Despite a volatile luxury market, Swiss watchmaker Longines is having no trouble turning a profit in Asia, where Burberry, LVMH, Richemont, and Hermes have been struggling to keep up. Even the Swatch Group, Longines’s parent company, has warned of slow-down.
So what keeps the brand ticking? It’s timelessness. Walter von Kaenel, the Longines CEO, says that the brand never experiments or follows fashion trends.
The secret to success in China is a pretty basic formula for von Kaenel: “They (the Chinese) want classical watches, they want sizes adjusted to their wrist … and at a reasonable prices,” he said. “We are not suffering at all.” Longine watches typically sell for between 1,000 and 4,000 Swiss francs.
Surely the brand’s ties to tradition are a big draw for Chinese customers, who value products with a history. The Longines Lindbergh Hour Angle watch, for instance, was designed in 1931 based on the ideas of aviator Charles Lindbergh, the first to make a solo trip across the Atlantic. That watch has yet to come to the end of its production run. This suits the Chinese just fine — “They don’t like changing their models,” he said.
The brand is celebrating its 180th year in business. The famous winged hourglass logo that decorates its watches is the oldest registered trademark in the watch industry.
Von Kaenel says Asia accounts for more than half of the group’s total sales, but adds, “To stay No. 1 in the U.S. is still the name of the game” – an old fashioned notion, indeed.
photo credit: longines