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JLC’s De Panafieu: ‘The [watch] market has changed’

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Marc de Panafieu, Middle East brand director at Jaeger-LeCoultre, talks fine watchmaking, digital communication and the Iranian market.

This is the second edition of the Salon des Grandes Complications and JLC is here again. What does this exhibition mean to the brand and why does JLC participate?

There are multiple reasons why we are present at the Salon for a second time. First, as a brand that stands for fine watchmaking, it is a duty to support this art that is watchmaking. We welcome any initiative that contributes to growing knowledge, education and, above all, fine watchmaking.

It is about increasing customer awareness; watchmaking is not an easy discipline to understand. From the difference between an automatic and manual to understanding what a mechanical watch is, there is a lot to learn about the field. It might appear simple for people in the industry, but for consumers, it is not always easy and some people are too shy to ask. With Internet, people can get a lot of information, but initiatives like the Salon des Grandes Complications also help consumers understand the products they love.

Would you say that the region is maturing in terms of understanding of watchmaking?

Customers are becoming more and more mature, more and more aware and knowledgeable. We can’t expect our customers to get the knowledge abroad and come here to buy. There are a few initiatives like the Dubai Watch Week and the Salon des Grandes Complications and they are important for the region. I personally welcome these initiatives, the market is young and we are in the early stages when it comes to really understanding watchmaking. We are constantly seeing that the interest in our brand is growing, be it is through social media, boutiques or our website. There is a growing appetite for fine watchmaking in the region.

Is JLC entering the Iranian market soon?

We are already present in Iran. Lifting the sanctions did not change anything so far because we are already established in the country with an Iranian partner. We have two boutiques; we are already there. The lifting of the sanction will make doing business in Iran easier, which will probably increase our customer base in the country.

How are the prices of your watches determined?

We are a Swiss brand, so the prices are determined in Switzerland. If the watch is in Switzerland, you don’t pay freight. Bringing it to the UAE is more expensive as we have to pay freight and customs. Customers do understand those prices but, at the end of the day, the market has changed.

In the past, the Chinese would buy in China, the Europeans in Europe and so on, and you could justify a 30 per cent price difference. That is not the case anymore. People have access to information and if they don’t travel, they would know someone who does. We very often see someone ask for the price of a watch in-store and instantly call a friend to ask if they are interested. They very often end up buying the piece. Customers buy in up to two or three different boutiques.

How do you train your sales team?

Our teams like what we stand for and we share the same values. There is a whole training process where employees have to learn the history of the brand:

How long have we been on the market? More than 180 years.

What differentiates us? We do everything in-house.

Then, there is training about products. It is very important for customers to be able to get all the information they need such as power reserve, materials, etc.

Jaeger-LeCoultre is different for every customer; we have so many models and each one is close to our customers’ hearts. Jaeger-LeCoultre might mean Reverso for one and Atmos for the other. The volume of knowledge is quite immense in our atelier and, to be honest, it is difficult for someone to say they know everything about Jaeger-LeCoultre, because we patent and invent new products all the time.

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