Time to Disrupt: Ulysse Nardin & Watches of Switzerland Take on SoHo


Organized by the FACC luxury, fashion and beauty committee. The next event in this series will take place in November, keep an eye on our events calendar for information, to be posted soon. 

In the evolving world of retail, luxury watch brand Ulysse Nardin and retailer Watches of Switzerland are nimbly rising to the challenges of the market. On September 18th, the FACC welcomed over 70 guests to the speakeasy-style lower showroom of the Watches of Switzerland boutique in SoHo for a panel discussion between moderator Elsa Berry, Watches of Switzerland Group EVP David Hurley and Ulysse Nardin President, Americas, Francois-Xavier Hotier. Opening remarks were given by Laurent Claquin, head of Kering Americas. 

Discussion between the panelists touched upon the differences between the U.S., European and Chinese markets, what it means for both a retail and a brand to "disrupt" and how a two-century old brand approaches innovation to remain relevant. As guests experienced first-hand via a demo of augmented reality technology developed in collaboration with a French startup, the buying and the after-sales experience are important customer touch points. For example, when servicing their luxury timepiece, clients avoid an outdated model of a dedicated service department, and rather are invited to pull up a seat and enjoy a cocktail at the bar while a technician carries out the repairs. A much talked about source of disruption, luxury resale and luxury rental services, were seen as an opportunity by both of the panelists to diversify their activity and reach new market segments, something they wish to explore further.

One of the questions from the audience centered around sustainability in the watch industry, for its use of precious metals, minerals and gemstones, manufacturing and transportation. Laurent Claquin responded, citing Kering's multi-pronged approach and one of their initiatives focused on new materials and the creation of a Milan-based material innnovation lab, producing sustainably sourced textiles such as mushroom leathers that can also be used in watch bands. Kering takes care to examine every aspect of the supply chain to see where improvements can be made and sharing of best practices can occur between brands.

In attendance were luxury professionals from a diverse variety of sectors, including watches, jewelry, academia, journalism, French brands, American brands, fashion tech companies and more. The next and final event for 2019 in this series will be held in November. Keep an eye on the FACC website, newsletter and social media for more information to come.


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