Tissot CEO Sylvain Dolla Wants To Make Watches For Everyone
Tissot CEO Sylvain Dolla explains why the fame of the PRX collection is an extension of a long tradition, and how that history is defined by continuous innovation.
We last talked about your long history in Swatch Group, and you mentioned that you found the industry was the right one for you. What keeps you coming back for more?
Of course, I am a real watch enthusiast and that is probably one of the strongest factors. Moreover, Tissot is a very strong brand in the watch industry and has been ever since its foundation in 1853 so it’s an honour for me to be at the head of it, to be part of its history, so that definitely helps too!
Tissot has been a major force in watchmaking for more than 150 years. How do you keep the brand fresh yet still true to its roots? And to make the future even better, as you told us last time?
Tissot stands by its motto “Innovators by Tradition”, which is rooted in the brand throughout its history. This is still the case today, as we stay true to these roots, which leads us to offer watches, features and communication that are in touch with our times and that appeal to new audiences, while remaining faithful to our brand identity.
A good example of this is the latest PRX Collection and its campaigns. Like the product, the campaigns take inspiration from the past yet have a modern appeal with an edgy and flamboyant twist; we are using a full 360° activation to roll them out.
On a more general scale, we also continue our innovation strategy and reinforcing digitalisation with major projects on e-commerce, CRM, digital activation of warranties, connected watches development, just to name a few key projects. Our digital departments are still expanding to meet demand and adapt, as best and as quickly as possible, to the needs of the market.
- READ MORE: Interview: Tissot CEO Sylvain Dolla
With regards to the popularity of the PRX again, and some other models from a variety of brands, it seems watchmaking is not able to keep pace with demand. Is this related to disruptions over the last two years or is demand really outpacing supply? What can be done about this to avoid frustrating customers and alienating younger buyers who are only now discovering the value of timepieces?
When we launched the PRX Collection, we knew it was going to be a success. For me it was an obvious choice. That said, we underestimated just how much demand it would generate, as our forecasts were massively exceeded. We are selling 20 times more units than we originally planned, which was a very positive surprise. Forecasting is not always an easy exercise but the fact that there is demand and sometimes even the wait, adds value to the pieces and renders them even more appealing to the consumer.
We realise that “value” is a loaded word when discussing watches these days, so let us clarify that we mean the intrinsic and perceived value, not the potential for appreciation or captial protection! What is your perspective on the speculative wave that has descended on watchmaking?
We are one of the very few brands that can offer such quality at that price thanks to the volume we produce. We pay a lot of attention to the details of the product to add perceived value. It is not about adding gold or precious stones but about working on the details of the watch and pushing the boundaries with suppliers so that every element, such as the indices, brushed dials etc. can turn out the way you wanted them to and increase the perceived value of the end product.
- READ MORE: The Tissot PRX Chronograph: Precision Timing
Returning to the PRX in general, this collection continues to be one of the most exciting offerings in watchmaking overall. What’s next — another complication like an annual calendar, a GMT, or maybe something entirely different, such as the half-gold model?
The PRX is definitely here to stay. Following the success of the first quartz version, we expanded the collection with automatic models, featuring a Powermatic 80 movement and a chronograph version with a Valjoux movement for our connoisseurs looking for a quality timepiece (reflective of the brand’s history). We have now also just launched the 35mm model that takes the watch one step closer to the original model with the same case size. We have been listening to our consumers and have been responding to their requests. I wouldn’t want to give it all away but what I can say is that we do indeed have some other surprises in the pipeline to come for the PRX Collection so keep an eye out!
Offering exceptional products at accessible prices is part of the Tissot’s identity. Volume and economies of scale are what allow us to do so, and to create and offer products such as the PRX Chronograph or a Telemeter 1938 with a Valjoux movement, for example, for less than CHF2,000.
It is also a way to attract and reach a younger audience, who do not have unlimited budgets but who want to be able to afford a fine Swiss watch. The PRX Collection is, as you say, a perfect example of this.
To build on the above question, the PRX collection seems to have tapped onto what people really want in a watch, and watchmaking brands have always reserved the most fun and exciting creations for the highest prices. What’s Tissot’s position?
We will not change our price positioning. We will always strive to create watches for everyone, which is why our core price ranges between CHF300 and CHF1,000. We want to be able to offer watches that can suit any need with various complications and features, but always paying attention to the fine detail to increase the perceived value. Tissot is the door to the luxury-entry price point.
I think that’s what makes for success; it is the attention to detail. For the PRX, we really worked on every element of the watch in order to achieve the results we did with an extremely qualitative watch that could speak to everyone, whether with a high or more moderate income. The attention to detail is what makes the difference. We also did everything to make it not only look good but feel good on the wrist. This was essential for us.
- READ MORE: Best in Class: Tissot PRX Chronograph
While we have been reporting on the strong health of the watch business, this seems to be true only in the segment above CHF3,000 (export price as defined by the FH). You have noted that Tissot is defying this. How has the brand accomplished this?
The ability of a company to adapt is the key to success. Even if these last years have not been record years, the fundamentals for the brand are strong and now we can only be better following the pandemic. Despite the hard times, we experienced an increase in our sales and have gained market share. In the end, this period of uncertainty forced us to become even more flexible to continue to satisfy our customers as best as possible, as we always have done.
We will finish with a follow-up on the museum, which we are very excited about! Is it completed yet, and when will we receive more news about it to share with our readers?
We are making progress, but good things take time. As I told you in our last interview, we have a huge amount of archives. First and foremost, we need to sort them out by categorising them all properly. We will then be in a position to choose and set up a museum but it all requires a lot of work and resources. We will keep you posted however, on the progress.
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