Q: What do you think of other watchmakers that dabble in high-end jewellery and how will Harry Winston compete?

A: I say good luck to them. Everybody can try and do jewellery. You have many high-end brands out there and everybody's competing with each other. It's up to the customer to choose. Harry Winston's edge is its history. We are Harry Winston, and we will always be Harry Winston. We will not change the brand. We don't look to see what other brands are doing. We will develop new products, but we will always make sure the brand stays true to its heritage. That's our strategy.

Q: What is the biggest challenge that you face at the moment?

A: Right now, the strong Swiss franc. The exchange rate between the dollar and the franc is not helping us. Harry Winston is an American brand, so it really [affects] our sales.

Q: In view of the growing demand in Asia, especially China, what are your strategies in the region?

A: Swatch Group was one of the first foreign companies to make inroads into China long before it opened up, and the Chinese have been very good customers of our brands and also of Harry Winston. But much more can be done to [enhance] our profile there. China is a great market for jewellery, but we also want to capture watch customers, so we need to boost our watch portfolio, develop the right watches to attract them, and strengthen our wholesale network. We will continue to cater to many kinds of customers, including those who see jewellery as an investment tool.

Q: There are concerns about the impact of the central government's campaign against extravagant spending. Do you think this will affect your strategy for the Chinese market?

A: No, we are still optimistic. There is still growth in China. It's not the kind of exponential growth of 40 per cent or more, which we saw two to three years ago - that can't last. But as long as you have a growing market, there will be business.

Q: More women are attracted to complicated watches nowadays. Will Harry Winston cater to this growing demand?

A: We already have chronographs, moon-phases and other small complications in our women's watches. We will continue to develop new products, but we don't think we will do tourbillons for women. If a woman wants a tourbillon, she can wear one. It's already available. To me, the tourbillon is unisex.

Q: Since Harry Winston is now part of the Swatch Group, how will you position the brand within the group? And how will you balance Harry Winston's brand value and heritage with a changing watch market?

A: Harry Winston has a strong history in jewellery. That's one of the reasons Swatch Group bought it and we don't intend to change anything about the brand. We want to maintain its DNA, retain its history and legacy. We believe it has great potential in the high jewellery and watches market, so it fits in well with the group's plan to expand in this segment. When you look into the backgrounds of the other brands in the group - Blancpain, Breguet - you'll find the same history, same stories and people behind these brands. The same goes for Harry Winston. One part of the business is jewellery. The other is watches, and this is where we can harness the group's strength to enhance our watch portfolio and distribution network.

Q: You are also a passionate horse breeder. Do you think there are any similarities between horse breeding and watchmaking?

A: Passion is essential in either one. Brainwork can help you figure out [things such as] statistics, pricing and merchandising. Then there is the emotional part. This makes the difference, and this is where you succeed or fail. I think this is very important because this belief is shared by my father, my mother, my whole family and the whole Swatch Group. We believe in investing our emotion in what we do, whether it's working with people or developing new products. When I look at the beautiful marquetry dial of a Harry Winston watch, it literally gives me goose bumps. When I see a newborn foal, I feel the same way. It's all about the emotion and how passionate you are about what you are doing.

Q: Do you think we will see more female CEOs in the watchmaking industry?

A: There are already many women working in the watch business. The world is getting used to seeing females in senior positions in the workplace. However, a woman still has to fight to convince people that she can do the job. It's more common to put a man in a senior position and you question the decision afterwards. For a woman, you question [the decision] before you put her in that position. That is the difference. So in that sense, the business world is still a little conservative. But it will change.

Pin Lee