Swiss watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier aims to tap into the booming Chinese market with affordable luxury watches.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Parmigiani Fleurier chief executive Jean-Marc Jacot said his main focus was on rolling out an image-building campaign to attract Chinese customers by leveraging his experience in Cartier - the world's largest jewellery maker by sales - where he gained priceless insight into sales and marketing of luxury goods.
"In my 30 years in the watchmaking industry, the on-the-field experience at Cartier is where I learned the true sales and marketing skills of luxury products. That gave me a lifetime's lesson," Jacot said.
He added that he also understood the importance of design, materials as well as colour during his stint at Cartier.
Jacot said it was the company that helped to turn around the "disastrous landscape for the Swiss watchmaking industry in the late 70s" after the French brand introduced the concept of luxury to the mechanically savvy Swiss.
"The Swiss were good at finishing the products mechanically, but the French turned the entire picture into a luxury business by innovating little-known details, such as the watch strap … we were the first to use alligator leather," he said.
On his target client group, Jacot said Chinese shoppers were the biggest market for the industry as well as for Parmigiani.
The company employs at least one Chinese-speaking worker in each of its directly operated stores in Europe and the United States.
Jacot also plans to attract more women buyers to his essentially male-centric brand.
"Female customers account for 25 per cent of our overall sales, about 5 per cent short of our target," Jacot said.
According to Jacot, watches in the price range of HK$80,000 are Parmigiani's best-selling products, accounting for half of the company's total revenue.
Founded in 1996, Parmigiani now produces 5,000 watches annually and generates about 60 per cent of its overall revenue from Asia, particularly China.
Unlike other luxury watchmakers, the company has no intention of increasing its output as it wants to focus on exclusivity and stay cost-cautious in view of the halting global economic recovery.
Shan Wei, the company's managing director for Asia-Pacific, said Parmigiani next year planned to expand into second-tier cities in China such as Chengdu, Shenyang and Hangzhou.
These, Shan said, would be the key growth areas, where the company would tie up with domestic retailers to better manage clients.