Well in time

Written by Suman Tarafdar | Updated: May 31 2009, 06:39am hrs
Those following the stars at Cannes would not have missed the opening of a Jaegar-leCoultre boutique there, only their 28th globally. A brand that is over 175 years old and steeped in pioneering technology at that, it is no accident that it is limited to the most exclusive of global customers. They have been spotted on desi wrists as well, notably new Bollywood power couple, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor. Then theres another connection to India at the heart of the brands success is the legendary Reverso, a modern classic whose story began when British polo players in India tired of breaking their watches while playing and wanted a watch whose dial could be reversed! The interest is reciprocated by this Richemont Group-owned brand, eager to make India a larger market for its watches, as the brands CEO, Jerome Lambert explains during a recent visit to India. Suman Tarafdar tried not to be dazzled by the million dollar offerings at the new boutique JLC at Delhis top luxury address, Emporio.

Jaegar-leCoultre was already present at the Oberois in Delhi. Why did you change your store location

This is a move from a hotel boutique to a mall boutique, which makes it more interesting, and gives us more space. This store is done up exactly the way our other boutiques across the world are designed a combination of metal and wood, reflective of the our inspiration from Valle de Joux. This store is 50m2. We have larger stores like a 200m2 one at Shanghai, but the structure is the same and captures the brand in its entirety.

Is India emerging as a more important market for JLC Any fears of launching during the downturn

India is a very promising market for us. We had a distribution network in the country in the 1950s and 60s, and then came back about a decade ago, when the brand became part of the Richemont Group. The market for us has been strong in the past three years globally, and this includes India too, where we have been growing. JLC is among the top five brands in its category. India has a big community of high-end watch collectors, and we want a long-term relationship with them. Indians are knowledgeable and demanding clients too!

The Indian market is still in the development stage, not by client levels, but by structure of distribution. We decided to develop the retail network four years ago. We need to raise the visibility of the brand and need large showcases. We support polo in India, and have a large operation at the Venice Film Festival among other things.

Our customers are not easily affected by economic upheavals. We are partnering with Johnson & Co, and the long term prospects definitely look good.

The store has a significant share of womens watches. Exactly how much is the demand for top-end womens watches in India

Women account for 50% of our sales in India, which is more than our global average of 40%. They have a long tradition of jewellery and a culture of buying luxury, and we have a number of watches for women, for example the Master Compressor Diving, Gyrotourbillon I, Reverso Duetto Classique, Reverso Joaillerie 101 Etrier etc.

Women pay a lot of attention to the aesthetic aspects, want comfortable watches and have a pragmatic approach to them. There is a lot of attention paid to the sophistication, elegance and dial colours as a watch is not for a season but for generations.

How are the growth prospects looking globally Does JLC coordinate with other Richemont Group brands

Europe still accounts for about 50% of our sales, though many other markets are growing very fast. The brand has established itself and enjoys goodwill among both retailers and consumers. The Master Compressor is doing very well in the US while the Reverso still accounts for a little over half of total sales.

The distribution for all the brands is separate. The Richemont Group offers the organisational structure and the backbone for the brands to operate in. Distribution networks are improving globally and the quality of retailers has also significantly improved in various countries.