Interview : Patrick Pruniaux, CEO Ulysse Nardin

Since taking over the brand last summer, which are the first changes you have made ?

Certain changes were dictated by circumstances : the departure of the former CEO Patrick Hoffmann led to that of the longstanding marketing director. For this extremely important role, I decided to enlist Françoise Bezzola, whose international experience in the realm of communication for major brands is very precious to Ulysse Nardin – and notably her expertise in packaging media content for the extremely demanding US market. Our storytelling is currently under-exploited and she will need to raise the brand’s profile by choosing the right communication channels. Given my personal experience with Apple, Françoise and I speak the same language, which probably helps move things ahead faster. Moreover, we have worked a good deal on products – even if they were very good to start with – simply by means of a few adjustments. As far as sales are concerned, we will need to make a few tweaks to avoid certain geographical dependencies, but we have excellent distribution partners and Ulysse Nardin will remain a reliable brand for retailers. We are undertaking an effective realignment in terms of products, marketing and sales, and I am extremely confident with regard to 2018.

“Visitors to the SIHH will be astonished by the brand’s new angle”

How can a GPHG prize help a watch such as Ulysse Nardin ?

Winning the Sports Watch Prize enables us to communicate about Ulysse Nardin’s distinctive expertise – in this instance particularly related to our own movement and our manufacturing facility – which is also closely bound up with the realm of sports and the maritime world. Everything is extremely consistent and it was well worth taking up the challenge. Comments on the Marine Regatta confirm its positioning as an incredibly accessible watch despite its complexity. This further reinforces the partnership we had with Artemis Racing, the Swedish challenger in the 35th America’s Cup.

Do you feel this partnership was positive and might it be reiterated in 2021 for the next America’s Cup to be held in Auckland ?

We are very pleased with this partnership, especially since the owner and the entire Artemis team have values that are very close to ours. They are real brand enthusiasts and enjoy wearing our watches, as we observed upon meeting them when we arrived. It’s an authentic partnership in which we don’t speak of money, but instead of associating with a project. We would thus be prepared to support them again if they decide to compete in New Zealand.

Ulysse-NardinWhich do you see as Ulysse Nardin’s main strengths ?

The fundamentals are excellent : an excellent manufacturing plant and a demonstrable capacity for constant innovation and R&D. I will therefore naturally continue fostering the teams’ fierce determination to innovative, even though we sometimes innovate so fast that we struggle to keep pace in terms of communication ! I must ensure that innovations introduced on certain outstanding models are picked up on more widely selling products. The grinder is an excellent example : the story is there, but we have to talk about it far more.

Among the existing collections, which best represent the brand while harboring significant development potential ?

I can see good potential for the Marine collection in general, and particularly for the Torpilleur. I think the Freak is a mono-product line but is intended for a broader audience. Moreover, as far as Grand Complication models are concerned and judging by collectors’ reactions, I think we still have a lot of potential there as well.

Will the SIHH 2018* be an opportunity to set a new course for Ulysse Nardin ?

We will be seeing an evolution in the process that began this year and has been well received by clients, with a stronger emphasis on our image and the consistency of our discourse. Ours is a humble brand, so we are not going to make wild promises, but I think the public will be astonished by the modern angle and the new approach we will be revealing.

“The Ulysse Nardin fundamentals are excellent”

After ten years spent with TAG Heuer, you set off to work on the Apple Watch : what do you feel you have learned from this experience ?

The Apple experience in general instils a different vision. This is a brand that serves as inspiration for virtually every industry due to its consumer-oriented approach, its product innovation, its self-confidence as a brand, its occasional refusal to compromise on its management or its designs, as well as its manner of communicating. All this reinforced what I already believed, as well as teaching me a great deal. Its high level of sophistication inspired me, as did its sheer speed of product renewal, driving me to think about what is sometimes lacking in the watch industry : we tend not to focus enough on consumer expectations, notably from a practical point of view. I am talking about things as straightforward as wearer comfort and legibility. And its communication strategy is definitely an example.

*more on this in the SIHH dossier on

Brice Lechevalier is editor-in-chief of GMT and Skippers, which he co-founded in 2000 and 2001 respectively. He has also been CEO of WorldTempus since it joined the GMT Publishing stable, of which he is director and joint shareholder. In 2012 he created the Geneva Watch Tour, and he has been an advisor to the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève since 2011. Also closely involved in sailing, he has published the magazine of the Société Nautique de Genève since 2003, and was one of the founders of the SUI Sailing Awards in 2009 and the Concours d’Elégance for motor boats at the Cannes Yachting Festival in 2015.

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