Steve Amstutz – CCO of Parmigiani Fleurier

Taking its name from its founder, watchmaker and restorer Michel Parmigiani, Parmigiani was founded in 1996 in Fleurier, in the Swiss valley of Val-de-Travers. With its own watchmaking centre ensuring its independence, the brand has both full control over the production process and unique creative freedom.

For more than twenty years, the Parmigiani Fleurier signature has resided within timepieces that command utmost respect, in harmony with watchmaking traditions. They are the labour of a lifetime – that of Michel Parmigiani, the talented individuals who assist him, and the special relationship between the Manufacture and the masterpieces of the past, enabling it to invent a bold future. With over 20 years international experience in the luxury sector, Steve Amstutz worked for brands like TAG Heuer, Georg Jensen and Vertu before moving to Parmigiani in 2016 as Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer. As a member of the company executive committee, Amstutz carries global responsibility for business development across all channels as well as the brand’s marketing and communication activities. The aim is to make this Sleeping Beauty wake up and rock the watch world.

Q: You have a 20 years career in the luxury sector, mostly focused on well-established brands. What made you move to a relatively small brand like Parmigiani?

A: Parmigiani Fleurier is a raw jewel, and one I’ve always been attracted to because it is unique and has extremely strong values. Despite its fantastic development, I feel this brand didn’t receive enough recognition from the public despite of having a great reputation within the industry itself. I thought my experience in renowned brands like Tag Heuer and Vertu could help Parmigiani Fleurier in getting their story out, in optimizing marketing and communications to really reach as many people as possible out there. I am happy to put all my experience and knowledge at the service of this sleeping beauty.

Q: Is it easier to get things done in a small company done or in a large corporation?

A: On one side, as it is still a start-up business, the reactivity and the speed at which we can take decisions is really quick compared to the same process in a large corporation. However, in this company, I have seen more resistance to change than in any larger company I have worked for before. The reason may be that this company was founded on conservative principles. Supported by the Management Committee, some important organizational adjustments in the company’s front office were made, since there was a need to build a fit-for-purpose organization. So, in the last year we have made those structural changes by stretching “the string” but not broken it. Now, region by region, we have people that are more competent, more engaged and more vigorous in the way they manage the business. Moving into 2018, we have everyone aligned behind our strong vision and we can press the accelerator.

Parmigiani – new bugatti type 390.

Q: What kind of challenges did you face when taking over the position of CCO at a brand that could be considered as a “new-comer” and in an industry where brands are hundreds of years old?

A: It is definitely one of the challenges. We are young but what is important is to demonstrate, is that we are always making some progress. We are perceived as a very innovative brand and this is our strength. In 21 years, we have launched more than 30 in-house movements. Innovation is our motto. We innovate more than any other watch brand at our level.

Q: What would you say are Parmigiani’s core values and USP?

A: The pillars of our brand are innovation, credibility and integrity in the way we manufacture our products. In a Parmigiani watch, we control and manufacture more than 95% of the components including the watch case and the dial. The promise of authenticity of our products to our customers is a key selling point. When a client buys a Parmigiani Fleurier watch, he can be sure that this watch has been made 100% in Switzerland, unlike some brands that are looking for solutions to reach the minimum of 60%, which qualifies a watch to be “Swiss made”.

Q: What markets are key for Parmigiani at present, and where are you expanding?

A: I call these: “new opportunities”. There are a number of markets that not been developed in the best possible way, like the UK, while other markets do very well for us, like Asia. Asian customers are the largest contributors to our turnover. And they travel around the world so it is extremely important that we offer them a consistent experience in London, Milano, Munich, Paris,… everywhere.

We still need to crack the European domestic customers in convincing them to acquire Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces. So part of our media and communication investment are devoted to reach this domestic European customer.

For me, the market in Europe with the most potential over the next 2-3 years is the UK. Since Brexit, it has been growing in the last 15 months more than any other market in Europe, with London at its epicentre.

Q: How do you think Brexit may affect Parmigiani’s business in the UK?

A: We are not worried. We believe the UK will still be one of our strongest markets for development. In any case, Switzerland is not a member of the EU either, so trade agreements with the UK must be signed quickly to develop the exchanges between these two markets.

Q: The new Bugatti coaxial has a very innovative design, is this model an indication of where the brand is going design wise?

A: The partnership with Bugatti is very important to Parmigiani Fleurier, however it remains a laboratory of technical and design innovation gravitating around our three core collections.

The three pillars of our brand are first; the KALPA collection, with its unique Tonneau shape, very elegant, unique and recognizable. Kalpa is the watch designed by Michel Parmigiani in the early 2000s which is recognised as THE Parmigiani Fleurier watch. Kalpa will be increasingly important for us in the years to come. The second is the TONDA collection, which the design is inspired from Kalpa but in a round shape. It is the one we sell the most in terms of units. And lastly, the TORIC collection, which we relaunched this year, and the first watch designed by Michel Parmigiani in 1996 under Parmigiani Fleurier.

The Bugatti collection completes these 3 pillars, without any constraints of design or innovation. 13 years ago, we launched the Bugatti Type 370 which was a revolution at the time with its cylindrical movement inspired from the engine of the Bugatti Veyron, then the Bugatti Super Sport. In October 2017, the new the Bugatti Type 390 has been revealed, with its unique coaxial movement and its flying 60 seconds tourbillon, as a tribute to the world’s fastest supercar: the Bugatti Chiron.

Q: Parmigiani’s partnerships seem quite eclectic, from the Montreux Jazz festival to the Oxford-Cambridge boat race or the Hot Air Balloon festival. What connects them all?

A: That is an interesting question. I see you’ve done your homework! (smiles). I agree with you that our success will pass through simplifying the readability of our brand and its partnerships. This is not to say that they were wrong; there were good reasons to make those partnerships at the time, but we are now in stage 2, which is about clarifying our partnerships so our consumers can understand our brand and our values.

Out of all the existing partnerships, we will be focussing onto two main: the Montreux Jazz Festival and Bugatti. We have talked earlier about the Bugatti partnership and why it is important to us. When it comes to the Montreux Jazz Festival, it is the most recognised Jazz Festival in the world when it comes to quality. This festival is an extraordinary platform for us. We can bring our customers, our partners and journalists and have them enjoy a fantastic time.

The connection with the Festival goes back more than 11 years and we are great believ- ers in developing success where you have the most credentials, credibility and history. We have the best jazz performers and artists wearing our watches in Montreux, like Quincy Jones, Seal and Sting,… personalities that love the brand and have come and actually purchased their watches.

Now, the challenge is to turn a 2 weeks event platform into a 365 days commu- nication. The jazz and the music will not take over our stories of watchmaking but nourish, support our messages and endorse our values in manufacturing, inspiration from restoration and our know-how in high horology (watches up to GBP500,000), and all these factors make us unique, like jazz artists are unique in themselves.

Kappa, the most recognisable of the Parmigiani Fleurier watches

Q: Could you share with us your vision for the future of Parmigiani?

A: The order of priority of our products has been redefined and is very important to the strategy in the immediate future. The Kalpa will return in the centre of the stage in 2018 and beyond. We have set aside our emblematic Kalpa for too long, it is now time to have it back under the spotlights. TONDA will naturally benefit from the focus on Kalpa, since those two lines have the same origin. Toric, which has been relaunched in 2017, will continue to develop as the third pillar of our product range.

 

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