Swiss watchmakers value their heritage, known for centuries of craftsmanship, precision, and attention to detail. Their dedication to tradition and expertise is the cornerstone of their reputation for quality and precision. They seamlessly blend traditional techniques with modern design elements, upholding the industry's high standards and timeless values.
Within this rich heritage, Longines stands out as a brand that embodies exceptional timepieces, catering to contemporary tastes and preferences. As a part of the Swatch Group, Longines has a remarkable history rooted in Swiss watchmaking. In an exclusive interview with Outlook Business, we had the privilege of speaking with Daniel Hug, Head of Branding & Heritage at Longines. Our conversation touched upon the brand's heritage, its longstanding relationship with India, its growth plans for the Indian market, and more.
Could you tell us about the watch you are currently wearing and the one you wear most frequently?
I am wearing the Longines Ultracron, which was launched in 2022. It is inspired by the original Ultracron from 1968, known as the first watch with high-frequency movement. The new Ultracron retains important traditional features such as precision and a high-frequency movement beating 10 times per second. We have also enhanced certain aspects, such as making it waterproof up to 300 meters and incorporating a scratch-resistant sapphire turning bezel. It's a versatile watch that I can wear daily for various activities like swimming, diving, or simply walking. Additionally, it emanates sophistication and elegance, which is why it's my go-to choice.
What does mechanical watch means to you?
A mechanical watch is about the tactile experience, appreciating the intricate mechanics. When you open the case, you can observe the movement in action. The greatest advantage of a high-quality mechanical watch, like a Longines, is its longevity. It can last for 100 years, requiring servicing every seven years. It becomes a timeless object that can be passed down through generations, a personal legacy. For me, this watch symbolizes a significant milestone in my career, as it was the first one I proposed to Longines. It was a dream come true when the watch finally materialized in steel. Mechanical watches often mark special occasions like graduations or weddings and become cherished family heirlooms. Owning a heritage object like this is truly meaningful.
Longines promotes itself like an elegance, could you highlight the most important brand value that defines Longines and set it apart from the other luxury watchmakers?
Longines embraces three fundamental values that distinguish us. Firstly, precision and accuracy lie at the heart of our craftsmanship. Secondly, elegance is a pivotal aspect, as reflected in our slogan, "elegance is an attitude." Lastly, our persistence and rich tradition set us apart. With a history spanning almost 200 years, Longines has weathered world wars, crises, turmoil, and governmental changes. We were established even before the modern state of Switzerland came into existence in 1832. It is truly remarkable.
While China was the go-to destination for luxury brands in the past, this position has now gone to India. Has this resulted in Longines zeroing in more on the country? If yes, then please state how – in terms of the investment it is making in India, its omnichannel expansion and marketing strategy to appeal to a larger aspirational customer base.
While China remains a significant market with a large middle class capable of purchasing Swiss watches, the growth rate has slowed down. Conversely, India is experiencing rapid growth, with a projected 6-7% increase in its economy. India's short-term development is remarkable, fueled by foreign capital investments. Longines sees a bright future in India and will continue investing in the market.
Considering the double-digit growth rate experienced last year, if it continues, we plan to establish more home boutiques alongside our existing 10 Longines boutiques and independent retailers. Providing a spacious and dedicated environment to showcase our watches is crucial. Regarding future investments, we anticipate potential retail expansions. If the demand for watches in India rises, particularly for mechanical watches, we may also invest in service facilities to support our customers. Currently, India is one of the most promising markets for Longines.
Longines' tagline is 'Elegance is Attitude,' but for Gen Z, smartness is considered their attitude. Given this, don't you think it's important for Longines to cater to the preferences of the Gen Z demographic?
While it's important for Longines to engage with the younger generation, I don't believe that elegance is outdated. India has a significant youth population, and we recognize the need to connect with them. However, elegance transcends mere attire. It is timeless and encompasses behavior, such as how one treats others and carries themselves in the world. Elegance is a core value for us, and we stand by our slogan.
Does Longines have any plans to launch hybrid or smartwatches? If not, could you share the philosophy or reasoning behind the brand's decision to not enter the smartwatch market?
Longines currently does not have plans to launch hybrid or smartwatches. The brand's decision is driven by several factors. Firstly, the smartwatch market is already crowded with numerous brands, particularly from Asian countries that can produce them at low costs. Smartwatches have become generic objects with high production volumes and relatively short lifespans of three to five years due to software updates and evolving technology. Longines, on the other hand, takes pride in crafting mechanical Swiss watches that are built to stand the test of time. These watches are treasured and can be passed down through generations. They have a lifespan of approximately 100 years and are often chosen as meaningful gifts to celebrate special life events. Longines' specialized heritage workshop can repair watches that are over 100 years old, thanks to its extensive collection of spare parts. With a history spanning nearly 200 years, Longines aims to continue its legacy for many more decades to come.
Swiss watches are considered to be pieces of art. But the Genz are spending millions of dollars on digital art. Would it not affect the appeal and market of watchmakers who don't master Smartwatches?
From an economic standpoint, there is a concept called comparative advantage that suggests each country should concentrate on its strengths. Smartwatches require computer chips and screens, areas where Taiwanese and Korean producers excel. While Longines introduced an LCD watch in 1972, our current focus remains on our expertise in crafting high-quality mechanical movements, known for their exceptional accuracy, durability, and reliability. This is our competitive advantage. We believe that smartwatches should be left to those who excel in that particular field.
Interestingly, vintage watches have gained immense popularity among the younger generation in Western countries. The uniqueness, individual aging, and rich histories of these timepieces make them truly stand out. Platforms like Instagram are filled with showcases of unique vintage watches, rather than Apple, Citizen, or Fossil timepieces. Each vintage watch carries a story behind its discovery and an individual history. This trend is especially prevalent among young people in Western countries.
Longines has international celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Winslet as brand ambassadors. Have you considered having an A-list celebrity from India represent the brand as well? If not, what factors contribute to this decision?
Yes, we are actively searching for an Indian brand ambassador. We had the privilege of working with Aishwarya Rai for a long time, and she was a perfect ambassador for Longines - beautiful, elegant, and smart. We aspire to find someone who embodies those qualities from India, and I believe we will introduce an Indian ambassador in the future.