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Leaders / Watches

Interview: Tissot CEO Sylvain Dolla

A veteran of the Swiss watchmaking trade, Tissot CEO Sylvain Dolla explains the PRX, the effects of pandemic and his vision for the brand.

Dec 21, 2021 | By Ashok Soman
Sylvain Dolla, CEO Tissot
Image: Tissot

Tell us about your start in the watch trade, and why you have stayed so long. You are in good company at Swatch Group of course!

I entered Swatch in 2004 and worked on the development of the Swatch Paparazzi watch at the time. This experience was the first of many and made me realise that I was in the industry that suited me the best. On a more personal note, I was and still am what we can call a real watch aficionado, which definitely helped me to stay for nearly two decades in the watch business!

Regarding the Swatch Group and more especially Tissot, there is for sure a real treasure in terms of history and innovation. We can use all these historical riches to come back with strong commercial products for the future. So, as you said, I am in good company! Despite challenges along the road, the past was great; let the future be even better.

On that note, tell us about the advantage of having the resources of the entire group available?

Obviously, being part of a large group like the Swatch Group makes us strong because we can benefit from the many strengths we have in-house. Being appreciated by so many people around the world enables us to leverage economies of scale, which ultimately allow us to invest where it matters the most. In addition, we have been at the forefront of automation. This gave us a competitive advantage over many other players, which returned further optimisation of investment. That is, in a nutshell, the secret to being able to set unbeatable prices for the top Swiss-engineered timepieces you can find at Tissot.

Quartz and automatic watches are no doubt important to Tissot, but what about the ever-present question of the Smartwatch. How is the T-Touch doing?

Tissot is known as the leading Swiss watch brand in terms of volume, and we (make everything) from pocket watches, quartz and mechanical wristwatches to connected models. Moving to the connected segment was something we wanted to do, but we wanted to do it the right way. The T-Touch Connect Solar is first and foremost a fine Swiss Made watch to which some useful connected functions have been added such as notifications. What makes our product different from regular smartwatches is that the T-Touch Connect Solar is not a commodity with a short product life, but a fine timepiece which will last.

Recently, we have received a lot of positive feedback from our customers about the T-Touch Connect Solar. Features like touch-screen technology, solar power and (an) intelligent Internet connection make it a Swiss-made masterpiece, surprising and delighting people around the world. The T-Touch proves the infinite potential of technology. As a hybrid Swiss watch that combines a traditional timepiece with connected functionalities, the T-Touch Connect Solar embodies the leading and best resources of the Swatch Group.

Given that the Tissot business is about volume, how important are collectors? You mentioned a new museum in the works in an interview with WatchTime so I’d like to follow up on that.

Tissot, as one of the brands with the richest history in the watch industry, is obviously associated with emotional values. Our timepieces are frequently bought to celebrate special events and achievements. These watches will forever remind the owner of a key moment in their life. In this regard, everyone can enjoy the status of being a collector. In all cases, Tissot would definitely like to develop and maintain a relationship with collectors, as they are real enthusiasts and watch lovers. At the end of the day, we share the same passion.

Regarding the museum, the project is on its way to being completed. The museum will be established in the vicinity of Tissot Headquarters in Le Locle, Switzerland and its purpose is to present the history of Tissot over the years. Tissot has gone through many different eras and challenges during its 168 years of existence. The evolution of our movements, designs, distribution or marketing channels, among others, is unquestionably worth the look. We have 2km of archives of Tissot’s past (if you arrange all the items in a straight line). Furthermore, we kept nearly 8,000 watches, dating from 1853 to today. This is our history and it is just waiting to be re-explored.

The new PRX, both automatic and quartz, have become runaway successes for Tissot. What does this mean for the brand, moving forward?

Tissot PRX Powermatic 80
Image: Tissot

Indeed, the PRX was well received by our customers! The PRX brought something new and refreshing to Tissot branding while preserving the allure and characteristics of the original model. It allowed us to regain the appreciation from a younger target without losing the trust of our existing consumers.

I think 2020 showed us that our perspectives about the future could change drastically in a matter of days or weeks. On the other hand, the past year also taught us that we could confront the challenges with intelligence, perseverance, and innovation. It does not mean the brand’s DNA will change, but Tissot will perpetuate its innovation strategy and reinforce the digitalisation of the brand with major projects on e-commerce, CRM and digital marketing.

Should we expect to see more complications here?

I will not disclose too much about our future projects, but rest assured that we will continue to innovate and surprise the watch world, as it is a tradition for the company. Our true aspiration will always be to serve our customers in the best possible way, meeting their needs and desires, but also continuing to be part of their own history.

In this specific issue of WOW, we are asking brands about their commitments to sustainability and transparency. What’s Tissot’s position, bearing in mind Swatch Group’s stated position on this?

Tissot and the Swatch Group share the same concern for the protection of life, quality of life, safety and health, and the protection of our environment. We work every day to reduce our ecological impact. When it comes to products, we look at the whole environment: from sourcing of materials to the creation of marketing items. One concrete action we put in place is the creation of new displays made of recycled material and available in our stores already next year. We will soon put online a page on our website that will regularly be updated with our latest initiatives and results of our commitments.

How is Tissot navigating the new normal of an emerging post- COVID world, and all the business uncertainties involved?

Indeed, this new normal was accompanied by various changes in the processes and working conditions. At the time the pandemic was starting, I took the position of CEO within the company.

We needed to adapt ourselves. The idea was and still is not only to face a crisis, but above all to continue to satisfy the customer as best as possible. While we all wish we had never experienced this crisis, it is important to learn from it and then remain optimistic. That is the mindset we have and we would suggest everybody keep it.

There is no doubt the pandemic had an impact on the watch industry globally, but that has not derailed Tissot. Even if 2020 has not been a record year, the fundamentals for the brand are strong and 2021 is already a good year. For example, in countries such as the US, we expect Tissot to even reach a record year.

We have already seen an increase in our sales, which is a positive indicator for the results of this year. At Tissot, we have been one of the first brands in the industry to invest in our e-commerce platforms, six years ago. This pandemic has just boosted our e-commerce platforms. We saw some great sales in countries such as China, but also in some countries in Europe. In the end, this period of uncertainty forced us to become even more flexible and helped us to adapt our ways for our employees as well, by improving the global digitalization for example.

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