Walter von Känel joined Longines in 1969 and he is the President of the brand since 1988. He is surely one of the most respected and charismatic figures of the watch industry. I consider myself quite lucky to have the opportunity of having a chat with him and would like to thank Swatch Group – Longines Turkey once again for the occasion..
BB: Welcome to Horobox Mr. Walter von Känel.
WK: Thank you.
BB: Longines is a very big company and known to be one of the best watch makers in the industry in terms of volume. How do you arrange the product distribution among different regions?
WK: Well, first you have to understand the market. You can not violate the market, it’s always the winner. Therefore we carefully study every different market to understand their dynamics.
We mostly arrange the distribution considering three main parameters; 1) Movement... Mechanic or Quartz. 2) Size... Like Far East and North America having different demands. And 3) Material... Stainless Steel, solid gold, PVD gold, stainless steel & gold capped.
We have a very wide selection of models with different movements, sizes and materials.
BB: Mr. Von Kanel, you know there is a growing trend regarding the use of alternative materials for watch making. Ceramic seems to be taking the lead among others like Tantalum, Sapphire, Carbon etc. Could you please tell us about Longine’s approach to those alternative materials..?
WK: We are one the top 5 profitable companies in the watch industry. It was a long time ago when I decided not to do ‘’everything ‘’ in this business. What I have here is stainless steel, solid gold and stainless steel / gold capped combo. We don’t have gold plated anymore. Plated was replaced with PVD a long time ago which is a perfect coating technology in terms of durability. For titanium I might say that we have a very good experience with it and I am planning to re-launch a titanium model. Other than, we are not interested about any other alternative materials. We focus on volume. We are a company selling 1.4 million pieces per year. For alternative materials, I let the others deal with them. I also would like to keep my price segment stable.
BB: What do you think about smart/connected watches..? Do you think that new product line will cause any hassle similar to the quartz crisis of early 80s..?
WK: In fact, we were not affected by the quartz crisis as we had quartz watches back then and we still have. We were manufacturing mechanic movements as well and we achieved a good balance with mechanic vs quartz. I played a little with the LCD which was popular back then but it was a mistake, I accept it.
About smart/connected watches; it is a different technology. I see Samsung and Apple making good connected watches. Well it’s their playground and their technology. They have the experience and know how. Most importantly, they have the flexibility. They can practically change everything in a 6 months period.
I believe this new product line can bring us a younger generation who will be used to have a watch on their wrist and appreciate a traditional timepiece within years.
A traditional watch is not solely a gadget. It is more like a status symbol which defines you. It’s an ‘’emotional’’ consumer product. Therefore, I do not believe the smart/connected watches will make a revolution in the watch industry.
BB: Thank you very much for your time Mr. Walter von Känel.
WK: My pleasure.