In conversation with Niels Eggerding, Managing Director at Frederique Constant where he talks about his vision for the brand, strategy for growth and global development, navigating economic challenges, and more. Excerpts.
Swiss watchmaking is increasingly converging around mechanical movements. What is Frederique Constant’s strategy?
About 60 per cent of Frederique Constant watches are equipped with mechanical movements. Hand-wound movements were used at the beginning but now the focus is on mechanical self-winding movements only. The story of Frederique Constant started with automatic movements that were bought from suppliers. However, 2004 onwards till date, the brand has been able to develop 31 in-house mechanical movements such as the FC-718 (worldtimer), FC-760 (flyback chronograph), FC-705 (moonphase) or the FC-775 (perpetual calendar), which is worth 8,000 euros—making it the most accessible on the market. The high-selling volumes of automatic movements allow us to develop these movements and allocate a budget to buy the equipment required to build them. The brand will keep on focusing on mechanical movements and even develop new manufacture calibres in the upcoming years.
What keywords would you associate with the identity of each of the Frederique Constant collections
I would say sport-chic, modern yet elegant for the Highlife collection; classical, traditional watchmaking for the Classics collection; the universe of racing, gentleman driver for the Vintage Rally collection; the universe of yachting and sheer dolce vita for the Runabout collection; thin, refined, and discreet timepieces for the Slimline collection; the illustration of the brand expertise with complex yet easy-to-use and affordable in-house movements for the Manufacture collection; a collection designed by a woman for women for the Ladies Automatic collection; and finally connected features for the Smartwatch collection.
What are your priorities for the global development of Frederique Constant in 2022 and beyond?
Our plan for 2022 and beyond is to stick to the core of our price segment as it is now, while increasing the Manufacture range of products with higher-end developments.
What are the core inspirations behind Frederique Constant’s 2023 collection?
In 2023, Frederique Constant will not only celebrate its 35th anniversary but also the 15th anniversary of its tourbillon. So, we will pay tribute to these two major events with a range of exclusive timepieces and limited editions.
Today, if you want a watch, there is a high chance if you order it in 2022 you won’t get it until 2023 or even longer. How do you see the industry addressing this problem and how is Frederique Constant in particular handling it?
Indeed, orders are strongly increasing since the beginning of the year, and we are quite optimistic regarding the upcoming years. However, because of the pandemic and the political situation in Western Europe, we are facing shortage in certain components, leading to longer delivery times, therefore impacting the assembly of products. This means we need to foresee at an even earlier stage as to which product might be successful or not in 2023, and to anticipate the best possible way to move forward. However, we take this as an opportunity for us to revise our processes to be even more efficient than we would have been without this situation.
How are you coming out of the pandemic? Polarisation in the industry seems to be increasing.
I must say I am quite satisfied and relieved as we managed to keep Frederique Constant in a rather healthy position compared to what we were expecting at the beginning of the pandemic. Of course, sales have decreased in the past two years, budgets as well, but the brand recovered quite fast, sales are increasing again massively, and today I can affirm I see a bright future for Frederique Constant.
What are some of the biggest challenges you face when it comes to managing the brand?
The biggest challenges are financial, human, and unfortunately… the supply chain as well. As managing director, my responsibility is to keep the company healthy and ensure its growth, while keeping a close eye on my teams and ensuring they all feel they belong to the Frederique Constant family and are committed and motivated to make it grow. The most precious aspect of a company is the people who make it happen. However, the challenge also lies in attracting talented people, hiring them, and most importantly, retaining them. Finally, the supply chain has become one of our major concerns as due to the pandemic and Europe’s political situation, we now face a lot of delay in the deliveries of components—directly impacting our production efficiency.
What is your reading of the current market scenario and what is your strategy?
The current watch market is quite polarised; rich are getting richer, poor are getting poorer, and the mid-range—Frederique Constant’s target group—is getting squeezed economically, politically, and demographically. The brand is going to stick to the core of its price segment as it is right now, while extending the Manufacture range of products with new in-house calibres. There will be higher-end developments, using precious metals like gold and platinum, where the average price will rise from about 2,000 euros to about 3,000 euros next year, to meet competitors.
What is your strategic split between boutiques and multi-brand retailers?
Frederique Constant doesn’t own corporate boutiques; we have always worked with multiple-brand boutique distribution. However, we do have one mono-brand boutique in Doha Festival City, Qatar. In Asia we have collaborated with existing retailers, to strengthen the relationship in the respective countries. Our aim is to open more such mono-brand boutiques in malls and large department stores, and not really on building a corporate boutiques network.