Earlier this year iW spoke with Patrick Pruniaux about his plans as the new CEO of Le Locle-based Ulysse Nardin. Pruniaux, who joined the watchmaker in 2017, replacing Patrik Hoffmann as CEO, had spent nine years at TAG Heuer before leaving several years ago to join Apple, where he helped launch the Apple watch. He discusses his reasons for joining Ulysse Nardin and tells us about his goals for the company.
Why did you join Ulysse Nardin?
I love the watch industry, and have been following Ulysse Nardin for more than fifteen years. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to lead Ulysse Nardin. There has always been sort of a mystique around the brand, and I saw it as one for people ‘in the know.’ I wanted to work with a brand with many values I admire, and I have joined another team of passionate people, and a manufacture that is second to none. It’s a new challenge, and at the same time will be a lot of fun.
How does it feel to be in the seat once occupied by a legend, the late Mr. Rolf Schnyder?
It is a huge responsibility. But it is not only that. At the same time, it is also an honor. I will try to set the same level of passion set by all of my predecessors.
That passion already exists within the company. My role is to make sure that passion is delivering some new results, and new things, together with the rest of the team.
We all know we have changes everywhere, and a life without changes is not a real life. You also need to choose to do the things that put you outside of the comfort zone. To force you to do some things that maybe you have not done before. In my case with Ulysse Nardin, it’s opening a new chapter.
Do you feel extra pressure to maintain that high quality of the past?
It’s not pressure, it’s inspiration. What is the universe we have been working in– primarily the sea with marine timepieces– and how do we be sure we are bringing new relevance and innovation both from an aesthetic point of view and from a technical point of view?
For instance, when we designed the new Freak Vision, we made the hands to remind us of a ship’s hull, and we have a new winding system that is truly innovative and looks like the winding system on a sailing boat.
Speaking of sailing, will you continue with the Artemis team?
Yes. We are very good partners with Artemis.
How will Ulysse Nardin avoid the same mistakes made by other Swiss watch companies?
The watch industry is really a small industry. By comparison the entire industry (sales) are less than ten percent of Apple’s revenue. We all have to learn from the mistakes of others, but also from the success of others because there is a lot of success in this industry. We should also look outside of this industry, be open-minded where we can learn from others and cross-fertilize.
I am trying now to feed myself with information from our industry and others on a regular basis. And I mean within the luxury industry and outside of the luxury industry.
At the end, a consumer is a consumer whether buying an Apple watch, a car, perfume or booking a flight for his family vacation. Or buying a luxury watch. It’s not like we should only look at what has been done in isolation from the rest of the world. I’m not actually competing with these other watch companies here. I am in the business of authenticity, desire and dreams worldwide.
Has anything about Ulysse Nardin so far surprised you?
Not really. It is in line with what I expected. I have done my due diligence before joining the company. What shocked me probably, for the positive, is the dedication and the quality of the people. The huge responsibility for me is to the employees. Making sure they are onboard, and making sure they have the right information and making sure their passion is used in the right way to maximize our resources.
The weight of my predecessors has instilled this dedication in our employees. My role is to make sure that remains and maybe is even strengthened.
At the time many companies were investing in marketing, in the year 2000, Ulysse Nardin was investing in technology. That says a lot about the company. We have to just make sure we continue to invest in manufacturing, but also that we talk about it little more and with new channels, and talk slightly more to the end consumers. You will see more of that as well as more consistency. I have moved from London to this new job, and Françoise Bezzola (UN’s new marketing & communications manager) has moved back from New York to Le Locle for her new position here. That is commitment.
What are your near-term and long-term challenges and expectations?
Pleasing more consumers, spreading the joy of owning a Ulysse Nardin product, and at different price points. I’m including collectors and those who want just to have a beautiful object.
I use the word object on purpose because as I said our market is not only the watch market. Several years ago I saw someone walk into a store to buy a premium Swiss watch in cash. That person was from a modest background and had saved the cash from tips in order to pay in cash. I asked her what she was going to do with her watch and she said she was going to look at it everyday, and it was her gift to herself that would give her a big smile.
We have to do that at different price points with different people. That is the type of emotion we have to create, whether it is watches or something else.
Vasken Chokarian is the director of iW Middle East.