Longines CEO Matthias Breschan: Spirit of Aviation in Watchmaking

Longines CEO Matthias Breschan: Spirit of Aviation in Watchmaking

Longines CEO Matthias Breschan

Longines is a model on the transfer, and people strikes are continuously airborne. This is actually true of CEO Matthias Breschan, whom we’ve met twice within the span of some months, each in Asia however not in the identical nation. That is how this outstanding story happened, with two interviews and a few launch occasions. The extra important of the 2 came about in March this 12 months as Longines revealed a part of its slate of novelties for the 12 months. We will get to these sooner or later, however first we must always hear from Breschan himself in regards to the model’s plans for the longer term.

We have met the present CEO of Longines watches a couple of occasions, proper again to his days of being answerable for Rado — Breschan has spent a great deal of time with The Swatch Group, counting his time at Hamilton, and Swatch too. This being the Swatch Group, solely the chief executives are supposed to make public statements that may be quoted. Thus Breschan has a tricky job, at all times needing to discipline questions from the press, and everywhere in the world too. He has been remarkably forthright in regards to the affect of the pandemic on enterprise, for instance. He most not too long ago informed The Straits Times that Longines’ weaknesses in counting on tourist-spending reasonably than participating them in their very own markets made itself evident through the rocky interval of Covid-19. The model has since bounced again, reaching 2019 ranges once more in 2022; that is outstanding in itself, provided that the journey scenario has, arguably, not but returned to 2019 ranges, and reveals that Longines did certainly react positively to the challenges it confronted.

While Breschan is clearly passionate about with the ability to go to varied markets once more, this go to is just a little delicate. The cause for the issue on this event is definitely the rationale we’re all gathered in Bangkok. Though we’ve seen the novelties, and Breschan has commented on them, most are nonetheless below embargo so we can not say an excessive amount of.

This implies that we’ve to talk obliquely at occasions, and the interview has been edited as such. It additionally means we can not showcase lots of the novelties throughout these pages. Nevertheless, Breschan did speak about basic methods so we’ll go along with these feedback, supplemented by the sooner interview we did in Singapore. It all works out, as you will note from the very first query. Of course, that trade just isn’t the primary one, chronologically talking and all that follows has been edited and formatted for readability and construction.

Our Bangkok assembly came about within the Four Seasons, the place — purely by likelihood — the Czech boss on the resort truly wears a classic Longines Majetek watch. Breschan informed us that this solely turned recognized to the model when it approached the resort about internet hosting the 2023 regional novelty launch there. Perhaps this can be a fortuitous signal for each the brand new Majetek and for the novelties basically.

An old advertisement from Longines

Historic promoting exhibiting the turning bezels Longines pioneered.

Before we dig into aviation watches and the themes of 2023, inform us about how the technique developed in 2022?

I feel you see within the assortment of 2022 very properly the technique of how we’re going to develop sooner or later. Because we launched in March final 12 months, the Spirit Zulu GMT with a model new unique GMT motion. It has state-of-the-art expertise like a silicon stability spring, and a (true) GMT motion as a result of you may alter the hour hand independently from the minute hand. And after all, with our historical past of inventing the GMT motion in 1925… truly it started already in 1908 with a pocket watch with two time zones, requested by the (Ottoman) sultan. With the GMT watch, in historical past, pilots wanted a reference time (to keep away from air crashes), outlined as GMT, which pilots referred to as zero meridian… Zero is Zulu in aviation parlance, and that is why we named the Spirit Zulu as such.

Another instance is the Ultra-Chron Diver the place we’ve a high-frequency motion. Longines actually revolutionised timekeeping in sporting occasions with the primary such (pocket) watch already in 1914; it was then potential to measure time to an accuracy of 1/tenth of a second. By 1916, we had taken it to 1/one centesimal of a second. It was truly so widespread that Longines obtained solicited by all organisers of sport occasions to time sporting occasions as a result of the model’s watches had been recognized for such excessive precision. We built-in, in 1959 for the primary time, high-frequency actions in a wristwatch. For 2022, we selected a dive watch from 1968 because the inspiration for the Ultra-Chron. It is phenomenal not solely by way of the 36,000 VPH motion and 52-hour energy reserve but additionally within the ending of the watch itself, with the sapphire crystal insert on the bezel. When you take a look at the marketplace for watches below US$5,000, there may be nothing like this. It can also be chronometer-certified (by Timelab, a Swiss outfit that certifies not solely the motion, as COSC does, but additionally the whole watch head).

We can not consider any watches at that worth level, with a high-frequency motion, by no means thoughts all these traits!

Ultra-Chron Diver
Ultra-Chron Diver

Actually, there’s a good story in regards to the Ultra-Chron (the up to date mannequin launched in 2022). Some of the primary watches had been delivered to France — to the well-known Gallerie Lafayette division retailer, and a collector (well-known for amassing high-end items) got here to our boutique there on the day the watches arrived and requested for the Ultra-Chron. I have no idea how this particular person was conscious of the precise date the watch could be arriving on the boutique, however these days collectors know all the things! Anyway, he requested for the watch, and mentioned he wished to test the precision. Our retailer manager turned fairly nervous as a result of this collector had a software (a tool that checks the amplitude of a mechanical motion, which on this case was moveable and thus prone to be the Accuracy2 – Ed). The man connected the system to his telephone, and after 5 minutes he mentioned he was performed…(that is what he mentioned) “I’ve by no means, ever, measured precision like you’ve in your Ultra-Chron watch.” He purchased the watch and left.

That is a superb story! It does convey up a difficulty I’ve most likely mentioned with you earlier than, which is the pricing of Longines watches. It appears there may be an upward pattern now for 2023. Is that proper?

First of all, Longines is positioned within the US$1,000 to $5,000 vary, and has been for the previous 20 years; it would proceed to be this fashion for the following 20 years. Now with the brand new merchandise for 2023, whereas we proceed to remain in our house, we’re shifting in direction of the higher finish of the vary. Previously, nearly all of our watches, I might say, had been throughout the US$1,000 to $2,500 vary, whereas now watches just like the Majetek and the Spirit Flyback Chronograph are above that, however nonetheless beneath US$5,000. Like the Spirit Zulu GMT, the brand new watches all characteristic high-end technical improvements (in case building and using Longines-exclusive actions) so they’re priced accordingly, however nonetheless very cheap for what they’re. Like the Ultra-Chron, there may be nothing just like the Majetek on the market at its worth level (though technically, there may be nothing in any respect available in the market just like the Majetek – Ed). So, although Longines is providing all this innovation, we’ve by no means left our worth section — that is the fantastic thing about being within the Swatch Group. We get each economies of scale, and don’t have any have to go larger as a result of (the group) has Omega, and equally no have to go decrease, as a result of there may be Tissot.

Offering a flyback chronograph for below US$5,000 could be very daring! We additionally hear that there’s a significance to this mannequin so inform us about it please?

Pilot Majetek
Pilot Majetek

We must look to the timekeeping historical past of Longines (for the solutions). The data that buyers have at the moment about watches drastically elevated prior to now years. Today’s customers are extraordinarily educated and, particularly, younger individuals. More and extra, we see that they get captivated with watches — about mechanical actions, particulars in watchmaking, and the historical past of the craft. For instance, (once we communicate of the Flyback Chronograph), Longines invented the primary wristwatch flyback chronograph in 1935 — we’ve a patent for this. In truth, Longines invented the primary chronograph wristwatch in 1913 (geared up with the vital calibre 13.33Z).

So, the flyback chronograph is actually one thing that is part of our heritage (that is the legendary manual-winding 13ZN motion that’s so low-key that even Breschan stories being shocked to find out about it, after he joined the model in 2020 -Ed). More than this, the flyback chronograph perform was actually vital to pioneering aviators, as a result of it allowed them to cease and reset the chronograph with the push of only a single pusher, so the chronograph doesn’t lose time when beginning to report a brand new interval. This was vital in these days as a result of the aviators needed to plan course adjustments based mostly on how lengthy they’d been flying (at a specified velocity), so the flyback chronograph provided a bonus.

Given the truth that the flyback chronograph, and the chronograph basically, are sturdy for Longines, why kick off the 12 months with the Majetek, which is a more durable piece to grasp?

Because the unique watch was an actual breakthrough, and it allowed us to (spotlight) that Longines truly pioneered the turning bezel again in 1935. Not many individuals know this; most suppose that this type of bezel was invented for the dive watch (within the Nineteen Fifties), however that’s not true. In truth, the perform of this type of bezel was meant for navigators to make use of at sea or within the air (to help in serving to keep heading in the right direction), and these pioneers are vital to the historical past of Longines. I don’t suppose that early aviators akin to Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart would have been capable of obtain what they did with out Longines as a result of they wanted dependable timing devices on their wrists (Longines additionally made cockpit timekeepers – Ed).

The Majetek additionally introduces some intelligent improvements, together with an antimagnetic escapement in silicon. Of course, you could possibly have had the identical impact with quartz too, however we perceive why you wouldn’t do this. How do you see the divide between quartz and mechanical timekeepers at the moment, provided that Longines has each in its vary?

Spirit Zulu Time
Spirit Zulu Time

Well, I feel the individuals who admire quartz actions, it’s a really particular clientele. They simply need hassle-free watches; they don’t need to take a be careful of the drawer after which have to regulate it each time. The purchaser of mechanical watches, he has a unique understanding of what we make… You know, I keep in mind this myself after I joined The Swatch Group on the very starting. I attended a category the place they defined the variations between quartz and mechanical actions. At the top of this class, they gave us a mechanical pocket watch motion, and each participant needed to disassemble and reassemble it. From this second, my appreciation for mechanical actions, the appreciation for the work of watchmakers, for micro-mechanics, completely modified. It additionally modified my notion of mechanical watches as a result of from this second on I actually appreciated them as emotional equipment. Yeah, you retain it on your lifetime, even for the following technology; you don’t change to a different watch each six months or a 12 months, and also you by no means throw it away. This is whenever you start to actually admire the mechanical motion; this realisation is when your notion of watchmaking completely adjustments.

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