Brand Manager—The Americas
A. Lange & Söhne
In the early 1800s, when Ferdinand Adolph Lange founded the company that would become A. Lange & Söhne, he not only created one of the finest timepiece manufactures, he established the precision watch-making industry in Germany. Today’s A. Lange & Söhne is a division of Richemont, and led in the Americas by Swiss-born Marcia Mazzocchi. Elite Traveler’s Editorial Director Laura Hughes met with Mazzocchi in the magazine’s New York headquarters, just six weeks after A. Lange & Söhne’s most important timepieces of the year were revealed during the SIHH watch fair in Geneva. During the course of the conversation, Mazzocchi discussed the rise of the exclusive brand in the United States, how the business is weathering the current recession, and why watch designs from the archives look just right for the times we live in now.
ET: How did your career in fine watch-making begin, and what have the highlights been so far?
Marcia Mazzocchi: I really have consistency in this industry, and have been loyal to the companies I work for. One highlight was in 1984 when I came to the United States. It was a huge challenge, because I was working for a company that produced really thick watches, and the trend then was ultra-thin. The company was Heuer. But I did Formula 1 sponsorships, really learned the market including the retailers, and not only retailers but even businesses like hospitals since Heuer made timing devices. After Heuer, I set up distribution for several watch companies, and opened a retail store in Beverly Hills. Then I joined IWC, which was a real challenge. Its distribution then was non-existent. So I built it in the U.S. from scratch. It was a challenge because the timepieces then were very German. Its Da Vinci line was all over the place. They didn’t really make sense in the U.S. but IWC had great distribution throughout the rest of the world. That was the mid-1990s. Now it has been with Richemont for ten years. Jaeger-Lecoultre, IWC and A. Lange & Söhne were sold to Richemont together, and I stayed on with IWC. Then A. Lange & Söhne approached me. They had just two retailers in the U.S. then, and worked with them from Germany. Now, I have been with A. Lange & Söhne for more than seven years.
ET: What is the niche that A. Lange & Söhne occupies in the crowded world of luxury watches today?
Marcia Mazzocchi: It is German high watch-making, and represents quality and limited production. It has an incredible story of how the company started, how it ceased to exist, and then re-started. The international concepts from headquarters apply here, but I have to adapt them for the U.S. market. Experience, knowing retailers, and marketing have built this brand with what is still a very exclusive distribution. The secret to its success is building good relations with retailers, not thinking short term, but rather focusing on the importance of the brand for the long term.
ET: How do you describe the person who buys an A. Lange & Söhne?
Marcia Mazzocchi: It’s the connoisseur, the person who really knows watches, who already has several fine watches. The client used to be older but now it also appeals to the 35-year-old age group. A. Lange & Söhne is understated, and it’s not on everyone’s wrist today. The person wearing one will be a businessman, a successful entrepreneur, an ex fund manager! There are a few ladies watches, but that’s not a big part of the business.
ET: Which models are you most excited about for 2009?
Marcia Mazzocchi: The Richard Lange Pour le Merite was the spotlight in Geneva this year. And it was well-received. We will make 50 in platinum and 250 in rose gold. The limited editions always do well for us. The Richard Lange has a three-part enamel dial and a fusee-and-chain transmission. It is the third watch for us with the chain mechanism. It will do very nicely, and in fact we already pre-sold some. Even in this dreadful economy, it’s a good sign that people said they not only want it but they put a deposit on it.
The other model is the revived 1815, named for the founder’s birth year. This was the fifth watch to launch after the company was re-started, and it debuted in 1995. It’s a three-hand, very clean, understated timepiece. Then it was 37 mm, and we removed it from the collection in 2006. This relaunch is 40 mm, with a new movement. Now it is available in four metals: white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, plus platinum. It is very important for the U.S., and sells for under $20,000. That really fits the time we are in now. It is classical, not a fashion statement, has a lot of longevity, and fits the atmosphere here. At the SIHH fair in Geneva in January, my retailers were happy to see it back!
ET: Speaking of signs of the times, what is the role of luxury in the market today?
Marcia Mazzocchi: The meaning of luxury has changed, but fine brands will get through this. Luxury brands took advantage of trends to fit into the moment. Now, customers are changing the sense of luxury and asking if they really need this. A. Lange & Söhne represents tradition, consistency, something that holds its value for the long term, and is not influenced by trends. With so many recent sales in the marketplace, the end customer was taking advantage. But now how can retailers go back on pricing? Those discounts changed the perception of value with the customer. I feel it is happening out there.
ET: What is your strategy for seeing A. Lange & Söhne through this recession?
Marcia Mazzocchi: I will be there for the retailer and help out. A lot of retailers will “wait it out.” That is fine, but then I need to be proactive still, and do part of the retailers’ job. I’ll do even more with CRM, planting seeds, and keeping customers informed. Maybe they won’t buy a watch now, but in six months they will. It is important to know your end customer. I work with 25 retailers in the U.S., and a total of 34 throughout the Americas.
ET: What are the luxuries in your own life?
Marcia Mazzocchi: Now, I’m just working hard, and can’t indulge too much into luxuries now. But a beautiful vacation with friends, a nice meal with a glass of wine, those memories are my luxury now. It really is about moments with people. Before, maybe we were fast, we didn’t think as much about what we did. Now look at our values—friends, family. I may call them two or three times a day (I have a brother in Australia, a sister in Canada, and parent and other family in Switzerland, where I grew up.)
ET: What is the trip you look forward to most?
Marcia Mazzocchi: I really relax when I get home to Malibu. My house is surrounded by countryside, and with my dog we go hiking in nature.