Tag

Interview

Browsing

International Watch recently spoke with Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, a watch industry veteran who first joined Omega in 1996 and who has led the watchmaking giant as CEO since 2016. He discussed Omega’s focus on innovation and precision, especially regarding the Master Chronometer certification process. In addition, we learn more about Omega’s celebrity sponsorships as well as its development of pre-owned Omega sales.

Read the full interview below.

   

By Vasken Chokarian

 

iW Magazine: Having been at Omega for more than two decades, how do you see your brand’s evolution to date?

Raynald Aeschlimann: When I first joined Omega in 1996, the brand was beginning to really make some important moves. It was around that time that we signed our first ambassador, Cindy Crawford, as well as forming new partnerships such as James Bond and Team New Zealand. It was a really critical era for growing our brand around the world.

Since then, I have been a part of so many fantastic changes and evolutions within the company. Especially in terms of Master Chronometer precision and the development of new materials and digital sales, we are constantly seeking to improve and lead the industry. I am very proud of the company we are today.

The new Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black.

Omega invested quite heavily on in-house movement production and creativity. How important is that for the future direction of the product development and the Omega philosophy?

Precision has always been at the heart of Omega. It has always been our ambition to research, innovative and invest in better accuracy. To me, it shows the customer how much we care.  It proves that we give everything possible to improve even the smallest margins of quality. For that reason, exceptional movements are a symbol of Omega’s identity and we will continue to maintain that philosophy into the future.

Tell us about the essence of the Master Chronometer certification at Omega.

To gain a chronometer rating, most watches in the Swiss industry are certified once by COSC (The Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute). They have specific criteria that a watch must pass. At Omega, we believed that our standards of precision, performance and magnetic resistance were even better than the COSC criteria.

The Omega De Ville Trésor Power Reserve, new in 2021.

To prove it, we developed “Master Chronometer” certification with the help of METAS (The Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology). Today, after passing the COSC tests, our Omega watches also face an additional eight METAS tests, which are much more stringent and with even finer criteria.

For the customer, this adds trust and confidence. They can buy an Omega Master Chronometer knowing that it has been double certified and proven at the very highest level of excellence.

After twenty-two years of the Co-Axial, what have you learned from both a technical and consumer perspective about this movement?

From a technical perspective, Co-Axial has been a massive success. It has showed that Omega is able to revolutionize the watch movement, not only in terms of quality, but also doing it on an industrial scale. That was the challenge that other brands couldn’t overcome. For our customers, it’s yet another improvement on quality.

The Co-Axial system produces less friction, and therefore less wear, so you don’t need to have the watch serviced as often. But it has also been the gateway to achieving more movement innovation, such as the silicon balance spring and other non-magnetic materials. All of these improvements are the main reason that our Omega watches are given a full and impressive five-year warranty.

Back view of the new Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black, showing Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 8806.

There seems to be a migration of brands to the sustainable and/or carbon neutral approach. How will Omega engage if at all on these causes?

The environment is an important consideration for our brand. In recent years, we’ve partnered with organizations such as the GoodPlanet Foundation and NEKTON to raise awareness about the planet’s needs.

At a watchmaking level, we’ve also been making changes to the way we work. Our newest factory is perhaps the most impressive example. The sustainable development was built with an ingenious indoor climate and renewable energy concept, along with other beneficial systems. I think it’s important to adapt to this modern way of working.

Omega’s newest Constellation, with small seconds subdial.

Do you believe in the perception of investing in R&D is the way forward for a Swiss watch manufacturing brand? How challenging would that be with the business aspects of the industry?

I believe innovation is the key to any progressive business. Watchmaking is a traditional industry, but we still need to find ways of pushing ourselves forward and keeping our products relevant to the modern consumer. Investment is a big part of that, and the Swiss industry needs to maintain its position as the leader of global watchmaking. Every brand does it differently, but I know that Omega is always seeking to innovate. Having the support and expertise of the Swatch Group is a big part of helping us to do that.

How bad has it been at Omega with the global pandemic?

I wouldn’t use the word “bad”. Certainly, it’s been a challenging time and we’ve all ensured some unexpected months. But Omega is a company that has been going since 1848. We’ve witnessed massive global and economic upheaval during our lifetime, but we’ve always found a way to adapt and progress.

Right now, we’re adapting our strategy to what is going on, but I’m confident we’ll see more positive times ahead.

The Omega Bronze Gold Seamaster 300 is cased in a new Bronze Gold alloy with a brown ceramic bezel ring and a diving scale in vintage SuperLumiNova.

Are there plans for Omega to be involved in the pre-owned sphere of their own brand? If so, how?

Absolutely. In fact, we are already underway in this area. The interest in the pre-owned and vintage market is increasing rapidly around the world, and we feel we have a duty to help and support its growth.

Just recently, we launched the Certificate of Authenticity, which enables pre-owned Omegas to be checked and verified by our experts in Switzerland. It helps to create trust and confidence for those buying and selling, and provides a bit more transparency in the market.

The new Omega Seamaster 300.

Omega celebrity-ambassadors and sponsorships are a huge segment of Omega commitments. Do they add a lot of pressure to constantly perform year in and year out?

It’s not pressure, it’s enjoyment! The heritage and passions of Omega are unlike any other brand and they give us so much to celebrate every year. We have teams and experts dedicated to every area, so we’re always on top of each project. And with so much diversity, comes a lot of creativity. Things like James Bond, the Olympic Games and golf allow us to craft some very special timepieces that people around the world really love. If you plan well and use your time wisely, there shouldn’t be any pressure.

How committed is Omega to Swiss Made?

Omega is proudly Swiss Made, and it’s an important part of our identity. We see it as a mark of quality and a world-renowned symbol of excellence. Omega goes beyond the required Swiss Made standard, with almost every single part of our watches being made and assembled right here in Switzerland.

Inside the Omega Museum in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.

What challenges await the Swiss watchmaking industry and its future development?

Perhaps the most obvious challenge is keeping watches attractive to a new and younger generation of wearers. They have access to so much information, videos, blogs, reviews and opinions, so you have to be able to cut through. A big part of that is being authentic and having quality products they can believe in. It’s also important to build a digital presence, not only through social media and websites, but also the development of online sales and communication. I’m pleased to say that Omega is already well ahead in this regard.

Vasken Chokarian is director of iW Middle East.

 

By Laurent Martinez

I have noticed that enthusiasts, whatever their domain, generally become passionate about a subject from an early age. For Steven Posner, it started with an interest in food, then cars, and later on, watches. As a youngster, Posner wanted to become financially independent, so he worked part-time as a busboy at the fast-food joint, Nathan’s. From the front of the house he eventually moved into the kitchen where he learned how to cook, then he worked his way up to take a position at the counter where he honed his customer service skills.

Steven Posner, founder of Putnam Leasing.

After graduating from high school, Posner took a job as a driver for a Long Island car leasing company but shortly moved to work for a competitor—first as a driver then as a salesman. He continued to pursue his sales career across several leasing companies throughout the 1980s.

However, he soon realized that he wanted to venture out on his own and become a business owner. It was clear that exotic cars were Steven’s forte, so he founded Putnam Leasing and brought in Cyndi and Richard Koppelman, owner of Greenwich-based Miller Motorcars, as a partner. Today, Putnam Leasing is the leader in exotic and collector car leasing, offering cars like Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley, and Lamborghini, just to name a few.

Greenwich-based Miller Motorcars partners with Putnam Leasing.

Passions

Posner’s appreciation for design, beauty, and mechanics when describing cars is palatable. He waxes poetic about older cars being handmade and exalts their use of metal over plastic, genuine leather instead of leatherette, and so on. He also emphasizes that these types of cars hold their value.

He has the same type of passion for watches too, as illustrated when he spoke about his first Seiko chronograph.

Posner’s appetite for fine watches began when he was in his late-20s. He purchased a 1963 gold Rolex Oyster with a black dial for $1,600. After six years of wearing the watch daily, he got $3,000 for it. Steven realized that just like old cars, old watches could gain value as well—as long as you pick the right ones.

A snapshot of Posner’s collection.

As his Rolex and Patek Philippe watch collection grew, so too did his appreciation for vintage watches. While new models are certainly beautiful, vintage pieces are what capture his attention. He diligently checks the Instagram accounts of his preferred dealers every morning to see what they have available. He understands that developing genuine relationships with key dealers is how he can get his hands on exceptional timepieces.

A Rolex Milgauss in Posner’s collection.

Considerations before buying

Posner approaches buying watches much the same way he examines cars, which is to say he considers condition, price, rarity, and design. He doesn’t believe in buying a watch “at a good deal” if it needs too much work to get it right.

Whether cars or watches, his mantra is to always buy the best you can find, even if that means paying a higher price now because, in the end, these examples will always be worth more when reselling.

Posner’s Rolex GMT Master.

As a long-time collector, Posner always advises new collectors with limited budgets to stick to popular brands. He asserts that brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega, F.P. Journe, and A. Lange & Söhne are generally sound acquisitions as there will always be a market for them. He also adds that it’s important to buy something you will enjoy wearing instead of a watch that will stay in the safe.

A Patek Philippe 5070 in platinum.

When I asked him what cars, watches, food, and wine have in common, he pointed out that wearing a nice watch, driving a nice car, or sharing a meal with friends and family in a nice restaurant can make us feel good. These are ways to enjoy the finer things in life. 

Demand will remain

Even if the world is changing, Posner believes that the world of antique cars, watches, and wine will remain largely the same in twenty years. People will continue to pay attention to status. He also believes that fine machinery, whether a car or watch, will be worth even more in twenty to thirty years than they are now.

The big brands have created the market, and demand will always be there, he says. Of course, some companies are stronger than others and Posner thinks that a brand has to offer something special to last. There will always be enthusiasts that appreciate the smells and sounds of vintage cars or the beauty of a grand complication.  

(The full interview with Steven Posner and his analysis of the exotic car market and vintage watches is available here and at blog.laurentfinewatches.com.)

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com.

 

 

By Gary Girdvainis

Chrono24 is a marketplace for luxury watches that offers buyers and sellers the opportunity to buy, and sell, pre-owned, vintage, and new luxury watches.

As iW recently discovered in an interview with Chrono 24 CEO Tim Stracke, Chrono24 does not consider itself strictly as a watch dealer, but instead call itself “a marketplace that provides a service with the technology to connect buyers and sellers, to provide transparency to the market and to make transactions safe through the platform.” Below we excerpt the highlights of our interview.

iW: How long has Chrono24 been in existence?

Tim Stracke: The website was established in 2003, and my partners and I took over the site in 2010. We were able to turn it into a real business at a time when online business was starting to evolve. Today, we have close to 300 employees as our headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany, and we also have satellite offices in Berlin, Hong Kong, and New York that run Chrono24 as a global business. However, besides operating this company together, we are also very enthusiastic about watches.

The vast majority of our employees owns at least one watch that means a lot to them – altogether, we have quite a versatile watch collection. Through this, we probably reach one out of every three luxury watch lovers worldwide (including 9 million unique viewers every month), providing them access to more than 470,000 watch listings from over 100 countries.

When you took it over in 2010 – what changed?

Tim Stracke, CEO of Chrono24

For the first seven years, Chrono24 was pretty much a classifieds site where you could find watches and contact the seller, leaving the transaction entirely between buyer and seller. We converted this into a transactional marketplace, investing a massive amount of energy into make the transaction process secure. Now, the buyer transfers payment to our escrow account, and we make sure that the buyer is happy before forwarding payout to the seller.

We also offer a lot of additional services around the purchasing process. We have a magazine, as well as a lot of data you can use to easily compare prices. One of our more interesting features is the Chrono24 Watch Collection, which enables users to upload their watches and track their watch portfolio like they would their stocks.

In addition to this, we recently added two new functions to our app: The first is our Virtual Showroom, an AR tool that allows you to try on 12 very popular models virtually. These include the Rolex Submariner Date, Omega Speedmaster Professional, Patek Philippe Nautilus, and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

The Chrono24 Watch Scanner allows the user to simply scan any watch and automatically identify it.

Our latest addition is called the Watch Scanner, where you can simply scan any watch with your camera to automatically identify it. From there, you can add it to your Watch Collection or even create a listing.

 

How do you gather the data for estimated watch values in the Chrono24 Watch Collection?

We extrapolate the data from the tens of thousands of transactions made on our platform every per month to establish a fairly accurate range of values. For this calculation, we include actual sales prices from past sales, as well as current listing prices on Chrono24. If we don’t have enough data to make a valid estimation – for example, for rather rare reference numbers – we also include listing prices from the past. This calculation is refreshed daily and provides a representation of a watch’s performance over time.

Also, our algorithm ignores any extraordinarily high or low sales prices to avoid inaccurate estimated values. An added value for the user here is that if they’re worried about paying too much for a watch, they can follow it in a separate section of their Watch Collection and immediately see its current and historic value to help make the decision as to which watch to buy even easier. Plus, once they’ve made the purchase, they can add it to their own digital collection to monitor its financial performance over time. We’ve done this with some of our employee’s watches. It’s fun to use.

Is the condition very important?

Of course condition matters, but with watches, it is more about the rarity than the condition in many cases. This is especially true when it comes to limited editions like the Omega Speedy Tuesdays and rare vintage models; it’s quite fascinating how these timepiece perform over time. 

You also provide a Watch Scanner tool in your app. How does it work?

It’s actually pretty easy to use: Once you’ve launched the Watch Scanner tool in the Chrono24 app, simply take a picture of the watch you want to identify. The tool compares the photo with a database of around 15,000 watches and almost 2 million images from more than 6.5 million previous and current listings on Chrono24.

Based on this data, the tool can recognize the model and provides the user with other information like the reference number and its estimated market value according to the Chrono24 Watch Collection.

So far, the tool is able to identify around 15,000 different watch models, which is a lot. But that’s just a small percentage of all existing luxury watches out there. However, since it is based on a learning artificial intelligence program, the Watch Scanner is constantly evolving. We will soon be releasing an improved version that will include a feedback function and be able to identify more models. So far, the tool has been used more than a million times – and it’s only four months old.

Do you envision a physical location (permanent or pop-up) as part of the Chrono24 formula?

Looking back ten years ago, I never could have imagined that Chrono24 would be as big or as relevant as it is today. We acquired one of our retail partners about a year ago. We did this mainly to learn what life is like on the other side of the “screen,” so to speak. We also see the potential for other services. We have partnered with Fratello Watches, and we now sell limited editions through Fratello.

As of today, we are not looking for retail locations; instead, we count on our partners and look to help them sell online. That said, we are an agile business, so it’s hard to predict the future.

What are the strongest markets for Chrono24?

Historically, Germany was our strongest market, but this was obviously due to the fact that that is where Chrono24 started. Today, Chrono24 is a global entity, with the United States and Europe leading the way, followed by Asia, which is growing very fast. That being said, the United States is one of our top-three markets in many aspects, including sales and visits. We are very proud that we have around 900,000 unique visitors from the United States every month and that there are more than 120,000 American user accounts on Chrono24.

Does Chrono24 sell more new or used watches?

It’s about two-thirds pre-owned – or “pre-loved,” as we like to call it – and one-third new watches.

Is Chrono24 a tool to help dealers move aging inventory?

We work with close to 3,500 dealers worldwide and dedicate entire teams to these strong and important partners. While many of our partners have existing storefronts, Chrono24 is becoming a more relevant part of their business, and some of our partners actually sell exclusively through Chrono24. Most dealers offer all of their inventory on Chrono24, and not only aging pieces. 

What trends do you see in the U.S.?

Overall, we see a polarization of price points. The very high end remains strong –especially among well-known and recognized brands like Rolex, Omega, and AP – while the lower end of luxury watches (let’s say under $1,000) is not as strong as it could be. Also, our American users mostly buy from sellers that are also based in the United States – more than sixty percent of all U.S. sales are domestic. Surely one of the reasons for this is the high number of American dealers on our marketplace.

Globally, it’s a different picture: Approximately seventy percent of sales on Chrono24 are made across international borders.

Chrono24 keeps tabs on global watch market. Here are just a few results of last year’s pre-quarantine figures.

What about smartwatches on Chrono24?

Based on what we are seeing, smartwatches are acting like a gateway into more traditional mechanical watches. That said, not many people are searching for Apple watches on Chrono24. It seems our customers are searching for something special, and when they want to buy a smartwatch, they go elsewhere to do their research and make purchases.

How has buying a luxury watch online evolved over the last decade or so?

I remember before Chrono24 started I would spend hours and hours researching watches online and feeling like the platforms at the time made had more of a flea market atmosphere. You would have to search site after site and numerous retailers. If each site had a few hundred options, you might have to search for a long time to find the watch you really wanted to have.

You also needed to have a lot of confidence that the individual or company that you were buying from was legitimate. We are now in a situation where we can provide global transparency, a huge selection, and create a platform that makes for secure and comfortable purchases.

How safe is it to buy a watch from Chron24 with regard to authenticity?

Authenticity is our number one priority, as is the safety and security of the entire transaction from placing to order to when it’s on your wrist. First of all, our global sales team verifies and vets every dealer before we let them on the platform – and not everyone meets our high standards.

Second, we created Trusted Checkout, a free escrow service. Once you’ve found your dream watch on Chrono24 and have come to an agreement with the dealer, you transfer the amount due to an escrow account. We only release the funds to the seller once you have received the watch and are happy to keep it.

If there are issues, our multi-lingual support team is there to help buyers and sellers and guarantee a smooth transaction. Should conflicts arise, we even have a mediation team to guide buyers and sellers toward a mutually satisfactory solution. At this time, we don’t perform physical checks of the watches; instead, we offer a no-questions-asked return policy as part of Trusted Checkout to safeguard ultimate safety for the transaction.

Do you consider Chrono24 a disruptor in the industry?

This is our role: changing the industry, changing the way people purchase watches, especially pre-owned and vintage watches. Considering our global transparency, huge inventory, and market data paired with the low cost for the service of selling a watch, I would say we are creating a new and possibly disruptive platform for buying and selling watches. Several years ago, industry leaders wouldn’t even talk to us, but this has quickly changed as they have seen the service we provide – and probably also the passion for luxury watches we share.