Omega’s Vice President and International Sales Director, Raynald Aeschlimann, gives insight into the brand’s prolific heritage and future plans.
There is plenty to celebrate this year with Mr Raynald Aeschlimann completing a milestone of two decades with Omega. Mr. Aeschlimann has been a Member of the Extended Group Management Board at Swatch Group AG., since January 1, 2013. Omega’s pioneering spirit and state-of-the-art mechanical watch making has enabled collaboration with important sporting events like the Olympic Games and the recently concluded Desert Design Classic 2016. The golf tournament is held every year at the Emirates Golf Club’s Majilis Course and attracts some of the biggest names in the industry.
In an interview with Signé, Mr Aeschlimann shares details from the brand’s success story.
You started at the age of 26 and you’ve been with omega for two decades, how have things changed personally and in terms of the brand?
Personally you will see a lot of grey hair, the evolution of the brand has helped me evolve into the person that I am today. When you are working hard, not to make a fairytale out of it, but when you get the opportunity to take a leading position 15 years ago as a Vice President, it’s something that becomes a part of your life. I think that the energy that we have put into the brand, with the support of Mr. Hayek (Nicolas Hayek) has made Omega what it is today.
It’s like when you take an heirloom jewel that was very important to your father and grandfather, and you polish it. You see that the more you polish it, the more its value increases, it becomes more attractive and you realize that all the effort that went into polishing it was worth it. That is the feeling of elation and satisfaction that we derive from working with Omega. There isn’t one day when you don’t feel this innate pride. What sets us apart is our value system, achievements, precision as well as strong relations.
It is amazing to have somebody like Mr. Hayek – who invented Swatch, and brought in the master chronometer we have today 12 years ago, with the certification of the Swiss Confederation, precision about magnetism and the water proof technology.
We don’t fall into the number game. We focus on the character. That’s what makes a difference to us and that’s why we’ve been with Cindy (Cindy Crawford) since almost 15 years.
Cindy has been your longest running ambassador
Yes, she was in Mumbai recently at the palace. All the socialites came in with their daughters and she was just amazing! People know her for being her. If you had to name 10 top models that have that kind of attraction, and look as good as her, you will not be able to do that. That’s why she remains with us; she is a part of the evolution of the brand.
From 1996 to today the challenges of the watch industry are different? And if you look at your role 20 years ago did you imagine the type of challenges that you’re looking at today?
The challenges we face today as opposed to 20 years back are definitely different. We never imagined the challenges we are facing now, but that’s what is amazing. Think about Dubai. I came here first in 1999. I remember that we had only three points of sales back then. So of course the challenges were different. I was travelling to Saudi Arabia and we faced challenges with the local production of diamond base, and how to talk to customers because there was no Internet or we-chat. We had an ambition to make Omega the market leader. So we worked on the product and at the same time the world gradually changed. It became what it is today in terms of ease of accessibility – there are billboards and advertisements everywhere. Today’s Omegas- they are not only better, but they are the real Omegas.
We are an over connected generation. There is a lot of new material; there are a lot of new composites that you look at like ceramic etc– so that’s technology that is being pushed. If you look at the next generation of omega customers do you think at some point in time Omega will step into the “connectivity” aspect?
I cannot talk about the future, because for me connectivity has to be a bit different from the watch itself. So already by saying that I don’t think the two things will combine for Omega. For most people there is an emphasis on the emotion and the relationship you have with your watch, maybe embracing it with connectivity would be good, but in our pricing I don’t see a big connected market for it.
If you look at the watches that companion with, you have basic time keeping and you’ve got all these functions and stock promotions and photograph. Which is your next step in terms of development?
It is not like we don’t have the correct opportunities or engineers. For me, there is still this whole evolutional curve we made in terms of our own movement. The certification that we have now from confederation, in terms of the precision of movement, the anti magnetism – it is also very important. When we are talking about connected watches, connection makes a world surrounded by electricity, a world surrounded by magnetism, which is not good for health.
We did not increase one penny price of our watches. It cost us a lot to have all these tests, to create all that we did because our customers need the best. You don’t buy a watch only for time. It represents you.
There have been rumors about an anticipated crisis ahead. Despite all this Omega had a strong 1st month performance in this region. What do you attribute that to?
Its chance, no no it’s the hard work. It’s the marketing and distribution as well. When we distributed 10 years ago it was difficult. Today there is not one shopping mall in Dubai that doesn’t have an Omega boutique. So when there is turmoil, we survive because we have emotions. You know emotions are close to religion and ammunitions are close to problems.
I am no priest and it’s not Sunday that I am trying to give good words. But emotion is what makes the difference between human beings and animals. The true value of a product always shows. We definitely gained market share last year because of this.
The other thing that I am scared about is the ability to go down. There are factors like the stock exchange and oil prices, but for me, this whole thing about insecurity and terrorism that makes people travel less is not good. That’s my biggest fear. We are not made to stay at home. We have to connect with people.
When you were talking you looked like you mentioned that Sunday has a religious aspect to it, there is a person there. It’s not always Omega. How do you disengage?
I don’t think you can, it is difficult to separate. It’s a big part of my life. But I think the value and the brand is at the same level as I am. When I take 3 weeks of business trips, I dream about being at the breakfast table at home with my son and daughter. My kids are getting crazy. But if you think about it, this is a good life.
You are wearing the Clubmaster, which watch do you usually wear?
I like the Planet Ocean Chronograph black dial and gold watch. I have been wearing it since a long time. I consider that the watch brings me luck and I have a personal relationship with it. The customer will have 20 watches to select from, but they will pick the one that they have a relationship with, the one that they see value in.
20 years forward, you have legacy. What is at the end of it?
That’s a good question. I think first of all you’ve got to have the passion for life, compassion for what you are doing and for this brand.
In terms of accomplishments for the brand
Accomplishments within the last 20 years are in terms of the rate and structuring – like when you are building a house, it’s dusty and you have to go and clean it. Now we are building the next level of the house. There are good days and bad days.
We still have a lot of places where we can improve, also typically in the States where we are far away from the market, we are steadily gaining market share there. We opened 35 boutiques in the last 3 years, but there are still plenty of things to be done. We have a heritage from the past; we are celebrating 60 years of the Seamaster. Most brands don’t have that.
What can we expect from 2016, the very hard core technical aspect.
It’s going to be a year where we invest a lot in technology and chronometers, real assets and improvements in technology for chronographs. We are looking at getting newer technology in a difficult country like Brazil, so that the customer can enjoy it while watching the games at the Olympics. We are there for the athletes, and for them it’s the time of their life. They have been training for so many years for the games- that is also a big focus for us.