Very few customers, if any at all, know that the Swatch Group manufactures and markets an awe-inspiring range of watches under some very prominent worldwide brands. At the top end, these brands include Breguet and Blancpain. In the luxury segment,the Swatch brands are Omega, Longines and Rado. Somewhere at the bottom are Tissot and Certina and in the mass market, the brand is Swatch. Not to miss out on jewellery watches — which the Swatch Group did not have till recently — Hayek has just bought over Tiffany & Co. Tiffany has been a cult jewellery brand and we are sure to see new product launches soon.
Most brand managers everywhere in the world know why the Swatch Group has so many brands. The obvious answer is that to be the world leader you need to be present in every segment of the market. What is not obvious is the reason why Hayek is not so visibly associated with any brands other than Swatch. Hayek is the most visible face of Swatch and, of course, its unofficial brand ambassador. However, he has refrained from being associated with any other brand.
The Longines brand positioning is entirely based on “elegance”. Not surprisingly, its worldwide brand ambassador is Aishwarya Rai. How would you like to see Aishwarya sporting a Tag Heuer, for example? Consistency of brand platform over a period of time holds the key to creating a strong brand. Sadly, for many brands in India, the brand positioning undergoes a change every time there is a new marketing manager or worse, a new advertising agency!
This writer asked Hayek if he would like to someday buy out the only two large independent watch brands in the world — Patek Philippe and Rolex. After some serious contemplation, Hayek finally said, “I do not need Patek Philippe (probably suggesting that Breguet could some day take Patek’s place). Then with the enthusiasm of a child he asked, “Do you think Rolex will ever be available for sale?” “If it ever gets freed up, I am certainly interested in the brand.”
The philosophy of several brands under a single umbrella ownership is not new from the Swatch Group. Two other worldwide groups, Richemont (Cartier, Dunhill, Mont Blanc) and LVMH (Tag Heuer), also have several powerful watch brands under their belt.
Many independent watch brands around the world during the last 20 years have been consolidated. The future will tell whether independent watch brands could really make a mark, or for that matter, survive at all!