Chief Executive Officer
Longtime Concord executive Philippe Dubois late last year made the move from the publicly traded unit of the Movado Group to lead Badollet as its Chief Executive Officer. He took over the privately held company as it tried to re-launch a brand with a history dating back to 1655 in the middle of one of the most treacherous periods for the watch industry in Switzerland. Recently he took a break at his office in Geneva to catch up with Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief, Douglas Gollan, and provide an update.
ET: What was the situation when you joined last year?
Philippe Dubois: He [the private owner] was very close to giving up. He had invested for two years and the day he was ready, the market just collapsed and didn’t want to buy any tourbillon watches. So we had to think long term and figure out how to survive.
The strategy at the beginning was to go direct to the end consumer. This is difficult unless you know the people. You need the retailer to recommend the watch, especially considering our watch is an investment of a minimum of 240,000 Swiss francs.
ET: How is business currently?
Philippe Dubois: We have had a few sales. Right now there are less than 10 pieces sold, but we get feedback about how our customers like this exclusivity and consider this a very strong point that they are in such a small group. What is nice is that we can deliver within 24 hours, which is quite amazing. Two years ago if you wanted a tourbillon you had to wait six months. We have a watchmaker right here, and we can customize our watch based on what the customer wants.
ET: What attracted you to Badollet?
Philippe Dubois: For Concord in Asia I launched the C1 Tourbillon, with a tourbillon made by BNB, which is the same supplier as Badollet, so I knew about it and I knew I could sell it. So to a degree it was the same kind of product, price range and movement maker. The difference of course is a year ago demand was so high that any brand could come and sell.
Today the market is normal. I’ve been in the watch business for over 20 years, and really it was the last five years that were not normal. Traditionally the watch business has been a fight to sell every piece. So I was not expecting people to come and ask to buy a Badollet.
So we are trying every way possible to get sales—internet, retailers, directly with consumers. With retailers, I can say that I know right now they’re not willing to invest in something new when they have so much inventory, but if they have a particular customer and they don’t have anything that customer is going to buy, they can call me and within 24 hours we can deliver. When they have somebody interested, they can put a Badollet on their wrist, and we all know the super high consumer really wants what they want right away. Service is the most important thing to this segment.
So I knew there was a good match for me with Badollet, and while I was at Concord, one of my customers introduced me to the owner.
I told him the kind of challenge I was looking for, and then after we talked and I saw ads and the website, I finally called and said I wanted to see the watch. When I put it on I was sold, and I asked him to come aboard. I started December 1st.
ET: Why did your owner decide to re-launch Badollet?
Philippe Dubois: He is a watch collector, and he appreciates watches. But like all connoisseurs he wants things that are special and a bit different. So with one well known watchmaker, he asked for something a bit different and was told no. It wasn’t that they couldn’t do it, but it was they didn’t want to bother with it. So he saw a possibility to do amazing watches that allowed the customer to customize the watch for his or her preferences, and it wouldn’t be an ordeal, it would be a pleasure. We know when a potential customer says, ‘I like the watch, but’ and he wants to know what we will be able to sell him, and if we can do what he wants.
ET: So what’s next?
Philippe Dubois: We have discussed the future of the brand. The next year in terms of production will be the tourbillon. There are still enough people who are looking for this, and this will be the main focus the next two to three years. Today our entry point is 240,000 Swiss francs, so we have the opportunity to go more expensive or less expensive. For example, a tourbillon minute repeater with a chronograph goes for 500,000 Swiss francs. We are also receiving requests to have diamonds set on watches and we can set up to 370 diamonds on the case, which could be 300,000 to 500,000 Swiss francs.
On the other side, we will start to think about a new collection with a new movement, and this could be either 50,000 to 100,000 Swiss francs or 100,000 to 2000,000 Swiss francs, and this is something we are working to define. We need a basic movement that we will use for the next 5 to 10 years.
ET: Tell us a bit about the history of Badollet and what the attraction was.
Philippe Dubois: We can trace our history of watchmaking back to 1655 and Jacques Badollet. A member of the Badollet family was producing watches from that point on for seven generations to 1924. Also, there are many historic references to Badollet, and in fact in the book about Breguet, there are references to watchmaker Badollet. The company has actually acquired 40 historic Badollet watches and they are exquisite.
ET: When you’re not working, do you have hobbies?
Philippe Dubois: Both my wife and I are avid golfers. We are fortunate that here in the Geneva region there are some excellent courses such as Cologny, Domaine Imperial and also the Lausanne Golf Club.