Corum/Eterna – First exclusive interview with CEO Jérôme Biard
Given that you’re a man who dislikes the spotlight, the public will need some time to get to know you.
Yes, I have worked in the watch industry for over 25 years, but I’ve never been in the public eye. I began at Richemont, when it was still called PBM, for Piaget, Baume & Mercier. I was there for five years, then I left to work for Vacheron Constantin, Cartier and Girard-Perregaux. I was global commercial director there, working alongside Gino Macaluso, a colourful character who taught me a great deal.
My most recent experience was in distribution; I was involved in establishing and developing watch brands in Russia and Turkey. That was back in 2009, which was a very difficult period, as you no doubt remember. We were nevertheless able to expand, working with lifestyle brands such as Daniel Wellington and Fossil Group, as well as traditional watchmakers including TAG Heuer and Corum.
How did your relationship with Corum Watch Parts come about?
Very naturally. I had already met Corum’s investors several times over dinner, in my previous role. Given that I didn’t work there, I was able to share with them my very clear and objective vision for Corum. They obviously appreciated that, because as soon as they heard that I was leaving, they made me an offer. They are very straightforward, direct people, with a keen sense of commitment and the importance of keeping your word.
Will this be your first experience with Chinese investors?
I don’t think of it in that way. As far as I am concerned, they are simply investors, full stop. They are people I know, who know me, who have shown great foresight, who love the brand, who recognise its potential and who are relying upon what they believe are the best resources to drive its development. And by “best resources”, what I’m mainly referring to is the staff in La Chaux-de-Fonds, whom it is now my pleasure to manage.
Yet, what position are these local teams in, after the Davide Traxler’s departure?
They are incredibly close-knit and dynamic. I was impressed by their cohesion, and their many talents. In every division we have teams that are working incredibly hard to develop a brand in which they have an unshakeable faith. We currently have 70 people working in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Are you going to continue with Davide Traxler’s strategy?
In reality, the strategy was put in place by the European Board. The work was well done; Corum Watches In Dubai has the wind in its sails from a creative point of view, which was something I talked about with the investors, even before there was any talk of my taking over. It’s a healthy company, both financially and in terms of corporate spirit. I have rarely seen such commitment to a common project, a commitment so personally upheld by everyone involved.
Back in 2016, we had an opportunity to go hands-on with the Corum Golden Bridge Round that was a departure from previous Golden Bridge watches by employing a round case as opposed to the angular cases the group was famous for. To get Baselworld 2017, designer Dino Modolo helps return the Golden Bridge to its angular roots with the Corum Golden Bridge Rectangle. Since its first release in 1980, the Corum Golden Bridge has seen over a couple of variants, and this model retains the collection’s hallmark feature – a motion that displays the full transfer of electricity from its own spring barrel at 6 o’clock into the escapement at 12 o’clock. The grade CO113 is exactly what Corum describes as a “in-line baguette” movement, which has all of its components stacked up at a column-like form. Such as the numerals, the bridge construction that supports the motion is constructed of 18k gold and decorated with an assortment of engravings alongside the brand name. This exceptional movement layout permits the wearer to view every component in motion as power is moved from one end of the case to the other. The motion itself operates at 4Hz using a power reserve of 40 hours.The Corum Golden Bridge Rectangle case steps 29.5mm wide by 42.2mm tall and a mere 9.3mm thick. The detailed execution of this 18-karat golden Roman numeral structures and rivets that surround the movement are very cool to check at it – it feels like something King Midas would approve of.The grade CO113 is exactly what Corum describes as a “in-line baguette” motion, which includes all of its parts piled up in an column-like form. Such as the numerals, the bridge structure that supports the motion is constructed from 18k gold and adorned with a variety of engravings alongside the brand name. This exceptional movement design permits the wearer to look at every part in motion as electricity is moved from 1 end of the case to the other. The movement itself operates at 4Hz with a power reserve of 40 hours.
And is growth within reach?
Let’s go for stability first! Once again, the foundations are healthy, and the work done by Davide Traxler was rigorous and effective, which means we should achieve this in the very short term. Growth will follow. For Corum, that will come through our four pillars: Bridge, Admiral, Heritage (Feather, Coin, etc.) and Bubble.
Golden Bridge © Corum
What about Eterna?
With Eterna we are doing the same thing, but more comprehensively. There are many synergies between the teams, which means that Eterna will benefit from Corum’s expertise. We will begin by focusing on our brand leaders in highly targeted markets – Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France and the United States. In the first instance, we will concentrate on the historic pillars: KonTiki, Royal KonTiki and 1948. For the future, we have some interesting surprises in store, something younger. We will be making the most of Eterna’s Swiss German identity, but avoiding the clichés of cuckoo clocks, cheese and chocolate. We want to renew the brand’s identity, refresh it. As a brand, it has great potential. It’s easy to forget that, for a time, it was in direct competition with Omega, for example. It has to go back to basics and reposition itself in its original price bracket, around the CHF 700 to 3500 mark.
Are you looking ahead to Baselworld?
For Corum, yes, but even more so for Eterna. We have to manage our budgets in a clear and rational way. There will be lots of great initiatives from Eterna, but they will be targeted and tactical, with young, dynamic brand ambassadors. Eterna, like Corum, has the power to surprise, whether in the arts or in sports. Eterna will be a talent-spotter. Once it is on its way it will have its own CEO.
What will happen to Eterna’s movement division, EMC?
All in good time. Eterna’s main growth vector will be the brand itself, not necessarily its industrial capacity to service third parties. In the immediate term, EMC’s main client will be Eterna itself. In the short term, neither Corum nor Eterna have the ambition to differentiate themselves with manufacture movements. But, as I said, all in good time.