky this year.

AD: What changes do you envisage making now that you have settled into your new role.

PP: The company already has a lot of assets. It has an amazing manufacture and a wonderful heritage. The third thing which I see as both an asset, as well as a challenge, is that the brand is not that familiar to the general public, although it is well-known to watch connoisseurs.

We have not put enough effort into marketing, placing too much emphasis on investing in the manufacture in the past. Now is the time to tell a little more about our values and what matters to us. It is important that we make sure the public learn more about the brand.

AD: I believe you previously worked for TAG Heuer and Apple, both companies which have enjoyed much success with their smart watches. Can we expect to see Ulysse Nardin make a smart watch?

PP: I don’t think so. I don’t think there is any value in Ulysse Nardin making a smart watch, because I don’t see what more we can bring to the end-consumer. If there is no benefit and it is only a marketing story, I won’t do it.

AD: Clearly, the watch industry experiences economic highs and lows. What do you do to weather the storms and prosper?

PP: I think we have an asset at Ulysse Nardin, namely that our customers are very loyal to the brand. When there is a crisis, the consumer is reassured by a brand they trust. We have to work before any crisis to ensure the company is in a safe place. It is also important that your customers know that it is a safe bet to invest in a Ulysse Nardin watch.

AD: Ulysse Nardin continues to launch an increasing number of watches with grand feu enamel dials. The dials are clearly very labour-intensive to make. How much additional capacity do you have? Could we see double the volume of watches with grand feu enamel dials?

PP: It is limited. We could not double the volume of watches with grand feu enamel dials. That is the beauty of it, there are only so many dials you can make. As you know we make not only for ourselves but also for other reputable companies. I see this as a part of our duty to help the overall watchmaking industry. At the end of the day, we know there is only so much we can make and that is fine. We may have to explain to the consumer sometimes that they have to wait a bit owing to the nature of the dials.

AD: What can we expect to see from Ulysse Nardin during 2018?

PP: Who knows! The Freak is interesting, it should become a collection in the future. There has been a big job done by my predecessor and the Head of Product to streamline the collection and make it more understandable for everyone. I am really happy with that. I don’t intend to launch new collections, but I do intend to revamp some models. Some models are very ‘stable’, very clearly Ulysse Nardin watches, others may require a refresh.

Closing remarks

It always proves enlightening to chat with the CEO of a company. Pruniaux is clearly aware of the horological treasure that Ulysse Nardin represents and the responsibility this implies. The Swiss watch brand crafts fine timepieces, suffused with craftsmanship and ingenuity, traits much appreciated by connoisseurs.

During our conversation, Pruniaux alluded to a possible entry in this year’s GPHG and dismissed the idea of making a smart watch.

Where Pruniaux will oversee significant changes is by revamping some existing models and increasing the marketing efforts of the company. Indeed, the youthful CEO clearly values his loyal customer base, but wishes to target new audiences, conveying the values and savoir-faire of this historical maison.

I look forward to witnessing Ulysse Nardin’s continued success under the stewardship of Patrick Pruniaux.

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