During my visit to Switzerland in March for Baselworld 2015, I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with Maurice Lacroix’s Managing Director, Stèphane Waser, for a one-on-one chat. Covering all things football, novelty pieces and future endeavours, here is how the interview panned out.
When did the partnership with FC Barcelona start?
SW: The partnership kicked off last year – we are just about to complete the first full season with the club.
How is the exclusive FC Barcelona timepiece collection going since announcing the partnership?
SW: It is selling quite well for a sports collection. However, some people actually didn’t want the timepiece with the FC Barcelona logo, so we decided to make the same timepieces from the collection without the football club’s logo.
Since the partnership, would you say Maurice Lacroix has experienced a big growth in terms of sales?
SW: Awareness is rising because you have 400,000 people that know more about Maurice Lacroix than before and it is quite good as an image with FC Barcelona being one of the greatest clubs in the world. But it is also what you do out of it and how both sides can leverage from the partnership.
What prompted the partnership with Barcelona?
SW: It was a combination of the team and the sport, because it is quite a popular sport, so it is about mass. If you were to go for tennis, it would be very specific and congested as well.
One of Maurice Lacroix’s ambassadors is Australian Olympic swimmer James Magnussen – what encouraged the brand to sign him?
SW: It was purely the image of James. He came to us and made us aware that he really likes what we are doing. So it was a lot of personal motivation from his end, due to his love for the brand.
Will you keep pushing for sports related partnerships?
SW: We want to focus on football to be honest. We already have four clubs in Germany within the Bundesliga. We also just signed FC Basel and will be looking for other clubs in the future to sign partnerships with.
Football is a great business model. You can get a lot of it in terms of hospitality; image and you also reach the right people.
Does Maurice Lacroix have big plans for the Middle East?
SW: We just re-launched in the Middle East just recently. We were very strong in the region during the late 1990s and at one point would sell 80,000 watches a year in Saudi Arabia.
Then with 2008-09 we changed our strategy and tried to go a little higher but it did not really work out. So now we are back to where we had all our success in the commercial range; timepieces that are between the one to Dhs3,800 – Dhs11,600 range as well as a few nice PR pieces.
Who would you say is your biggest competitor in the Middle East market?
SW: TAG Heuer and Longines would be our two biggest competitors. That is the level at which we position ourselves, so these two brands fit.
Would you ever consider tapping into the Formula One sphere?
SW: You need a lot of money to enter the F1 sponsorship world and everybody is in there; Rolex, Hublot, TAG, etc. We got such an exceptional deal with FC Barcelona that we could get a lot of out it. This is a unique deal.
How long is the partnership with the football club for?
SW: It is a three-year partnership, so two more to go. Once the three years are up, we will meet with the club and discuss the possibility of extending.
What is next for Maurice Lacroix?
SW: Football of course – with the unique player watch collection. With the big 40-year anniversary also happening this year, we are planning a huge promotion starting September.
We also just signed a Korean ambassador for the Asian market, who is very popular in China, another strong market for the brand.
Would Maurice Lacroix enter anything other than timepieces?
SW: I do not think so. We want to stick to our core business, watches. We do have cufflinks and wallets, but only sell them in complete sets. However, for markets like the Middle East, we feel we should focus solely on watches as it has the greatest potential.