Iñigo Ohlsson, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s managing director, South-East Asia & Oceania, talks about brand building and capitalising on the maison’s history and heritage to take it to the next level
SINGAPORE (Oct 21): Iñigo Ohlsson is talking nineteen to the dozen, not because he wants to get this interview over as quickly as possible but because he is eager to share his plans. Having joined Jaeger-LeCoultre’s team in Singapore as its managing director for South-East Asia & Oceania in April this year, Ohlsson has his job cut out for him.
Last month, he cleared his busy schedule for an exclusive interview with Options at the VIP room of the very cosy Jaeger-LeCoultre boutique at ION Orchard.
Ohlsson says the first thing he did after moving to the Singapore office was to get to know the team and retail partners. “I visited our [retail] partners, exchanged ideas and tried to understand their needs. I believe their needs are different [from country to country]. Their clients’ needs are different. Everything is different,” he says.
Understanding the culture of various countries is something Ohlsson is familiar with, having left his home country of Spain in 2003 to work in locations such as China, Dubai, Argentina, Mexico, Australia and Singapore. He joined Jaeger-LeCoultre in 2012 as country manager for Mexico. Three years later, he was appointed managing director for Australia and New Zealand, where he went on to develop the brand’s image and distribution network.
In his current role, Ohlsson intends to do the same so as to anchor Jaeger--LeCoultre’s position in the region. Among his strategies is to recruit subsidiaries in Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. He oversees many other countries including the Philippines, Myanmar and New Zealand.
He concedes that Southeast Asia and Oceania is a vast market, with each country having its own peculiarities. In terms of global strategy, however, the maison wants to focus on service to clients. It is very important to go back to the roots of having a one-to-one connection with clients, according to Ohlsson. To enhance brand awareness, the maison has launched a new campaign featuring a series of images and video — “Home of fine watchmaking since 1883”. The video can be viewed here.
“We need to go one step further, to make sure that the client experience with Jaeger-LeCoultre is up to standard. If you asked me what would be my one goal in my tenure here, it would be to make sure there is interaction with the clients. And it does not matter whether the client has made a purchase in Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques, at our points of sale, or through e-commerce — it does not matter what means they use to enter the Jaeger-LeCoultre universe,” he explains.
Customer satisfaction is a top priority for the maison. Towards that end, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Care programme was launched this year to provide innovative and tailored experiences for customers. It serves ever-changing global customer needs and a desire for personalised content, technical expertise and education. The programme has a dedicated digital platform, highly personalised with value-added information, advice and services.
Ohlsson says, “Over time, the value proposition on watches has been changing and the way we are perceived by our clients is changing. We can already see a growing demand for customer service, interaction and understanding of the product — being able to have that direct link, to have more detail and information about the watch that you buy. That’s why we decided to create the Care programme.”
After registering with the programme, the customer enjoys a range of benefits, including access to personalisation such as engraving and changing of straps. Information and tips for taking care of the watch is provided. The customer can also follow up on the status of his or her timepiece should it be sent to the manufacture for servicing. In addition, each watch is given a warranty of up to eight years.
“We realised that clients are demanding more reliability and for the watch to last for eight years at least. Because of all the small steps we have been taking in product and component enhancements over the years, we have reached a point where we realised that we were ready to give the clients what they were demanding in terms of service and we decided to extend the warranty up to eight years,” Ohlsson says.
Future of time
Jaeger-LeCoultre is an iconic brand that was founded by Antoine LeCoultre in 1833. Since 2000, the maison has been fully owned by Swiss luxury group Richemont. It has created more than 1,200 calibres and has produced iconic collections such as the Reverso, Master, Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris, Rendez-Vous and Atmos.
With the brand’s rich history and heritage, does it make Ohlsson’s job easier? He says, “In a way, yes. I always think that a very important part of Jaeger-LeCoultre is communicating the rich history, the storytelling, the passion of the brand. And when you have so much behind you and you’re surrounded by people who have so much passion, it really makes that job so much easier.”
Conveying the knowledge to customers is key. “There’s never enough time to share all the knowledge and all the stories of Jaeger-LeCoultre. My responsibility is to communicate properly the story behind it and pay proper tribute to the people who have been developing the maison in the last 186 years. Therefore, when you have a new brand, you can probably create your own stories but ,when you have such a history, you have to be careful and continue to pay tribute to this rich history. You still need to keep it and protect it for the years to come.”
Another priority of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s is communicating with its younger customers. Ohlsson observes that while this younger clientele is very interested in luxury and watchmaking, they are looking for more when they pick a luxury timepiece.
He elaborates that they want to share the same values as the brand as well as to experience it. To do that, Jaeger-LeCoultre is preparing the right tools, which include digital communication with this group “because that is the way younger clients communicate”. He explains: “We want to communicate with them and share stories of passion, and this is something that cannot be done with advertising. We need that one-on-one interaction with our younger clientele. We are trying to adapt the way we reach [them] and, probably, digital communication and social media are two of the most important tools we’re focusing on.”
The next 12 months are shaping up to be very busy for Ohlsson. He will be travelling to markets where the “Home of fine watchmaking since 1883” campaign will be rolled out. Also, before year-end, the brand’s first boutique in Australia will be opened in Sydney — a long-overdue move, he says.
At the start of next year, Ohlsson will be preparing to market the new collection, which will be launched at Watches & Wonders Geneva in April. That will kick off with discussions with partners on the new collection, getting their feedback and making plans for the year ahead. He says, “The next four months [after that] are going to be the deployment of the new collection in the region. Then a new strategy of interacting with our clients through events and meeting new clients and bringing them into the Jaeger-LeCoultre universe [will follow].”
Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel
Jaeger-LeCoultre presented impressive novelties at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH). We asked Iñigo Ohlsson, Jaeger-LeCoultre managing director, South-East Asia & Oceania, to pick the one he deems to be the showstopper.
He cites the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel as the star. While its name may be a mouthful, the timepiece is exceptional. Ohlsson says the watch, which was the highlight of SIHH this year, has received plenty of acknowledgement and interest from the press, collectors, connoisseurs and clients alike.
One of the important things that Jaeger-LeCoultre had to do when creating the watch was to make the complications on a case and size that people could wear on their wrist. To do that, it had to reduce the size of the Gyrotourbillion. It was a technical feat to insert the gongs of the Westminster minute repeater because of space constraints.
Ohlsson explains that the case must have certain characteristics to produce good sound quality. The case is a big part of the quality and volume of the sound; if you put too many things in it, there is not much room for sound to travel.
The Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpétuel features a tourbillon that is significantly smaller than those in the preceding Gyrotourbillon timepieces. In making a smaller tourbillon, Jaeger-LeCoultre has created a truly wearable Gyrotourbillon.
If the chime sounds familiar, it is because it is the clock chime melody of Big Ben at the Palace of Westminster in London. The timepiece uses four sets of gongs and hammers to produce the chime to indicate the quarters when the minute repeater is activated, incorporating a complex mechanism that places it at the most prestigious tier of chiming watches.
Calibre: 184 — Manual
Case: White gold
Water resistance: 3 bar
Functions: Hour/minute, jumping date, two-way perpetual calendar (Day/Date/Month/Year), Gyrotourbillon, Minute repeater with Westminster chime
Power reserve: 52 hours
Dial: Blue guilloché enamel or silver grained
Case back: Open
Limitation: 18 pieces
Reference: Q52534E1, Q5253420
Dazzling Rendez-Vous Moon
The Dazzling Rendez-Vous Moon features the beauty of the night sky, which is depicted by a generous sprinkling of diamonds paired with a pink-gold and white mother-of-pearl dial. The bezel alone has 108 diamonds that form two concentric circles around the watch case.
Designed to maximise the presence of each stone, the claw or griffe diamond setting allows light to pass through the diamonds from every angle. The fine gold claws hold the diamonds high, giving an impression that they are almost floating around the watch case, rather than anchored to it.
The outer ring of the dial is festooned with mirror-polished golden spheres that mark the hours; on the main hours ring, each of the applied pink-gold numerals is set on a separate mother-of-pearl “tile”, all anchored by an inner circle of 47 diamonds.
It is a perfect setting for a romantic and lovely moon phase display. Visible through an opening at six o’clock, the new design features a shiny mother-of-pearl moon floating against a starry aventurine night sky, and playing hide-and-seek behind a cloud of carved mother-of-pearl as it makes its way through the different moon phases over the course of a month.
Calibre: Automatic mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Caliber 925A/1
Case: Pink gold
Water resistance: 5 bar
Functions: Hours/minutes, moon phase Power reserve: 38 hours Dial: Mother-of-pearl, diamonds
Case back: Open Diamonds: 478 diamonds — 24.7cts