Interview: Victorinox Timepiece Division CEO Alexander Bennouna
May 28, 2013
JP: What is your background, how long have you been with Victorinox?
AB: Since 2004, so almost 10 years, and 20 years in the watch industry. Prior to that I had brief experience in the jewelry business.
JP: What is the focus for Victorinox in 2013 and beyond?
AB: Our focus is to become a companion for life. Now, let me elaborate so it is not just a marketing statement. A ‘companion for life’ is like when you have a Swiss Army knife in your pocket, maybe you will not need it now, but maybe you will need it later in the day, maybe you will need it next week, maybe you will need it in a months time. But you are sure that the moment you need it, it won’t let you down.
It will deliver what you need because it is made with the highest level of quality and functionality.
And our inspiration, and it is a challenge, is to replicate these values in the timepiece business. Our mission is to pursue quality with no compromise. This is why we have reviewed our design, our engineering and our manufacturing process.
Today I am quite proud to say that in terms of quality in our price segment, we are unmatched.
JP: What are the advantages and disadvantages of selling knives, luggage, clothing and watches, versus just watches or just knives?
AB: For us it is a major advantage. First, the diversification of the brand is quite recent. The watches will celebrate the 25th anniversary next year. And the knives have been around for almost 130 years. During 105 years it was only the knives. There were different factors contributing to this diversification. The 911 attack in New York was quite instrumental in this diversification because overnight Victorinox lost all their Duty free business worldwide, for an obvious reason. The Elsener family felt very strongly that standing on two legs is better than standing on one leg. And now we have the privilege to have diversified even further, because after the timepiece business we developed luggage, fashion and fragrance.
JP: How does the reduction in shipments of movement from the Swatch Group/ETA affect Victorinox?
AB: We collaborate with ETA, the factory that is manufacturing the movements, since more than 15 years. We believe in long term partnerships. So far, we have seen that ETA has recognized that Victorinox is a company that believes in long term partnerships. In 2008 and 2009 when there was the economic crisis and everyone was reducing their orders of movements, we did exactly the opposite. We increased our order of movements. So we were not there during the good days and then absent during the hard days. This is why so far we do not feel very concerned by this direction the Swatch Group is taking.
We offer good quality for a good price, we are seen worldwide as an ambassador of Swiss excellence and I don’t see the Swatch Group not sharing this with us.
JP: What is the best selling Victorinox watch line?
AB: The Chrono Classic. This is line in which we have introduced a world premiere this year, the Chrono Classic Perpetual Calendar with 1/100th of a second.
JP: Is there anything else you would like to say?
AB: What I would like to mention is that this Chrono Classic 1/100th of a second Perpetual Calendar is the result of a collaboration we made with Soprod.
We had to improve the movement in order to meet our expectations. The design of the dial is showing the discs indicating the perpetual calendar and 1/100th of a second in a way where needed to have a perfect alignment. The movement Soprod had in their catalog did not have a perfect alignment so we had to have a close collaboration between or technical office and their engineers in order to come up with an improved version of this caliber. It is a caliber that already existed, but the one we are offering is the result of this improvement in engineering that we performed on the movement. For the time being, it is an exclusive of Victorinox.
User friendliness of the timepiece is very, very important to Victorinox. We don’t want to introduce a timepiece top the market that requires you to read the user manual two or three times in order to use it. (Click HERE to watch a video of Mr. Bennouna demonstrating the new Chrono Classic 1/100th Perpetual Calendar.)