Bucherer is well know in its home country of Switzerland and is a top seller of leading watch brands from Rolex to Audemars Piguet.
In 2001 it expanded its own namesake brand beyond its own stores and today Carl F. Bucherer has spread its wings worldwide. Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief, Douglas Gollan, recently visited hard charging CEO Sascha Moeri at the watchmaker’s Lucerne headquarters to look back on the company’s first 125 years and talk about its rosy future.
ET: Can you give us some background on the company?
Sascha Moeri: The roots of Carl F. Bucherer dates back to 1888, where an ambitious young man, a pioneer, opened up his first retail shop in Lucerne, selling watches and jewelry. He was so successful that he decided to start his own watch company, Bucherer Watches. They did well through the 20th century but were only sold in Bucherer stores. In 2001 the third generation owner of Bucherer decided to go international, changing the name of the brand from Bucherer to Carl F. Bucherer to honor his grandfather. It’s a brand with a huge tradition and history though it is quite new from an international market standpoint.
ET: What are the keys to success?
Sascha Moeri: The pillars of our success begin with family business. We are not on the stock exchange, we are very long-term oriented, we are now talking about how the company will look in 10-15 years, and this way of doing business is both very interesting and responsible for our success over the past three years.
ET: How’s business?
Sascha Moeri: We had our best year ever in 2011 and 2012 looks even better – we are very happy with the development. In 2013 we will sell 20,000 pieces, up from 5,000 pieces sold in 2009, so it’s very different, and since we now have our own retail network and six affiliates in Japan, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taiwan, the United States and Germany it is easier for us to measure these figures accurately.
ET: How would you describe Carl F. Bucherer’s position in the watch market?
Sascha Moeri: We are a luxury, high-end, premium watch brand. Our main price segment is between $5,000 and $20,000, though there is no limit. Just this week we sold a special edition for about $250,000, so there really are no limits.
ET: What is the brand’s customer division between men and women?
Sascha Moeri: It depends on quantity and volume. With sale quantity it’s about 60%-40% [men vs. women], while in production volume the numbers are more like 70%-30%. Men’s watches are mostly complications, featuring our in-house movement and peripheral rotor, but we are working on our first tourbillon ever, which we will launch at Basel. It will be limited to 125 pieces and pays tribute to Carl F. Bucherer who started the brand 125 years ago. There is also another 125-piece limited edition, a ladies’ watch, the Alacria Royal Rose, with beautiful design and stone setting. I think it represents another pillar of success as well, for 125 years we have been working with stones and precious materials so we really know how to use these natural materials.
The next pillar is our movement manufacturing. We have roughly 80 people working in our production department and in the last three years we have made huge developments in our R&D department that develops the in-house movements in St. Croix and Biel. The facilities have changed completely in the past five years. We have streamlined our production with new machines and new staff; the whole workforce is completely different. Finally, the last pillar is the product. Our products are beautiful. We have stunning women’s and men’s watches. For example, last year we won the award for the best chronograph of 2012. We competed with all brands in the world and our Manero ChronoPerpetual, a beautiful annual and perpetual calendar piece won the award. We do not compromise.
ET: What is your background and how did you end up here, as the CEO of Carl F. Bucherer?
Sascha Moeri: I was born and raised in Bienne, the heart of watchmaking—Rolex has 50% of their facilities based there—so many of my family and friends are linked to the watch industry. I studied marketing and economics, I got my executive MBA at SUNY Albany, and I began working with the Swatch group in the early 90s. It was an amazing time, I had the privilege of working with Mr. Nicolas Hayek, and although I was only a junior it was an inspirational time. Many of the leaders from that time are still my friends today. I really benefited from the innovation and dynamics of that group, I learned so many things. After that I was with Milus for eight years, I started from scratch to help rebuild the brand until I joined CFB in 2010
ET: Mr. Hayek was a legend in the watch industry, is there anything specific you learned from your time at Swatch Group?
Sascha Moeri: The most important thing he did was give me a direction, because I was so young. At the Swatch Headquarters there was a shop with Swatch branded shirts, shoes—you name it, they had it—designed specifically for employees. I left the shop one day and Mr. Hayek was standing out front. I was so young and all of sudden here was this really incredible man so I tried to hide but he saw me. I said “Hello Mr. Hayek” and he asked me who I was. I told him my name and what division I worked in and he replied “Oh yes I know you. You’re working on the special project for credit control management. You’re doing a great job”. I talked with him for almost ten minutes and I was so touched. He had so many things to do yet he was aware of what I was doing, knew everything about our department. He was so positive and full of energy and that was when I knew that someday I would like to become the CEO of a watch company. This discussion woke a dream inside me. He knew everything, all the figures and all the results from all his companies. He was very good at both math and marketing, which is very rare. He was the whole package.
It’s a privilege for me to work in this industry but most importantly I try to embrace the values of honesty and the art of fine Swiss watch making. It makes me even more happy and proud to do this for Mr. Bucherer because, I have to say, before I got the job there were 12 applicants who really wanted the job. We went through assessments and tests and at the time I was not sure I wanted the job because I was so happy where I was. From there we went down to six, and from there to three, and then I met Mr. Bucherer for the first time and that’s when I knew I wanted the job. He is all about style and extremely smart. He is 77 and still active—always in his office on the fifth floor—and I really appreciate the day-to-day interaction with him. He is a real entrepreneur so if you have new projects and ideas you can present them and it’s either a yes or a no. There are no political games, it’s straightforward and, as I mentioned, it’s always long-term oriented.
ET: Where would you like to see Carl F. Bucherer 10-15 years from now?
Sascha Moeri: I would love to see Carl F. Bucherer expand its brand presence in the industry. For years we were only sold in our own stores so the industry didn’t hear as much about us as they should have. We should reach $100 million in the years to come, which we feel is exactly where the brand belongs.
ET: Do you ever consider acquiring or starting other brands?
Sascha Moeri: I cannot talk about acquisition but what I can tell you is that I started a second brand, B SWISS, which complements Carl F. Bucherer as it covers the low end price segment. Carl F. Bucherer is the prestige brand while B SWISS runs from $100 to $1200. In the first year I sold 25,000 pieces in Bucherer stores only. Now we are expanding throughout the rest of our stores. We are taking it step-by-step, growing steadily and always modestly, not just going crazy.
ET: You were talking about your Private Customer Royalty, the $250,000 limited edition. You also travel a lot and meet many customers. What is it about Carl F. Bucherer that attracts the customer to its products?
Sascha Moeri: If you tell them how it’s made, that it’s real craftsmanship, not just machines producing something, then the sale is easy. It is also the story behind the brand and the tours we offer. They begin in our manufacturing facility in Biel and end in our Lucerne shop where the products are sold so our customers can see their watches move from A to Z—the whole value chain—from the movements, to the assembly and, finally, the sale. When the customer sees how we make our products they are almost always thrilled.
ET: Where do you see growth markets for Carl F. Bucherer?
Sascha Moeri: We are in a very lucky position because we have many markets left to explore. We are very strong in Europe because we have our own distribution network. We are always very strong in Asia as we started in China very early. I see a lot of potential for us in the middle east, India, and, of course, South America. Brazil is booming but we are just entering that region so there’s still plenty left to do.
ET: When you aren’t working, what do you like to do with your free time?
Sascha Moeri: I never feel like I’m working. This weekend I was at Davos for the World Economic Forum and everyone was preparing for meetings. It was actual work but it didn’t feel like it because it is a privilege to do what I’m doing. It’s about passion, I just like to do it. I talked to somebody from our HR department and they said “Sascha, you have so many holiday days left to take” but I don’t care because for me this is really fun. There are stressful times, but it’s always amazing. But if I am free, I love to spend time with my family and friends—that’s the most important—and I enjoy skiing and snowboarding. I am also getting into cigars. I am a member of the Grand Havana Room in New York and Los Angeles and it is a hobby that I really enjoy.
ET: What are some of your favorite hotels from your travels?
Sascha Moeri: It depends whether you’re traveling for holiday or business. For holidays, the Chedi Muscat is nice, very relaxing and enjoyable. For business I like the Shangri-La chain because they are very customer-oriented, especially in Hong Kong. But there are so many great chains and hotels. My favorite in New York City is the Peninsula.
ET: Any closing thoughts?
Sascha Moeri: This year will be amazing for Carl F. Bucherer. First of all it’s our 125th anniversary and we are also introducing three completely new products that have never been sold in the history of Carl F. Bucherer: the tourbillon, the first women’s concept watch, and the first Manero watch featuring our in-house movement. We will launch some in Basel and some in September but we have never done a big event in the U.S. and I would like to do that.