Frederique Constant celebrated 35 years this year and as we gear up for The Hour Marker’s Collectors Corner “Watchmaker’s Brunch” on 23rd September, we caught up with Niels Eggerding, Managing Director of Frederique Constant to understand a bit more about the brand and this milestone!
THM: Today brands are celebrating 268 years, 100 years, and so on. What makes 35 years so important for Frederique Constant?
Niels: Well, for us, it’s a milestone because I think we are the only one of the few brands that are doing their own caliber on such a large scale. This year we announced the 31st caliber with the big date. The milestone we are celebrating is 35 years with a combination of 31 in-house movements. We are pushing really very hard, internally as well as externally, to gain credibility whilst being innovative. So, with all that hard work, we felt like this deserves a celebration for the teams, our customers, the press, and the suppliers. To celebrate with them for all the support that they have been sharing with us. Now we have become a brand that is one of the top 25 in Switzerland.
THM: You say it’s one of the top in Switzerland, however, India too is your 7th largest market right now. How important is India as a market for you?
Niels: India is one of our key markets that we have been investing in from the early stage. I’ve been with Frederique Constant for almost 12 years now. So, where many brands focused on China, we felt strongly connected to India. Due to a coincidence, we have a good partnership in India, too. Of course, we have been focusing on a lot of markets, but India is one of the focus markets where all the hard work now starts to pay off. The brand suits the market, the consumer, and the audience very well as it’s quite accessible. It’s a fair price for a beautiful watch.
THM: In terms of India, one of the sweet spots for Frederique Constant is definitely accessible luxury. The price segment that Frederique Constant does really well in India is between maybe €600 to €2000. Today, you’re also expanding your portfolio into the tourbillon and the haute horlogerie category of watches. Although you are offering a tourbillon at a very accessible price, what is the idea and how would you communicate this to a consumer?
Niels: The key thing for us is that we stay between €700 and €2,000 bracket. That’s a bit of the core collection we have for India and where the volume takes place. There are brands that are pushing hard, but we are the only one to differentiate by having a Manufacturer caliber in-house for say €3,000, starting price. Since it’s so unique for us, that’s where the storytelling takes place. So, we would like to share with the customer that we are more than just a watch with a quartz movement or an automatic movement between €700 and €3,000. We do much more. We do in-house movements and this storytelling is important for us to share with the customer. We want them to feel even more proud when they buy a Frederique Constant watch. It differentiates us from the rest. Maybe in India, that segment is more difficult for now to sell, but in many other markets, we see that the Manufacture collections above €3,000, €4,000, and €5,000 are selling very well. Even in the US, for instance, it’s a very sweet spot in the pricing. While other brands are higher in price, it’s where we really gain market share. So, it’s a nice mix that we offer.
THM: Talking about tourbillons, generally when you look at tourbillons, they’re slightly larger in size. But the one that you have launched is 39mm, which is the perfect size for slender wrists.
Niels: It’s one of the few ones that exists in the markets because indeed the most are above 40, 41, 42mm.
THM: Talking about prices, every quarter we see a certain price hike amongst brands. This year, in India, there’s almost been a 10%-12% hike with the majority of brands. Is that something we’ll be seeing with Frederique Constant as well?
Niels: Well, we have been limiting the price increase for the past, four or five years. We have been very strong about keeping and securing the prices. To some extent, we are forced now to move ahead and we may increase our price by 4%-6% earlier next year. So, we have done one price increase early this year because of the supply chain. But we try to minimize it.
For me, the economic situation is continuing to grow in waves. Today, the premium pricing is growing strongly. But tomorrow, it might be our price segment that is very appealing again in the economical situation. That’s where I want to stay in that sweet spot area between 1,000 and 3,000 euros, where many brands now are going out. They’re lifting up without any justifications. They’re just increasing prices twice or thrice a year. I don’t think that’s fair for the consumer. That’s inflation in place for your brand, where you may be repositioning your brand without having any added value for your watch.
THM: Coming to the collection, I’ve also noticed that you’re streamlining and consolidating the families at Frederique Constant. What’s the thought process behind that?
Niels: Well, we used to have six different families and we clearly realized that it’s very difficult for a consumer to understand all those areas. We narrowed it down to three families- the Manufacture, the High Life, and the Classics. I still think we have some work to do, given that we are quite wide as a range and collection. But at least it’s becoming much clearer now for the consumer and for the retailer to translate this message. The High Life has been a hard push for the past four years. The Manufacture now is going to be a classic Manufacture direction. And then the Classics are always the bread and butter, especially in India.
THM: Absolutely! I think people have always conceived Frederique Constant as a very vintage classic. But I do feel that with the new High Life, you are also targeting a different audience, not in terms of income groups only, but also in terms of age groups now.
Niels: Absolutely. We used to have only a classical look. Four years ago, when we started to introduce the High Life, it was really meant for a new audience, but also for the existing customers that already had four watches from us. But more importantly, we also attracted a new customer who really wanted a more sports-chic watch and could not find it in our collection. So we really gained and opened up to a wider audience with that.
THM: Great. You are aware that there are a lot of interesting collaborations that are happening in the watch industry recently. You’re seeing internal collaborations within groups and external collaborations. You’re also a group for that matter. Is there anything in the pipeline that we can expect?
Niels: I think that the biggest ones are coming from the Swatch Group. They have been quite revolutionary in their collaboration. We have done it too with the Naked Watchmaker, Revolution and so on. We did the Naked Watchmaker where Peter Speake designed the dial and the movement for us. We did Only Watch with Christiaan van der Klaauw to present the first planetarium tourbillon launched in the industry and there are many more to come. But it will always be more in the higher-end range with a bit of a bold approach. So, that for me, is important to bring the brand a little bit outside its comfort zone with its collaborations.
THM: Are there any changes we can expect or any additions, considering Citizen is strongly also involved with the brand?
Niels: No major change. I have to say the collaboration with Citizen is very strong. They are much more financially behind us as a group. We do collaborations with a lot of different brands. But with Citizen itself, we are driven very independently.
THM: Lastly, a lot of brands are doing India-edition watches. We’ve seen one of the first few actually that I saw was the Frederique Constant, Devnagri numerals on the dial. Anything else in the pipeline from India’s perspective?
Niels: We have witnessed a substantial growth in India and I think it’s one of the fastest-growing markets for us now. But definitely, we will see some nice Indian specials coming in next year or so. So keep posted and look very closely at what’s going to come, because when I come to India, I will bring something special.
Well, Niels has a special message for you all for Saturday’s “Watchmaker’s Brunch” with Frederique Constant curated by The Hour Markers. “Enjoy the brand! We are known in India, but thanks to the collectors we are even better known. So I just wish you all the best with the brand. And if they have any questions, they can come to me or they can ask me anything.”