Stephane Waser, Maurice Lacroix
Angus Davies talks to Stephane Waser, Maurice Lacroix about the Swiss company he deftly manages in his role as Managing Director.
Maurice Lacroix is based in Saignelégier in the Swiss Jura, a region synonymous with watchmaking. Throughout its history, the brand has always had a youthful outlook, sometimes sidestepping convention and conceiving new means of imparting the time. For example, the Masterpiece Square Wheel features a rotating square wheel to ingeniously indicate seconds.
The Swiss firm offers a broad array of watches from affordable quartz timepieces to mechanical Masterpiece models equipped with Manufacture movements. However, irrespective of the model selected, each watch is endowed with a high quotient of Swiss craftsmanship.
In 2016, Maurice Lacroix unveiled the AIKON range, a collection of models featuring quartz movements. Immediately, the watches proved a commercial success. Therefore, it was not surprising that in 2018, the Swiss firm chose to enlarge the AIKON range with the addition of mechanical models, including an automatic version, a chronograph and a skeleton watch. The AIKON has attracted plaudits for its iconic styling. Furthermore, the sumptuous dials and refined cases exhibit the same impressive quality as the brand’s costlier Masterpiece models.
Maurice Lacroix has continued to release new Masterpiece models featuring Manufacture movements. The company has unveiled some watches equipped with retrograde indications, a longstanding speciality of the Maison. The arcing trajectory of a lone hand, reaching its ultimate destination and then returning to its point of origin, confers a wonderful sense of theatre and distinguishes retrograde indications as special. However, irrespective of the model selected, Maurice Lacroix’s watches prove accessible, with the company delivering an impressive degree of quality and value.
Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Stephane Waser, Maurice Lacroix and learn more about this dynamic watch company, much loved by ‘Millennials’ as well as those of us who are a tad older.
Interview with Stephane Waser, Maurice Lacroix (SW) by Angus Davies (AD)
AD: What makes Maurice Lacroix special?
SW: We believe that all timepieces should be treated as masterpieces. Accessibility is the main focus of our brand, which is why we have chosen to deliver “masterpiece” quality across our product range, including our entry-level collection Eliros. Today, we are proud to offer timepieces incorporating avant-garde design, imbued with quality that is beyond reproach and offered for sale at competitive prices.
AD: Maurice Lacroix is synonymous with innovation. The Masterpiece Square Wheel and the Masterpiece Mysterious Seconds are both very different from any other watches on the market. When can we expect to see another groundbreaking creation from Maurice Lacroix?
SW: I would say that first and foremost, Maurice Lacroix is characterised by its craftsmanship, design and high customer-perceived value. Alongside our timepieces for daily wear, such as the AIKON and the Pontos, we also offer the Masterpiece collection: high-value timepieces with movements manufactured in-house at our ateliers in Saignelégier. To answer your question about our new products, I encourage you to visit our brand platform “Mercury Island” on Rousseau Island from 13.1.2019 – 16.1.2019. You won’t be disappointed!
AD: The AIKON has been a huge success for Maurice Lacroix. Initially, the model was exclusively quartz, however, earlier in 2018, a number of mechanical versions were launched, including chronograph and skeleton pieces. Do you envisage releasing additional versions of the AIKON featuring other complications?
SW: The AIKON has evolved in the same way as its predecessor, the Calypso, which progressed from quartz to mechanical movements and ultimately led to a variety of watch complications being released. Given that the AIKON is now one of the brand’s flagship products, our aim is to build and consolidate this collection.
AD: The case and bracelet of the AIKON are superbly finished with polished and brushed surfaces positioned in close proximity. To locate these contrasting surfaces adjacent each other is time consuming and expensive. Indeed, the finish on the AIKON is comparable with your costlier Masterpiece models. Has the release of the AIKON impacted on Masterpiece sales.
SW: No, absolutely not. They are two very distinct market segments, so we are not aiming at the same buyers.
AD: Maurice Lacroix is located in Saignelégier in the canton of Jura, a region synonymous with watchmaking. We often talk about terroir with winemaking, does the location of Maurice Lacroix’s atelier influence the design and production of its timepieces?
SW: Saignelégier is one of the cradles of watchmaking. It offers the tranquil environment our skilled craftsmen need to perform their meticulous work day after day. The quest for the high perceived value manifest with our products is of primary concern to our employees. Supplying products of superior quality, irrespective of a product’s price, has been the central focus of the region for centuries.
AD: Recently, Maurice Lacroix announced that it would not be exhibiting at Baselworld 2018. Do you have alternative plans to engage with the trade and public alike?
SW: Of course! As mentioned earlier, we will be on Rousseau Island in Geneva from 13th January to 16th January with a concept that is sure to arouse a great deal of interest. In parallel to this, throughout the year we will be organising various roadshows and promotional events around the world. This will provide a means for fostering closer relationships with our customers, exchanging ideas and making strides forward together. We are determined to continue growing the brand and building an even stronger reputation for Maurice Lacroix.
AD: Masterpiece is the ultimate expression of Maurice Lacroix ownership. The brand has gained a reputation for making retrograde indications and offering skeleton watches. How do you deliver these type of watches while remaining keenly priced. Is there a secret?
SW: Achieving such a feat is not the work of a single person, but an entire team. At Maurice Lacroix, we are fortunate to be able to count on passionate, dynamic people from all professions, driven by a motivation to offer premium, quality products at reasonable prices. Together, we constantly brainstorm to find the best solutions without compromising quality. It is important to stress the fact that all of our movements are designed and manufactured in-house by our master watchmakers. We are also lucky to have a rich Masterpiece heritage that we can draw upon in order to offer the highest level of craftsmanship and expertise at accessible prices, a dynamic strategy adopted in the past that continues to show results today.
AD: Earlier this year, Maurice Lacroix ran an interesting competition entitled #CHASEYOURWATCH inviting the public to follow clues on Facebook and Instagram with the ultimate aim of winning a limited edition AIKON watch. In addition, you have run further competitions throughout the year. Where did the idea for #CHASEYOURWATCH come from? Can we expect to see more innovative competitions in the future?
SW: This highly innovative event was inspired by the generation Y. Ultra-connected, adventurous and urban, they inspired us to create a social game to be played in the city. A trendy concept that Millennials embraced with enthusiasm! But to keep our customers connected, we are going to launch a new competition at Inhorogenta, in Munich, next February.
AD: #CHASEYOURWATCH skilfully employed social media channels. Looking at the images of the lucky winners, they appear much younger than myself. Indeed, they look like ‘Millennials’. How popular is Maurice Lacroix with this particular generation and, in particular, is there one collection favoured by this age group?
SW: Consumers and watch aficionados can treat themselves to a Maurice Lacroix at a price range of CHF 1,000 to 3,000. So AIKON is obviously a line that appeals to Millennials who, for example, wish to own an automatic watch without needing to make concessions in other areas of their lives. For the past four years, we have guided our communication strategy in this direction in order to reach this target audience, a group of individuals who are sensitive to high-quality aesthetics.
AD: Some of your watches are termed ‘e-retail only’. However, as I understand, this applies to your retail partners online platforms, providing a point of differentiation from those models held in store. This seems like a very clever approach. How have your retailers responded to this?
SW: Our retailers have understood our strategy and responded positively to this activity, as we protect them at the same time by not offering online products that are business drivers in their stores. We are a brand that relies on cooperation with retailers and works with them collaboratively in order to determine what is best for retail sales vs. online. Our priority is a relationship based on trust.
AD: I must confess, I tend to fixate on the AIKON and Masterpiece collections. However, Les Classiques and Pontos models also confer much eye-appeal and uphold the brand’s reputation for high perceived value. Do you envisage any additional collections joining Maurice Lacroix’s current product portfolio?
SW: Expanding the collection is not currently in the pipeline. Our portfolio is indeed very balanced and offers a wide range to consumers, from true watch connoisseurs to novice customers. Indeed, thanks to our watchmaking expertise and our high-tech ateliers located in Saignelégier, we have been manufacturing a wide range of exceptional timepieces of high perceived value for over 40 years, offering everything from iconic watches to classical mechanical and quartz timepieces. Also worthy of note, the design, ingenuity and quality of our watches have earned us upwards of a dozen prestigious awards over the years. We are dedicated to developing innovative calibres in an effort to offer our customers the latest technological advances. From our quartz timepieces to our finest complications, regardless of the collection, our demand for top-flight quality remains the same.
AD: What are your future aspirations for Maurice Lacroix?
SW: We want to continue building and strengthening the brand image. We are also going to expand our AIKON and Masterpiece collections, while enhancing our women’s selection. Our aim is to step up efforts to maintain consistency in our brand, products and future developments. One thing for certain, we won’t be running out of work any time soon!
Under the stewardship of Stephane Waser, the company has conceived the AIKON, an aptly named collection which is imbued with iconic design. Despite being launched only a few years ago, this model has become a huge success story for the brand.
Part of the allure of the AIKON relates to its aesthetic prowess. The textured dials deliver a three-dimensional allure and the cases successfully juxtapose highly polished and satin brushed surfaces. Each element is distilled to a high standard. Indeed, despite the modest pricing of the AIKON, there is a ubiquitous sense of quality. Therefore, it did not come as any surprise when Stephane brought this collection to the fore during our interview. He is clearly proud of AIKON and appreciative of his team for bringing the watch to life.
‘Pride’ is an overriding theme when talking to Stephane. Maurice Lacroix has won numerous awards for its watches, some recognising the striking aesthetics the company has imaginatively conceived. The brand is also synonymous with delivering ‘high perceived value’ products imbued with Swiss craftsmanship and a high quotient of quality. It is perhaps for this reason that Stephane proudly refers to all Maurice Lacroix timepieces as ‘masterpieces’ and embellishes its watch straps with the brand’s ‘M’ logo.
For any brand to flourish, it cannot rely on superb products alone. Maurice Lacroix has demonstrated great marketing skills, engaging with ‘Millennials’ using social media and conceiving ingenious campaigns such as #CHASEYOURWATCH. The Swiss firm understands its target audience, namely, ambitious, ‘connected’ millennials seeking their first taste of luxury watchmaking. However, based on what I have seen, this target audience is likely to return for a subsequent second and third taste too! I now look forward to January and discovering the next chapter in the life of this young-minded brand.