Our philosophy is to let more people enjoy luxury: Frederique Constant's Aletta Stas

The COO of the Swiss watchmaker talks about the company's motivations, its distinct watches for the India market and the charm of the Ladies Heart Beat

Aletta Stas, COO and co-founder of Frederique Constant, says the brand’s customers prefer a beautiful timepiece with an accessible price

Q. What have been the important developments at Frederique Constant in the recent past?
There have been two major developments—our Manufacture Collection and our Horological Smartwatch.

In 2016, we launched a Quantième Perpetual with a retail price of €8,000 and this year, a Flyback Chronograph below €3,000. Our Manufacture watches are designed, produced and assembled in-house. There are only a few Swiss brands that are able to make movements in-house.

Our philosophy is to let more people enjoy luxury. We offer these incredible pieces at accessible prices. We are able to do this, as our company has a very lean set-up. At the same time, we also accept lower margins than our competitors. We also introduced the Delight Horological Smartwatch and this is the first women’s smartwatch in the market in a 34-mm case. It looks like a traditional, elegant watch with some easy-to-use smart functions.

Q. What is Frederique Constant’s design philosophy?
It is important for a brand to have its own style. Frederique Constant is a classic brand with contemporary elements. It is important that all watch models fit in the collection.  We have mostly Roman numerals, and often the dial has some pattern like Clous de Paris or applied index to create some depth. For the ladies, we have diamonds on the dial in combination with Roman numerals or applied stick indexes.

We do not have sports watches, as this diffuses the brand identity. We mostly have watches with a small function, like a moonphase or a chronograph, to make the watch more interesting.

Q. How do you maintain a balance between designing a watch that is classic as well as innovative?
The innovation is in the movement. Making a beautiful watch that is accessible, with special movements like a Tourbillon, a QP or a Flyback Chronograph… to be able to do this, you need to innovate. We have worked for six years on our Flyback Chronograph and we have designed a star-shaped column wheel. This is more reliable, as fewer components are needed for the start/stop function of the Flyback Chronograph. We have a pending patent on this mechanism.

Our other big innovation is the Horological Smartwatch. This movement is a quartz movement with smart functions. The watch itself looks like a beautiful traditional Frederique Constant and also has smart functions. The advantage of this smartwatch is that it has a battery life of two years and you do not look into a dark screen like other smartwatches.
Six years of work went into Frederique Constant’s Flyback Chronograph, which has a star-shaped column wheel

Q. Which one timepiece embodies the essence of the brand?
I would say our Manufacture watches along with Horological smartwatches and Index Automatic watches. The first two define the innovation and price while the Index Automatic watches define our accessible prices.

Q. What are the lessons that you’ve learnt from your clients?

Our customers prefer watches that are classy, coupled with bespoke design and good quality. They like to wear a beautiful timepiece, but one with an accessible price. For some clients, it is not because they cannot afford more expensive watches, but because they realise they can buy a Frederique Constant for this price.

Q. What are the strategies for the near future? Where and how does India fit into them?

Our design strategy is to continue to innovate on our movements and mix it with our classic design. We will continue to offer accessible luxury in quartz, standard automatic and Manufacture movements. In each of these categories, we are exceptional, and able to offer beautiful and sophisticated watches.

We also have certain watches designed for certain regions. We have introduced a few watches for the Indian market with Hindi numerals. We also have a few models for the Arabic market with the old Arabic numerals.

By offering accessible luxury, Frederique Constant is a brand that is well received in India. People are looking for a watch that radiates a certain value and retains a certain value over time. Not like a fashion item that you do not want to wear in a few years because it is outdated. For a lot of people, it is their first investment in a real watch and they want to choose a brand that keeps its value. India is a country in development, where the middle class is growing. Frederique Constant fits perfectly in this scenario.

Q. How does the brand distinguish itself from the many Swiss luxury watch brands that have many decades of expertise behind them?

We are innovative, not only in the product, but also in the way  we work. We are fast and agile, which is the opposite of the traditional Swiss watch culture. Another important factor is that we have maintained consistency, and our philosophy and pricing have not changed since the launch of the brand. A lot of brands in the industry have changed their pricing and sometimes also their design strategy. These changes are often not accepted well by consumers.

Q. What are the elements you most cherish in a watch? What are the watches in your collection?
I love the Ladies Double Heart Beat. The watch itself looks elegant with diamonds on the dial. The heart-shaped opening on the dial at 12 o’clock allows you to see the heartbeat of the movement. The case feels nice and smooth on the wrist with no sharp edges.

I have the Ladies Heart Beat, the Ladies Manufacture and the Delight smartwatch. Each of these watches is an important innovative product from Frederique Constant.

(This story appears in the 01 September, 2017 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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