To those who have known and loved Breitling for a long time, the La Chaux-de-Fonds manufacture brings to mind such legendary collections as the Navitimer and Superocean, not to mention newer successes such as the Aviator 8 and Premiere.
Now, one of these long-time brand pillars, the Chronomat, is back in the conversation with two new models — the Chronomat 36 and the Chronomat 32, aimed at the feminine side of the watch-buying demographic. WorldTempus recently caught up with Breitling CEO Georges Kern at Geneva Watch Days and spoke with chief marketing officer Tim Sayler to get some exclusive insights on the new Chronomat models.
Chronomat 36 and Chronomat 32 © Breitling
While labelling a watch definitively as a ladies’ timepiece helps to focus the audience, it can simultaneously run the risk of shutting out male consumers looking for an elegant sports watch in a more classic dimension (until the late 20th century, 36mm was fully considered an appropriate case diameter for a men’s watch).
Chronomat 36 © Breitling
Sayler, however, doesn’t see this as too much of an issue, saying: “Breitling has a long way to go in establishing itself as a watch brand for women as well as for our traditional male audience, so when we have a collection that has strong female-targeted models in it, we have to take the opportunity to strengthen our positioning among women. At the moment, we estimate that about 10 percent of our watch sales end up on ladies’ wrists, and we want to at least double that over the next three years. At the same time, we do have models that are really gender neutral — there is a Chronomat 36 with a blue dial that I would absolutely wear. I’m quite tall, but when I have it on my wrist, 36mm doesn’t feel too small at all, it feels right, and I love this piece. Then for the models that are more feminine – with diamonds, for example – we feel strongly that we’ve developed this potential to appeal to women, and we want to push that.”
Chronomat 36 © Breitling
Kern offers additional perspective on how Breitling’s feminine watches have performed so far, making a compelling argument that not only makes the company’s direction necessary from a marketing point of view, but from a commercial one too. “We relaunched the Navitimer 35, a collection which also exists in 38mm and 41mm, so you can choose to call it a ladies’ watch, a men’s watch, or whatever. It’s probably unimportant whether you call it a ladies’ line or not, but the reality is that it’s an ergonomic issue. There are some sizes that are easier to sell in certain markets and some that are not. Also, there are watches produced in a smaller diameter that are also available with precious stone settings, and 99 percent of the time, it’s women who wear them. Of course, you have men who wear smaller watches and women who wear larger watches, but the point is, you need to have that product offering. The Navitimer 35 with mother-of-pearl dial is doing extremely well. We’re very happy, because it’s not the only product at the higher end of our range that is doing well — the fact is that our most expensive pieces are also the ones which are performing best.”
Chronomat 32 © Breitling
So is there room in the future of Breitling for a collection that is not an offshoot of the masculine families, but a fully feminine offer? Nothing is ruled out, according to Sayler. “Maybe not in the short-term future, because as you know our first task was to reorganise and upgrade Breitling’s existing collections and integrate newer ones, such as the Aviation 8 and Premiere, which were not there before. We also wanted to re-establish ourselves with a female audience and gain ground in that area, which is the phase we are in at the moment. But in the mid-term future? There’s definitely room for something more — including a collection dedicated to women.”
In other words, keep an eye on what Breitling does next.