Tag Archives: Richemont

Business of Luxury: Georges Kern Quits Richemont to Join Breitling, His IWC Accomplishments and What He can do for Breitling

Less than four months after his appointment as Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital of Richemont Group, Georges Kern has resigned effective immediately. The role was one forged during the management shake-up in early 2017 which saw individual brand CEO positions re-organised, leading to the departure of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s CEO Daniel Riedo, the retirement of Group CEO Richard Lepeu and Chief Financial Officer Gary Saage; Montblanc CEO Jérôme Lambert becoming Head of Operations.

Georges Kern Resigns as Richemont Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital, a role specially created for one of the most prolific Chief Executives in recent Group history

The shake-up came amidst the industry’s worst performing consecutive three year protracted contraction – in February that year, Tiffany & Co.’s CEO Frederic Cumenal was replaced by chairman Michael Kowalski as interim CEO while LVMH’s head of watchmaking Jean-Claude Biver took over as interim CEO of Zenith, replacing Aldo Magada.

You might recall that Georges Kern was became the youngest CEO at Richemont after he was appointed to the top spot at IWC Schaffhausen in 2002. Kern had joined the Group in 2000 from LVMH’s TAG Heuer after the holding company acquired A. Lange & Söhne, Jaeger-LeCoultre and IWC.

Kern would utilise star power and levy upon celebrity association to increase mindshare for his watches.

Kern would utilise star power and levy upon celebrity association to increase mindshare for his watches.

The then 36 year old was appointed to a lofty position at IWC Schaffhausen where he became responsible for perpetuating the 30 years of consecutive milestones which heralded the company’s second Golden Age in the 1970s. To adequately describe the size of the role he had assumed, one has to take into account the many firsts launched by the company. During the Quartz Crisis, then IWC CEO Otto Heller successfully positioned the company by producing its vision of the modern wristwatch through close collaboration with Ferdinand A. Porsche  and cementing its reputation of being ‘highly engineered’ with the first titanium watch bracelet. In the 1980s, new IWC director, Günter Blümlein built the foundations of marketing and technical innovation for which IWC remains reputed till this day, accordingly, the customer base and financial positions for the company became stronger as a result.

In 1991 Blümlein acquired IWC completely with majority stakes in Jaeger-LeCoultre and revived Saxony-based watchmaker A. Lange & Söhne. The trio of watchmakers were held by LMH Group also headquartered in Blümlein’s Schaffhausen stomping grounds before the Group was itself acquired by Richemont in 2000. By 2001, IWC would be among the first to establish an online collector’s forum and given all the revolutionary advancements, Kern, as the youngest CEO ever appointed, would have been hard pressed to fill these shoes.

But fill them he did.

IWC under Georges Kern

Early in his term, Michael Friedberg interviewed the newly minted IWC CEO where Georges Kern spoke of building on the Schaffhausen manufacture’s exceptional capacity in construction and its outstanding know-how – by 2004, Kern had increased IWC’s technical capacity with 14 people working on new developments. At SIHH that year, Georges Kern unveiled a new line of Aquatimers while beefing up the popular Portuguese (now called Portugesier) collection and adding new Da Vinci and Portofino models, IWC under Georges Kern rode out difficult market conditions while improving worldwide market-share, out-performing projections.

An older model 2004 Aquatimer

An older model 2004 Aquatimer

By 2005, IWC’s aggressive marketing, increased worldwide distribution coupled with operational and management controls had led to another Golden Age. Under Kern, IWC was enjoying a resurgence in popular recognition – Portofino models increased to more contemporary proportions for some models while Flieger – the Pilot’s watches and Aquatimer collections started to show off the Schaffhausen manufacture’s increasing prowess through special complications. Whether it was case engineering, design or high complications – IWC steadily cemented its reputation as a technical watch company.

In the grand scheme of things, Kern pretty much kept through to Blümlein’s wishes, positioned from the perspective of case technique and engineering in contrast to Lange’s slavish approach to movement finishing. For Kern, IWC’s value proposition was that its watches were providing more perceived value through superior engineering than the retail prices reflected. And it was a strategy that was working. More importantly, Georges Kern possessed a kind of marketing savvy which made him uniquely capable of accruing PR value and media interest, under Kern, IWC began their affiliation with Cousteau Society, cementing the Aquatimer as a technical diver’s watch, Saint Exupery was also a master-stroke – a flirtation with a literary war hero adventurer and then saving the Galapagos? Talk about Vitruvian appeal.

Early on, Kern fought for and saw the return of the Calibre 5000 where previous there weren't enough watchmakers to put them together fast enough for a commercial production run

Early on, Kern fought for and saw the return of the Calibre 5000 where previous there weren’t enough watchmakers to put them together fast enough for a commercial production run

Even the red-headed stepchild, Da Vinci, a tough sell (due to its aggressive angular tonneau shape) in the best of times. Envisioned as a futuristic high end quartz watch, the debut round Da Vinci watch lay dormant for a time until it came back with digital display perpetual calendars and other iterations but still it never fully caught on but testament to Kern and IWC Design Director Christian Knoop, it came back to the fore during SIHH 2017 but by November the year before, Georges Kern was already the Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital.

Still, he cast a large shadow in Richemont even as another former Jaeger LeCoultre, and then Montblanc CEO cast his. While Luxuo is not prone to rumour and conjecture, it must be noted that the industry at large was watching if signs of a rivalry would come to the fore as Jerome Lambert assumed the other major corporate position: Head of Operations responsible for all brands with the exception of jewelry and watchmaking.

There were high hopes for the IWC Da Vinci which were never really fulfilled until Kern returned the collection to its round case at SIHH 2017

There were high hopes for the IWC Da Vinci which were never really fulfilled until Kern returned the collection to its round case at SIHH 2017

Amidst rumour and innuendo, Kern laboured in increasingly harder market conditions, eventually unveiling an aggressive if questionable decision to start selling IWC watches online. IWC watches costing from the five to six digit range debuted on Net-a-Porter and Mr. Porter as Kern tested threw a Hail Mary pass to online shoppers to counteract a protracted industry slump. In a comment to Bloomberg, Rene Weber, an analyst at Bank Vontobel said, “The industry gets less than 2 percent of sales through direct e-commerce sites”

 

“Watch buyers typically shop at brick and mortar stores for a variety of reasons, chiefly, when you want to spend that kind of money on a watch, you’ve got to try it out first. Second, there’s an unspoken arrangement for regulars to enjoy privileged pricing, sometimes this extends out to their friends out of good will as well. Third, if you happen to be a tourist, you enjoy fairly substantial tax rebates. Finally, personalised service and a salesperson you can return to when there’s a problem with your watch makes it more comfortable to part with that kind of money. Online shopping takes all that away, I’m not convinced it would take off, these are not Daniel Wellingtons you are talking about.” – A senior retail executive who would only comment anonymously.

According to sources within Richemont, by the morning of Friday 14th July, at the last minute, a meeting at Lange & Sohne was cancelled. Additionally, a short goodbye email from Kern stating that an owner’s stake in a “big house” had been offered, was sent to a small circle of the Group’s most senior executives. Not long after, Johann Rupert, President of Richemont offered a professional, if cold, statement – “An interesting opportunity to become an entrepreneur was offered to Georges. We wish him the best.”

Business of Luxury: Georges Kern joins Breitling

Towards the end at Richemont, Kern had upset many people with project interruptions and restructuring of the Group. Long time senior employees were asked to leave as Kern attempted to shake things up. According to Trade publication Le Temps, CVC investment fund managed to attract Kern because the savvy marketer would not have liked his position as Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital, Kern was more interested in the communication side of things rather than the administration and labour management side of things.

A pallor was cast on Breitling’s future when owner Ernest Schneider passed in May 2015, with mounting pressures from the global slowdown, particularly in China and Hong Kong, the firm started considering offers of interest for acquisition of the watchmaking brand founded by Leon Breitling in 1884. In terms of high end watches, Breitling is responsible for roughly 5% of Switzerland exports, a far cry in comparison to Richemont’s portfolio (Stats from FHH show Breitling responsible for only 165,000 pieces in 2014 compared to Cartier’s 620,000 – Richemont own’s Cartier, IWC and other premier watchmaking brands) .

That said, Breitling before Kern is already on an upswing, a high performance Chronoworks with in-house Calibre 01 was launched last year to quiet fanfare but boasting high technical accomplishments – minimal lubrication thanks to the use of high tech materials have boosted power reserve by 45% along with silicium escapement assortment and UV-LIGA elastic toothing. Thus, there exists a technical and innovative platform for Kern to exploit.

In terms of history, Breitling enjoys significant provenance in the realm of chronographs, being the progenitor of the first independant chronograph pushpiece and the second return-to-zero pushpiece, an invention which made it possible to measure several successive short times. Plus it helps that though Omega has space heritage locked down tight, Astronaut Scott Carpenter wore the Cosmonaute chronograph during his orbital flight aboard the Aurora 7 space capsule, with US space ambitions curtailed under science-averse Trump, Kern can exploit and co-sponsor a European (or gasp! Chinese) space agency to great commercial value.

That said, Georges Kern will have his work cut out for him. As the adage goes, it’s easier to take a car from 100 kmh to 150 kmh than it is to go from 0 to 50 kmh, that’s not to say that Breitling is completely out of position but rather, there’s a lot to fix even if there is growth potential. According to Forbes, Breitling has not been adequately addressing a small but important segment of the market – women’s watches and more importantly, appealing to women.

Recent Breitling NYC store opening

Recent Breitling NYC store opening

Present Breitling campaigns communicate the macho male aviator with a backdrop of buxom bomber pin-up girls in hot pants and stilettos, much to the chagrin of real life women’s pilots like Patty Wagstaff, award-winning air show pilot and inductee to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, “after thinking about this ad I looked at the Breitling ladies’ watch that I wear and I found myself thinking that their retro marketing strategy somehow took away from the elegance and beauty of my watch.” A doctorate holding pilot for Delta Airlines and holder of 2014 ALPA Air Safety Award, Helena Reidemar went so far as to say that Breitling campaigns reeked of “stripper feel”.

Perhaps, judging from the recent showing at SIHH with a slew of women’s Portofinos, Georges Kern might just be the ideal candidate to kick things up a notch as a shareholder and executive at Breitling.

 

 

 

As Richemont sells Shanghai Tang, Hermes continues to back Shang Xia, Are Chinese Luxury Brands Doomed to Fail?

Back in 2013, it was reported in Wall Street Journal that Financière Richemont SA, better known as Richemont to industry insiders, decided against selling some of its struggling business units, including pen maker Montblanc, and instead will increase their investment into each of the 20 brands within their portfolio. Some, like Montblanc have become success stories with the addition of a watchmaking concern; others are still struggling to find their feet four years later and among the first to go –  Shanghai Tang.

The Richemont – Shanghai Tang’s relationship goes back close to 20 years. The Group first acquired a majority stake in 1998 before completely taking over the brand in 2008. At the time, the acquisition was considered to be strategic just when the luxury goods market started to peak in China.

A primer on Shanghai Tang

Since the early 90s, Hollywood celebrities like Demi Moore and Nicole Kidman have flirted with the Qipao or Cheongsam and perhaps, founder David Tang thought that a brand tapping into a zeitgeist of western upscale clientele would propel a brand with Chinese flourishes into critical and commercial success. Headlined by a body hugging dress of Chinoiserie design, Shanghai Tang was born in 1994, producing the iconic 1920s Shanghainese socialite uniform except that this time, it was interpreted for modern women. The formula appeared to work when in the late 90s, the era’s IT girl Kate Moss started to produce her own collaboration of Cheongsams with Topshop, coinciding with a trend of western celebrity appropriation of Chinese cultural dress.

Almost 10 years later, during a 2013 interview with Business Insider, it was reported that as the “global curator of modern Chinese aesthetics,” Shanghai Tang had managed to achieve 43% increase of global sales by 2005; fuelled by an expanded collection of not just Chinese-inspired fashion but also accessories and homewares.

Physically, Shanghai Tang operated a majority of boutiques within China (30 out of 45 stores) and at the time (2013), Asians represented 51% of the brand’s consumers with native Chinese forming the bulk while 49% went to a market of Westerners. Then, in the intervening four years, things started to go wrong…

Luxury Business Science 201: What went wrong with Shanghai Tang?

First, let’s just say that culturally, the cheongsam can be considered fairly analogous to a bespoke suit. If one were to follow the 1920s Shanghainese model, wealthy socialites would typically get measured and then fitted for a bespoke or made-to-measure qipao cheongsam. As a cultural garment, the raison d’etre of the qipao was to be as form fitting, emphasising the feminine attributes of her owner. An off-the-rack offering was possible but at those price ranges, you were could consider a bespoke version at your local and often, longtime seamstress.

Second, consider for a moment the odd cultural crossroads where you are marketing a brand to a highly nationalistic citizenry where a large number of your clientele are gwai lo 鬼佬 or lao wai 老外 and you begin to have a contradiction of cultural expectations which complicates potential brand direction.

Finally, the rise of millennials and the corresponding soft economies in which they have grown up have led to a bifurcation of expectations. On one hand, a group of millennials who do not harbour aspirations of status or pretense and the other, a group of millennials who do aspire to luxury but dollar for dollar would prefer clearly European luxury brands, as a result Shanghai Tang was placed in a confluence of increasingly tepid performance and certainly, they were not the sort of brand within the Richemont portfolio which was as easily understood like watches and jewellery (or for that matter, guns – Purdey, purses – Lancel).

For Richemont, Shanghai Tang just wasn’t a solid performer and given the different market variables, they sold the 23 year old brand to Italian fashion entrepreneur Alessandro Bastagli and private equity fund Cassia Investments Ltd.

What does this mean for foreign owned Chinese Luxury Brands? Are Chinese Luxury Brands doomed?

Richemont Group is not alone in their divestiture of a chinese luxury brand. Earlier this year, LVMH dropped luxury Chinese spirit label Wenjun. For some reason, luxury conglomerates practiced at marketing brands with a depth of history and tradition appear to be finding it problematic to market brands from China, even when they have the equivalent depth of Chinese history and culture; Case in point – The Wenjun Distillery, a premium white spirit or bai jiu 白酒 maker has a heritage going back to the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 220 AD), that’s over 2000 years of heritage. LVMH, itself a specialist in premium liquors through Moët Hennessy decided in January to drop Wenjun Distillery, having acquired a 55% stake in 2007.

What is not immediately certain is whether Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-graft measures are curbing consumption of premium liquors (traditionally a deal-making lubricant in Chinese culture) to such a degree or that China’s growing wealthy upper middle class are just not consuming luxuries at a pace that LVMH had projected (similar to the millennial issue with luxury goods).

Former British accountant and now luxury analyst, Rupert Hoogewerf began studying the Chinese market by establishing Hurun Report, a luxury research unit based in Shanghai in 1999. Over the years, Hurun Report and Hoogewerf have won numerous awards for their ground-breaking lists, among them an eye opening 2017 Best of Best (BOB) top 10 list which ranked popular luxury brands for women in China – the findings? Shanghai Tang was dead last. More tellingly, it ranked nowhere for men. As for Wenjun? It was not ranked on a list of top 10 bai jiu白酒 brands either.

In this context, Richemont and LVMH’s decision to sell the underperforming Shanghai Tang and Wenjun brands appear to be backed by strong evidence that both were not performing to expectations. But does this herald the end of the European adventure into owning Chinese luxury brands? Not yet.

How Hermès differs from Richemont: Shanghai Tang vs. Shang Xia 上下

In 2008 Hermès created Shang Xia. Unlike Shanghai Tang or Wenjun, Shang Xia is a bona-fide Chinese brand in that it is developed in China and helmed with a Chinese team (no foreigner direct  it) and based on deep Chinese cultural roots and craftsmanship, that is to say, for all intents and purposes, Shang Xia is Chinese-made, Chinese-designed and Chinese-run but with capital injections from a French company. In fact,  when Hermès CEO at the time backed renowned Chinese designer Jiang Qionger to start Shang Xia, the French maison had declared that they were not only not in a rush to breakeven but had pledged an ambitious capital infusion of US$10-15 million annually. Hell, Hermès long term objectives for the brand are baked into the name itself – Shang Xia 上下 literally means to grow up strong or Shang 上 (up) by putting roots down, ergo Xia 下 (down); and in founder/designer Jiang Qionger, Hermès found all the skillsets to incubate their revolutionary concept of fine contemporary chinese craftsmanship – her creativity extends through not just fashion but also painting, graphics, jewellery and furniture – in fact, the first Chinese designer to show her collection at a Paris furniture Salon. More tellingly, when French brands invite you to design their corporate headquarters and interiors, you know that your talents are beyond reproach. Most importantly, unlike Richemont or LVMH, Hermès is not in a hurry to “maximise shareholder value” – in essence, they’re taking their time to wait for the brand to literally take root and then branch out, organically.

“Shang Xia is a cultural investment project … [At other brands] the life of the project is five years or 10 years, at Shang Xia the dream is 100 years, 200 years.” – Jiang Qionger, Shang Xia Founder/Creative Director, speaking to Financial Times

Beyond the lofty ideals espoused by the branding, Hermès and Jiang literally took their time, seeking out genuine Chinese master artisans before they even considered their first boutique in Shanghai. In fact, in the last few years, a traditional Shanghai mansion, similar in spirit to the Hermès maison in Paris Faubourg Saint Honoré has been painstakingly rebuilt and renovated to host not only Shang Xia and Hermès but also a dedicated area focused on imparting knowledge of traditional Chinese rituals (e.g. the Pu-erh tea ceremony) and customs to visitors to the maison.

This traditional Shanghai mansion is home to Shang Xia

This traditional Shanghai mansion is home to Shang Xia

With dresses costing €4000 and this Shang Xia lacquered walnut-wood Da Tian Di rocking chair, €10,800, Shang Xia is play the long game

With dresses costing €4000 and this Shang Xia lacquered walnut-wood Da Tian Di rocking chair, €10,800, Shang Xia is playing the long game

As a brand, Shang Xia avoids the pitfalls of Chinese luxury brethren Shanghai Tang and Wunjun through sheer patience, unquestioning venture funding, an emphasis on genuine ancient Chinese crafts techniques and a carefully curated collection of limited products that are not for general sale, but auctioned through auction houses like Christie’s. While Hermès intends to break-even this year, it is too soon to say if the strategy for intentional blurring of lines between art and commerce is going to be successful, but LUXUO can say this, it is a singularly unique one, not even the most rarified of watch brands comes close. In an interview with Financial Times, Jiang states, “Shang Xia is a cultural investment project … [At other brands] the life of the project is five years or 10 years, at Shang Xia the dream is 100 years, 200 years.”

Truthfully, if Mao Zedong’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution decimated Chinese culture, tradition and history from 1966 until 1976. Shang Xia 上下  is quite possibly amongst its last defenders and preservers, even if they’re not successful commercially, Hermès is doing the world a big favour artistically and culturally – there is some great PR value in that, after all, Shang Xia is a perpetuation in that quintessential Hermès belief in craftsmanship, creativity, heritage and integrity – something which even some venerable watch brands have commoditised and automated.

Jiang Qionger, Shang Xia Founder/Creative Director

Jiang Qionger, Shang Xia Founder/Creative Director

Shang Xia mahjong table

Shang Xia mahjong table

Business of Luxury: Does Richemont’s failure with Shanghai Tang provide an allegory for Shang Xia?

Richemont’s sale of Shanghai Tang does indeed cast a pallor over the viability of Chinese luxury brands but if anything Hermès’ carefully paced expansion in China has not only kept the French maison profitable but also retained that aura of ultra-exclusivity, a lynch pin of luxury retail and branding. It would seem that Shang Xia is being incubated and nourished in the same vein as its adoptive parent.

Richemont’s ignominious venture with Shanghai Tang was also the result of a confluence of increasingly exorbitant Hong Kong rentals (closing a flagship in 2011), over expansion and perhaps also, a misreading of a growing generation of millennials. That said, with Hermès expecting breakeven from Shang Xia this year and a jarring (Hermès not only never sells online but their website is similarly vague and opaque) eCommerce platform on Tmall that runs contrary to typical Hermès strategy, it is likely that this out-of-character decision is also the result of knee-jerk impatience of shareholders of the publicly traded company and it is anyone’s guess what will happen should Shang Xia fail to break even by year’s end.

Though no figures for the Shanghai Tang sale were released by Richemont, the brand was one of four labels that were under threat of divestiture since 2013: The other brands being Dunhill, Chloe and Azzedine Alaia. After announcement of the sale, Richemont Group shares were up 0.7%.

Top 10 Luxury Firms 2016 Revealed

Deloitte’s reveals, for the third year running, the best performing companies in global luxury. Now, we usually argue against paying heed to how well luxury companies are doing, earnings wise, because this doesn’t tell you anything about the products or the experience. Also, some firms, such as Rolex, are not particularly transparent as they are not public. Anyway, for those who care, Deloitte’s annual Global Powers of Luxury Goods ranking sees the parent companies behind Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Estée Lauder retain their places at the top of the list. The AFP has the following details on it.

French-based LVMH, full name LVMH Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy SE, also owns Bulgari, Chrisitian Dior, Emilio Pucci, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Hublot, TAG Heuer, Moët Chandon, Dom Perignon and Benefit Cosmetics. Based on figures from 2014 (the most recent data available, apparently), it is also the world’s biggest luxury conglomerate.

Swiss company Richemont (Cartier, Dunhill, Lancel, Montblanc, Jaeger-LeCoutre, Piaget) comes in second, with the US’s Estée Lauder group (MAC, Clinique, Jo Malone) in third. The top three retain their places from 2015’s equivalent Global Powers of Luxury Goods report.

Italy’s Luxottica manufactures eyewear under the its own Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley brands as well as for Chanel, Armani, Versace, Prada and more, and moved up one place to fourth.

Also moving up one were Switzerland’s Swatch (Breguet, Longines, Omega) and France’s Kering (Gucci, Saint Laurent, Balenciaga), with Hong Kong jewelry group Chow Tai Fook moving from fourth to seventh.

L’Oreal Luxe (Lancôme, Biotherm, Kiehl’s), Ralph Lauren, and PVH (Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger) completed Deloitte’s top ten, which is cam out June 7.

cartier panther ad campaign

Luxury watch superstore to target Chinese in Paris

cartier panther ad campaign

Luxury Swiss retail giant Richemont, owner of such brands as Cartier, Piaget and Jaeger-LeCoultre, is to open the world’s largest shop for luxury watches in Paris.

Business Montres quoted an internal memo saying a three-storey 2,200 square metre (24,000 square foot) shop would open early 2013.

The shop would take over the premises of the landmark Old England shop near the Place Vendome, famous for its luxury watch shops and hugely popular with Middle Eastern and Asian tourists, in particular Chinese.
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Shanghai Tang Mongolian Village hong kong

Pop-Up Mongolian Village By Shanghai Tang

Shanghai Tang Mongolian Village hong kong

They may now not have a formal home but the people at Hong Kong’s Shanghai Tang brand are still making consumers sit up and take notice.

After 17 years at the Pedder Building in Central, Shanghai Tang lost the bid for the space to Abercrombie & Fitch, which will pay two and half times the previous rent.

And now Shanghai Tang takes up residence from Friday night on Hong Kong’s iconic Victoria Harbour — inside a series of Mongolia “gers” or traditional houses.
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Swiss watchmaker Rolex basel 2011

Watchmakers see strong 2011

Swiss watchmaker Rolex basel 2011

Watchmakers gave upbeat forecasts for 2011 at the industry’s largest fair on Wednesday, although the deadly earthquake which hit key luxury consuming country Japan and Arab uprisings cast shadows over the expectations.

Industry giants including Swatch and LVMH have all posted strong recoveries over 2010 and they are expecting the recovery to continue in 2011.

Swiss exhibitors underlined that January sales were up 16.9 percent over a year ago and predicted that 2011 would be a new record year for the industry.
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wondergirls chloe

China shifting to no-logo luxury

wondergirls chloe

The tastes of China’s wealthy are shifting away from designer goods with flashy logos to more understated luxury brands, the chief executive of French fashion house Chloe said Friday.

That shift has helped Chloe become one of the Swiss luxury goods company Richemont Group‘s fastest-growing labels in China, its CEO said.

“China has been very fast at picking up the most well-known brands,” Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye said in a group interview.
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Mont Blanc Time Walker TwinFly Chronograph

Mont Blanc Time Walker TwinFly Chronograph

Mont Blanc Time Walker TwinFly Chronograph

Mont Blanc starts off 2011 with a limited edition variant of their Time Walker timepiece which is set to be presented during the SIHH event.

The watch is encased in blacked-out DLC-coated stainless steel and features a Flyback Chronograph which is powered by a 36 jewel Swiss Automatic movement developed for Montblanc via Richemont’s ValFleurier.

The caliber features a twin-barrel winding system that stores enough power to animate the watch for as long as 72 hours.
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Ralph Lauren Sporting Watch

Ralph Lauren Sporting Watch

Ralph Lauren Sporting Watch

The new Ralph Lauren Sporting Watch draws its inspirations from Ralph Lauren’s antique car, the 1938 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic coupe.

The watch’s aesthetics combine the luxurious wood finish of the Bugatti with a matte black dial, all of which are reminiscent of the car’s interior.

Arabic numerals for increased legibility, arrow-shaped hour and minute hands, as well as an elm burl frame, are all among the highlights of the new product.

The Ralph Lauren Sporting watch is powered by a manual-winding mechanical movement, caliber RL98295, made by IWC, featuring a power reserve of 45 hours.

This timepiece features a sapphire crystal case back, revealing the movement’s Côtes de Genève and Perlage finish work on the plate.

The new Ralph Lauren Sporting Watch carries a price tag of $13,200. Autoevolution

Ralph Lauren Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic Coupe

Net-à-Porter opens men’s shop

Online designer store Net-à-Porter has finally confirmed the launch of a men’s division: Mr Porter will open in January, but you can already register online.

The site will launch for the S/S 2011 season, with an edited line-up which includes global designer labels and niche brands, as well as editorial and style advice.

Mr. Porter will feature brands such as Burberry, Ralph Lauren, YSL, Gucci, Margiela, Balmain, Margaret Howell, Rick Owens, John Lobband and Dunhill.
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Luxury brand diversification does have limits

There are limits to how far a luxury company can diversify its operations without diluting its brand or confusing consumers, experts said this week.

A jeweler might successfully launch a perfume but a handbag maker might not and it is easier for a jeweler to look credible producing watches than it is venturing into making handbags, they said.
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Richemont Buys Net-a-Porter

Global luxury giant Richemont said on Thursday it was buying up a pioneering 10-year-old web-based women’s fashion retailer, Net-a-Porter, founded by a former editor and valued at 350 million pounds.

The Swiss group already owns one third of the business, which was created by former fashion journalist Natalie Massenet and employs 600 staff in London and New York.

The deal will turn the website into one of the luxury goods company’s hallmark “maisons,” alongside standalone brands such as Cartier, Dunhill, IWC, Piaget and Van Cleef & Arpels.

Massenet will remain as chief executive and will invest in a Richemont unit being created to own the online business, the Swiss group said in a statement.
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China’s luxury market can be tough to crack

China may become the world’s biggest luxury market in some years but cultural challenges to win customers’ hearts for certain types of products remain, industry executives said this week.

Champagne house Taittinger said it could make high-end sparkling wine in China but the market was not ready for it yet…

… while Lamborghini said the country’s tradition of luxury chauffeurs, bigger than sports driving, made expansion there a challenge.
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