Les Ambassadeurs' flagship store in Zurich showcases 16 of the world's most prestigious Swiss brands, earning it the tag 'The Leading House of Leading Names'.

Excellence Holding complements fine watchmaking tradition with premium boutiques

Horologists have more opportunities to get their wrists wrapped in some of the world's most exquisite collection of timepieces. Connecting generations of watch aficionados in Asia and worldwide, Excellence Holding offers Swiss heritage watches made with a century and a half of watchmaking passion. It also showcases an unparalleled selection of rare pieces and world-famous brands through its premium boutiques located in the world's top tourist destinations. 

Supported by:Discovery Reports

Horologists have more opportunities to get their wrists wrapped in some of the world's most exquisite collection of timepieces. Connecting generations of watch aficionados in Asia and worldwide, Excellence Holding offers Swiss heritage watches made with a century and a half of watchmaking passion. It also showcases an unparalleled selection of rare pieces and world-famous brands through its premium boutiques located in the world's top tourist destinations. 

Excellence Holding unites and develops exclusive and top-quality companies from the watch and jewellery sector through its three business arms - the prestigious watch brand Manufacture des Montres Vulcain (Vulcain), the renowned timepiece label for golfers Jaermann & Stübi, and the premium Swiss boutique Les Ambassadeurs.

"We want to provide clients with the utmost service in the industry," says Dr Renato Vanotti, chairman of Excellence Holding. "Whether it is in terms of sales or the service that we provide in our retail business, clients will get the best possible product and warranty service in their territory. This is why we named the company Excellence Holding."

From heritage pieces to modern sophistication

In 2010, Excellence Holding acquired Vulcain - a 150-year-old watchmaking brand and one of the major mechanical watch producers in Switzerland. Anchored by the watchmaking spirit and expertise of Ernest-Albert and Robert Ditisheim, Vulcain has gained numerous awards at several world fairs for its distinctive complication watches.

Its Cricket model achieved legendary status as the first genuinely operational alarm wristwatch. The Cricket became Vulcain's signature timepiece. Introduced in 1947, the mechanical, hand-wound Cricket calibre, equipped with twin barrels, produced a sound reminiscent of the shrill chirping of a cricket, and powerful enough to awaken its wearer. The Cricket looked like any sweep-second watch, except for the addition of a fourth hand to show the alarm time and a pusher above the crown to set or cancel the alarm. A watchmaking breakthrough at that time, the movement was fitted to a number of Vulcain watches that graced the wrists of some of the world's most powerful men. 

American heads of state such as Dwight Eisenhower, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson all wore a Vulcain watch for its simple yet elegant and innovative properties. Vulcain watches have since landed a place in the history books as "The Watch for Presidents". The tradition continues today, with US President Barack Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden and other eminent figures around the world sporting a Vulcain watch. 

"A real luxury watch does not always have to be flashy," Vanotti says. "The design may be simple, but it can have excellent mechanical properties."

The technical qualities of Vulcain watches also appeal to explorers and adventurers. As a common sight in mountaineering and maritime expeditions, Vulcain watches stand up to the toughest conditions. Worn by members of the Italian Mountaineering Club who were among the first to conquer K2, the second-highest mountain on earth after Mount Everest, Vulcain Cricket watches also accompanied the roped party of Uno Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni in 1954 as they scaled a height of 8,620 metres.

Bringing the spirit of the alarm wristwatch back to life, Vulcain is reissuing a limited edition of the Heritage President's Watch. A faithful replica of the 1950s model, the Heritage President's Watch features the famed Cricket V-10 manual movement which runs 18,000 vibrations per hour, and provides a comfortable power reserve of 42 hours. It consists of 157 components, featuring hour, minute, second, date and alarm functions, and is available in steel and two-tone 18ct rose gold. 

"The Heritage President's Watch is a homage to history and to the Cricket alarm movement," Vanotti says. "We're showcasing the brand's heritage to reflect and continue our cutting-edge vocation of pushing new technical and aesthetic boundaries that reinvent watchmaking."

Aside from the Heritage President's Watch, Vulcain also released limited and new editions of its Nautical and Aviator lines. Matching traditional movements with modern designs, Vulcain has dedicated a full-fledged collection of elegant chronometers and chronographs with refined, sophisticated finishes to divers and pilots. Enthusiasts can witness Vulcain's latest issues and collections at this year's Baselworld exhibition.

The leading house of leading names

Targeting horologists searching for a wider range of Swiss timepieces, Excellence Holding acquired Les Ambassadeurs some 17 years ago - a leading and purely Swiss boutique retailer of prestigious watch and jewellery brands founded in 1964 in Geneva. True to its name, Les Ambassadeurs acts as an ambassador for the finest watchmaking Switzerland has to offer. Focusing on the industry's top brands, Les Ambassadeurs serves as a platform for more than 30 luxury watch and jewellery partners, many of them independent brands. 

"Our brand portfolio enables us to find a matching watch for every customer - be it for US$1,000 or US$1 million," says Joachim Ziegler, CEO of Les Ambassadeurs. "This makes our selection unique. Clients are able to see, compare and choose simultaneously various models from different brands, which additionally save a lot of time."

Located in top Swiss leisure destinations Geneva, Zurich, Lugano and St Moritz, Les Ambassadeurs boutiques are manned by knowledgeable sales advisers with various language proficiencies. Les Ambassadeurs welcomes the most demanding watch collectors, including travellers from Asia and from all over the world, to its Espace Connaisseur - a room dedicated to very rare and exceptional timepieces, earning it the tag "The Leading House of Leading Names".

"Leading brands naturally want to be a part of the Espace Connaisseur concept," Ziegler says. "That is why we nurture very close relationships with our partners. We launched limited editions of our brands last year to celebrate our 50th anniversary. This is an opportunity that customers will not find anywhere else, so it came as no surprise that these watches were quickly sold out."

With increased interest coming from Asian clients, Les Ambassadeurs is keen on providing the best service and neutral advice as it responds to each customer's needs. In its quest to serve its clients even better, Les Ambassadeurs will open a boutique this year in Lucerne, a beautiful Swiss city popular among Asian travellers and synonymous with Swiss watches.

Responding to global studies that highlight the mainland as the area where the strongest growth in online interest for high-end timepieces comes from, Les Ambassadeurs developed the first multibrand online watchfinder. Accessible via an application for tablet computers or through the company's website, the online tool features thousands of watches. The watchfinder tool draws Les Ambassadeurs closer to its markets, allowing clients to choose a watch any time and anywhere.

"We always try to exceed the expectations of our clients, providing them with different service tools," Ziegler says. "We see Les Ambassadeurs boutiques as making the name or the brand more visible and more known for those who come to Switzerland and buy a watch here."

Rise of Asian watch connoisseurs

The latest Millward Brown study shows worldwide interest in luxury goods is increasing. Even in China, where the government gravitates towards discouraging citizens from purchasing expensive items, markets are persuading luxury brands to modify their offerings and to adjust to consumer tastes and demands.

With the mainland being the third-biggest market for Swiss watches after Hong Kong and the US, Excellence Holding is set on serving the rising number of watch connoisseurs in Asia.

"China and Asia have emerged as some of our most important markets because more people from the region can now afford a nice watch," Vanotti says. 

Tailoring its collection to Asian tastes, Vulcain releases special editions of its Cloisonne line annually. Featuring a sky or an earth face, the 50-piece limited-edition Pegasus model was well received in Asia last year. Vulcain seeks to delight more customers through its established boutiques in Beijing and Xian. Working with exclusive distributor C. Melchers from Singapore, Vulcain is expanding its business to tap markets in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

"Our goal is to sell at least 5,000 watches per year," Vanotti says. "We also want the Vulcain watch to be a product where the one who buys it is proud to wear it because it is not a shiny watch. The most important value is really the heritage or the history of the brand, and the more sophisticated the market gets, the more people pay attention to the history of a watch."