Friday, June 14, 2024

Frédéric Arnault to become CEO of LVMH Watches


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Spare a thought for 29-year-old Frédéric Arnault, chief govt of Swiss sports activities watch model TAG Heuer and fourth baby of LVMH’s Bernard Arnault; he can’t even go to a celebration with out rumours circulating that he’s altering jobs.

Final summer time his attendance at a Bulgari occasion sparked hypothesis that he was about to take over as chief govt of the Roman jeweller. Despite the fact that he had mentioned he was not shifting to Bulgari in an interview earlier within the yr, the rumours made it into the Swiss press and he was irritated at having to disclaim them once more. However once we meet in Geneva simply earlier than Christmas he’s extra sanguine. With an ironic smile, he says he has simply learn that he can be taking on one of many group’s vogue labels.

He isn’t. As an alternative, on January 8 he’ll step into the newly created function of CEO of LVMH Watches, with accountability for TAG Heuer, Hublot and Zenith. LVMH is normally reluctant to share figures regarding smaller branches of its €79.2bn-revenue enterprise, however in accordance with Arnault the mixed turnover of this triumvirate of manufacturers is within the area of SFr1.6bn (£1.5bn).

Laborious luxurious is changing into extra necessary for the group and the household. Along with Arnault’s transfer, his youthful brother Jean runs watchmaking at Louis Vuitton, and has relaunched the Gerald Genta and Daniel Roth manufacturers, whereas his older sibling Alexandre is at Tiffany, acquired by LVMH for $15.8bn in 2020 and handled to a Peter Marino-revamped flagship final yr.

LVMH entered watchmaking in 1999 with the acquisition of TAG Heuer and Zenith, when Arnault was 5 years outdated. It’s virtually as if a job was stored open for him as he attended first the well-known Lycée Louis-le-Grand, then, like his father, l’École Polytechnique, lastly changing into the primary Arnault to work within the watch business in 2017 when he joined TAG as head of linked applied sciences.

TAG Heuer Carrera Skipper, £5,900,
TAG Heuer Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant-Garde, value on request,

Not the case, he says. “It was actually my will and my choice to hitch the [LVMH] group. My father by no means pushed me. My various was launching a tech start-up, which I did with a buddy from faculty, in cellular funds, and we offered it to a financial institution.” BNP purchased the 18-month-old enterprise, Neos, in early 2018, shortly after Arnault joined Tag Heuer.

Tech bro section out of his system, he selected to hitch the watch model partially as a result of the TAG a part of the title is an acronym for Strategies d’Avant Garde. “Being an engineer,” like his father, “I used to be educated in arithmetic, utilized arithmetic, pc science, and I actually like the concept of disrupting, innovating and creating via science,” he says. That’s one factor you discover fairly shortly about Arnault: he’s conspicuously intelligent. He performs the piano to live performance degree and can be eager on sports activities, which first introduced him into contact with TAG when he was 12.

“My first watch was a TAG Heuer Aquaracer given to me by my father. Loving sports activities myself, I feel it’s the sportiest model in watchmaking.” Then, virtually as if he feels expression of a private opinion is barely irresponsible, he shortly provides: “we validated that with surveys, and model research: sporty is without doubt one of the traits that’s stood out essentially the most with shoppers.”

Tall, skinny, fresh-faced, tousle-haired and young-looking even for 29, there’s something endearingly diffident about him. Speaking with him is like chatting with a conscientious postdoctoral researcher who feels the necessity to substantiate his arguments with analysis and knowledge.

When he joined TAG in 2017, his first job was constructing the smartwatch crew of 60 folks working in Paris. He took over as CEO in 2020 and set about “elevating the product and the model”. Maybe unsurprisingly, given LVMH’s raison d’être, he feels “it was extraordinarily necessary to contemplate, deal with, and develop TAG Heuer as a luxurious model” even when it meant venturing into value classes manner past the model’s consolation zone of SFr2,000-3,000 (£1,870-2,800). “There was a ceiling,” he says. The model had by no means offered something over SFr50,000 (£46,700) “however we broke it utterly.”

The ceiling-smasher was the Carrera Plasma Diamant d’Avant Garde, a half-million euros’ price of Tourbillon Nanograph motion, Isograph carbon nanotube hairspring, polycrystalline diamond dial and black sandblasted aluminium liberally smothered with lab-grown diamonds. It was a daring transfer for a model higher identified for reasonably priced sports activities watches, however he believes that TAG had the legitimacy. Annual gross sales of the mannequin are in “the tens”, he says, with prospects ready as much as a yr to take supply. “We’re watchmakers because the 1860s. When you develop a product with the most effective technical options, it has a price. But when the design is correct, if the model is constant via all these contact factors, there’s no purpose why the shopper wouldn’t purchase it.”

A kind of “contact factors” was associating TAG with Porsche, with whom TAG struck a long-term, international model partnership three years in the past, spanning specialised watch launches to conventional motorsport sponsorship and buyer occasions. Each manufacturers use the title Carrera for well-known merchandise, and each have an extended historical past in motorsport, however that they had by no means labored collectively. “We tried many occasions prior to now however by no means managed to make it occur. However we felt it might ship a transparent message on who we’re, so we took the time to construct a relationship with the Porsche crew.”

A return to Method 1 with Pink Bull was one other. But it surely isn’t all quick automobiles and €500,000 watches. One of many large hits of final yr was the SFr6,200 (£5,800) Carrera Glassbox, a reputation referring to sapphire crystal formed just like the domed watch glasses of the previous, which imparts a retro look to a contemporary watch. The interval type watch glass has been a little bit of an business pattern, and is precisely the type of element that watch geeks get off on. It was launched to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Carrera watch and celebrated with a brief — and actually fairly humorous — movie starring model ambassador Ryan Gosling.

Arnault believes that the technique of brand name elevation is paying off. “In 2017, the common promoting value was round SFr1,800. This yr [2023], we’re somewhat over SFr3,000. Since I turned CEO in June 2020 [a year watch sales decreased by 30 per cent on average across the industry due to Covid-19, according to Bain] gross sales have grown by 50 per cent, and 2023 can be one other report yr.” On the identical time manufacturing has dropped from round 500,000 watches a yr in 2017 to somewhat over 400,000 in 2023.

Progress, he says, has come from promoting higher-end watches, having much less unsold inventory and rising direct to buyer gross sales via ecommerce and own-brand shops. “We streamlined our distribution, halving factors of sale whereas doubling the variety of monobrand shops to only over 300.”

Finally the knowledge or in any other case of this strategic shift will develop into clear in years to return, however what’s in little question is his unhappiness at leaving TAG. He has a thinly veiled warning for his successor. “The model wants consistency. Now, it’s actually necessary that the technique we put in place continues.”

Frédéric Arnault along with his father Bernard © Madison McGaw/

When requested about plans for the opposite manufacturers, he takes refuge in govt obfuscation and says it’s too early to say. When pushed, he says that Hublot is within the technique of “redefining the platform total”, no matter meaning. As for Zenith, he mentions the model having had “an important function within the industrialisation of watchmaking” which I suppose is a holding assertion of types whereas he will get his ft beneath the desk and his head across the manufacturers he can be, to borrow a favorite phrase of his, “road-mapping”.

Any skilled transfer by an Arnault, whether or not it’s his elder sister Delphine to Dior or Frédéric to supervise watches, raises the subject of succession, a topic which he greets with a well mannered weariness. “All of us have immense respect, admiration, and love for our father. It’s his will, and it’s additionally our will, that he stays in cost so long as potential. And, as you noticed, he prolonged the retirement age [to 80], to nonetheless be CEO of the group.” Bernard is 74.

Considerably this new job will see Arnault spending extra time in Paris, nearer to his father. “I’ll nonetheless be very dedicated to watches, however I can be working extra carefully with him on strategic tasks,” he says. Then, maybe feeling he has revealed an excessive amount of, he provides, “I’m right here as a result of I really like what I do. I really like the manufacturers. I really like the challenge and the journey. Succession just isn’t a subject we take into consideration at present. It should are available in due time. And he’s a grasp of timing.” One other trait that Frédéric appears to share along with his father.


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