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It's complicated

Vacheron Constantin's CEO Juan-Carlos Torres insists that 'there's no place for arrogance' in watchmaking

 

Q. Since you became CEO in 2005, what would you say has been your most inspired decision or business strategy?

A. When you work at Vacheron Constantin, you learn something very important - there's no place for arrogance. The only people who can be proud of their decisions are the engineers, the creative people and the watchmakers. We are only here to help them with their creative process.

Q. Vacheron Constantin has always been renowned for its complicated, ground-breaking movements. What was the motivation behind the decision to expand to include more metiers d'art watches in recent years?

A. We're proactive in this field, as we cannot excel only in the technical aspects of watch design. We achieve a balance of technique, aesthetics and quality of finish. That's very rare. When you buy a Vacheron, you'll always have something that is aesthetically impressive.

Q. Jaeger-LeCoultre, Lemania and Frédéric Piguet supply many of the movements in your watches. How do you balance these collaborations with the brand's efforts to produce its own high-complication movements in its atelier workshop? Do you foresee the brand leaning more towards one direction in the future?

A. The older, more traditional lines all feature Vacheron Constantin movements, and this has been the case for many years. We still work with partners for movements for our overseas lines … but the target is clear: we aim to have completely in-house movements one day. We're quite close to this goal. At the moment close to 80 per cent of our movements are in-house, and I believe that by 2015 we'll be using all in-house movements.

Q. How frequently does Vacheron Constantin create commissioned pieces? Is this an area that the brand will focus on in the future?

A. I believe we were the first to really produce unique pieces at this level. It wasn't just about changing the colour of a model or engraving a message somewhere - we could actually develop a full movement for our consumers, build a completely new complication for them if that's what they wanted. [The idea is to] have a completely bespoke service: whatever you want, we can do.

There are three levels of complexity. If it's simply a matter of changing the dial or the case to suit your tastes, your watch will be ready in one year. If you'd like to make modifications on an existing movement, the process will take up to three years. If you want a completely new complication tailor-made for you, the wait can be up to five years. We're also very discreet. When it comes to these bespoke pieces, we treat our customers as Swiss banks would do theirs.

Q. When you first joined the company, what were the biggest obstacles that the brand faced, and what are the challenges you come up against daily?

A. With a brand with such a long history and wealth of expertise, the expectation is to keep the expertise at the same level first and foremost, then to slowly increase this expertise over time. We also plan to expand and strengthen our presence in Asia, provide more dedicated services and focus more on the bespoke department. This is the philosophy of the brand - to always pursue excellence, and to always do better.

Jacqueline Tsang

 

 

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