Chanel charts an expansionist course in the Gulf
Paris-based haute couturier Chanel and renowned horologer Audemars Piguet have joined hands to create a new range of luxury watches for men: the J12 Calibre 3125, which will be presented at the forthcoming Baselworld 2008 – an international watch show to be held in the Swiss city of Basel from April 3 to 10. The J12 Calibre 3125, made of 18 carat yellow gold and black ceramic, marks Chanel’s foray into a newer niche market designed to appeal to men, thereby making the brand attractive to both genders. Here is an interview with Philippe Mougenot, President of Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery, after the formal launch of the new timepiece in Paris.
Could you briefly walk us through the emerging partnership between the House of Chanel and Audemars Piguet and the joint creation – the J12 watch?
—In 2006, a year after the launch of the limited-edition J12 Tourbillon, the House of Chanel was scouting for a revolutionary, high-quality, haute horologerie movement compatible with our brand for the new J12. Our pursuit led us to Audemars Piguet with whom we share a common bond in terms of shared values, brand positioning and philosophy. Both are independent and family-owned companies with a long tradition of superb mastery of watchmaking skills and craftsmanship.
Could you describe the evolution of the J12 generic collection at the heart of Chanel’s contemporary new watch collection?
—The J12 Calibre 3125 is part of Chanel’s Exclusive Edition. This category includes sophisticated, jewelled watches or couture horologerie watches. It is a very niche segment and has an appeal among a very select band of watch aficionados.
The Chanel J12 Calibre 3125 watch has characteristics and features that have exclusive appeal for men. What are its unique selling points?
—The Chanel DNA, so to speak, is clearly evident in the new watch. We have been careful to include the brand code in this model and it is reflected in the colour scheme in black ceramic and yellow gold. Also, we do not have anything we deem unnecessary in the watch.
There appears to be a change in the centre of gravity for Chanel, which is more renowned for its jewelled watches and its gender orientation towards women. With the new watch the brand has been placed squarely among men’s watches. Why has Chanel migrated into this sector?
—I do not believe Chanel has migrated from its core values. We have embellished our watches and added new features, but our core values have remained the same. Every watch we produce bears the Chanel imprint. The additional features we have introduced are designed to appeal to a wider audience and a segment that possibly required our attention.
What precisely is the role of Audemars Piguet in the manufacture of this new watch?
—Audemars Piguet has supplied the movement for the watch. The decision to partner with them was made after reviewing several factors and being convinced it was the best for our requirements and values.
How would you describe the professional equation between Chanel and Audemars Piguet and what will be the extent of this partnership in the future?
—The partnership between Chanel and Audemars Piguet is strong and one we hope to blossom in the future. Clearly, this is not a one-off project and we will jointly explore new ventures in the near future. However, I am not prepared to comment on the future endeavours of our partnership at this point.
What is the Middle East perspective from the House of Chanel in terms of sales, marketing and growth potential?
—The Middle East has always been a vital market for the Chanel brand and this sentiment will continue in the future. There is a strong interest in the Middle East and specifically in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE, all key markets for the brand.
What is Chanel’s wider strategy for promoting its jewellery and watches in the region? Do you plan to set up more exclusive boutiques here?
—We have two types of boutiques around the world – fashion and watch. The distinction helps, given the nature of our range of products. Yes, we are contemplating opening additional outlets in the Middle East. After opening a boutique in Dubai’s Wafi Mall two years ago, we have plans to expand into Bahrain and other Gulf states. As a rule, we are not in a rush to set up boutiques. We consider several parameters, important among them being location. We will decide on locations after careful deliberations.
Could you profile Chanel’s buyers in the Middle East?
—The profile would not only vary from region to region but also within a region. But one thing is for sure – our customers have a ‘love’ relationship with the brand. They are all very fond of the brand and know a lot about our products and Madame Coco Chanel, the founder of the company.
President, Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery
Philippe Mougenot took over as the president of Chanel Watches & Fine Jewellery in 2003. Chanel started its horology division in 1987 and its jewellery division in 1993. Mougenot inherited the J12 series watch programme from his predecessor Jacques Helleu, who had been at the helm since the division’s inception and had set a successful creative precedent. In his five years as the head of one of the world’s most prestigious watch houses, Mougenot has carved his own niche by overseeing the launch of the acclaimed J12 Tourbillon, which has many firsts to its credit in the world of horology.
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