”Technology and craftsmanship is at the service of design, while the DNA of our brand is the essence of product development” was the opening statement of the exclusive interview of Philippe Léopold-Metzger, CEO of Piaget, for CPP-LUXURY.COM, at the company’s headquarters, outside Geneva, early February 2014.
A veteran of the luxury jewellery and watches industry, previously at Cartier, Philippe Léopold-Metzger joined Piaget in 2000 and has since, been instrumental to the development of the Swiss luxury watches and jewellery maison, which was acquired by the Richemont Group in 1988 (at the time Vendome Group).
Léopold-Metzger’s strategic approach was to enforce the balance between luxury watches and jewelry. ”Piaget has been a watch-maker for 140 years and a jeweller for 54 years. Piaget is nowadays the undisputed master of ultra-thin watches, worldwide. We created, in-house, over 37 calibres of which 25 ultra-thin. When I arrived at Piaget, I wanted to change the perception and awareness of Piaget as a quintessetial watch-maker rather than a jewellery watch-maker, as it was known at the time”
”Today, we develop 100% of our timepieces in-house and we master several exceptional métiers in-house. Our human resources have been at the core of our development” Léopold-Metzger added. I could not agree more! Spending time at both at the modern headquarters outside Geneva and the historical manufacture in the village of La Côte-aux-Fées (an hour and a half from Geneva), I could not help but feel as welcomed by a large family.
I found it inspiring that people of the most diverse nationalities would be so motivated and happy to be part of the team that drives the success of Piaget. I met people whose entire families, for generations have called Piaget home. ”Today, one of the most sensitive tasks we face is managing creativity in relation to craftsmanship and performance. We hire more and more people and beyond training, we must make sure we stay coherent in all our activities” said Léopold-Metzger.
Speaking about other strategic undertakings, Léopold-Metzger also highlighted retail development: ”From a retail point of view, Piaget is a relatively young presence on the market, having opened our first boutique in Geneva in 1959. Today, we have 91 mono-brand stores all over the world, of which two thirds are operated directly. We aim to keep our pace of retail expansion with 10 new mono-brand stores, each year.”
Speaking about wholesale versus directly operated stores, Léopold-Metzger said Piaget’s strategy is balanced: ”We have no pressure on expansion, as we have no pressure to increase our output (currently, Piaget manufactures approximately 25,000 watches). ”As we have grown our product range, we definitely need larger stores. However, location is critical and in many key destinations, we have to be patient to identify the best location”.
I asked Léopold-Metzger about the potetially dangerous increase in spending on gadgets and the incessable quest for such new products. ”Indeed, we have to look closer at the younger generation and that is why social media and events are extremely important. We have to maintain our exclusivity, without being arrogant. One such example is polo, a sport which has been gathering momentum with the young generation. Then, we have our long established collaboration with talented Jazz writer and singer Melody Gardot or the Spirit Awards (right before the Oscars), which focus on independent movies.”
Piaget’s CSR activities have also been playing a crucial role in the continued success of the company. Whether it was telemedicine in Bolivia, a country where Piaget has no distribution, or renovating historical rose gardens, Piaget has been undertaking exceptional social tasks, demonstrating real involvement. Furthermore, it is the investment in people, which is at the heart of all the CSR activities of Piaget.
I was curious to understand in what way, parent company Richemont are involved at a strategic level in Piaget. ”Richemont have a long term strategy and strongly believe investing for the future. While we shall be expanding our production site, this will not not be primarily driven by the increase in output, but rather improve the workplace of our team”. Looking at competitor brands, Léopold-Metzger added ” I don’t know how many of the so-called brands of the moment will still be around in the long term. However, I am absolutely certain Piaget will not only be there but it will be stronger”
Oliver Petcu in Geneva
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