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It was perhaps poetic that the Mido x Red Bull Cliff Diving event was contemporaneous with Richard Serra’s exhibit of La materia del tiempo ( A Matter of Time) exhibit at the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain. After all, Serra tackles the perspective of time with a 1034 tonne series of seven spot-welded sculptures, almost analogs to the massive statement that Mido unveiled at the neighbouring Nervión River right next to Frank Gehry’s architectural masterpiece.
It was here, against a backdrop of dramatic shooting flames by conceptual artist Yves Klein, a daily evening fixture of the Bilbao Guggenheim, the Klein’s fire fountain espouses the postmodern artist’s philosophy, “Fire for me is the future without forgetting the past”, once again an allegory to what Franz Linder, President of MIDO was about to tell LUXUO and World of Watches, at the launch of the Mido Ocean Star Tribute Special Editions collection.
The association with Red Bull Diving was an interesting choice, how did you come up with this idea?
Franz Linder: I will not say it’s associating Mido with the event. In this case, it’s really linked to the Ocean Star Tribute collection. Mido has different positioning for each of our collections and last year we had a brainstorming session on how to celebrate the anniversary of our Ocean Star collection and thought it would be nice to strengthen some message by underlining the competence and the positioning of the product; Checking all our boxes, we ended up with a partnership with a Red Bull cliff diving because it’s something new and a very good match to the collection.
Traditionally, the whole genre of diving watches is quite competitive. This year you’ve had a Commander Shade which did extremely well, is it an advantage or disadvantage if other models currently overshadow the Ocean Star collection?
it depends, the key is avoiding cannibalisation and that’s why it’s well segmented. But then, it’s also a question of markets. We have products performing very well in one market and not in another. In Mido we have very big differences between the classic elegant pieces and the sportier pieces. But I have to admit, the Mido Ocean Star had a minor market share for the brand and relatively small assortment. So of course, if your assortment is small, if you offer a limited choice, it’s more difficult to you know, to strengthen it, or is also sometimes not really worth to invest. And now with the huge success of the Diver 200, we really felt it’s it’s the right time to leverage on the Dive watch trend and give a strong push to this collection with serious legacy.
And, you know, when you’re saying you’re giving this strong push now is that because the objective here is to have every collection at Mido equally popular?
This would be perfect but that is impossible! [Laughs] That said, we believe that we’re not having enough market share in the Diver’s watch segment that we can potentially can have and that ‘s the main ambition.
Which association so you feel represents the future of Mido best?
At Mido, we are very consistent in our past but I don’t say it will be our future, but we are consistent and will not change direction in the next few years. It took us 100 year to build a brand positioning, which people, depending on the market maturity understand very well and so this consistency is very important to continue. So we will continue to bring out new models in our families, we will definitely continue to improve Quality Control technology, which is very key for us and evolve rather than be revolutionary.
I’ve been covering watches for over 10 years now. Mido designs have become very sharp in the last two years. So my understanding is that you have a new product director, what do you see in him that you decided to hire him and to have him, you know, start to streamline and manage the collections?
I’m glad to hear that you like the products we did in the past two years, but I think it’s not something really new. It’s may be timepieces appealing more to you but basically, it’s consistency over time and we always try to improve while taking some risks – if you look at the ladies collection with the wild stone, putting such a design in a very classic collection is for me though already something courageous. The key is not to stagnate.
Going back to the Ocean Star Tribute Special Edition, what do you see in the pipeline? What’s happening next?
We cannot not talk about new products for next year but what I can tell you is there are definitely more opportunities to further strengthen this collection. Each collection is part of a pyramid in Mido, at the top, we have our COSC certified chronometer models. At the middle, we have what we call special movement, smaller complication, GMT, power reserve and chronographs and then on the bottom we have our basic products equipped with the basic movements. So, in Ocean Star today, we have offered both top end and entry level but in between there are still many opportunities.
The Ocean Star Chronometer 600 enjoys a depth rating up to 600 meters. It’s very high specs for a watch within that price range. You have sister brands which also produce that level of diving watches at far higher price ranges, do you think the consumer wonders if where a brand might start cutting corners? Is that ever in the back of your mind?
No. I think price is relative and price alone means nothing. Everything is related to value for money. I can tell you that at Swatch Group, Mido most likely offers a potentially better product at a lower price than our various sister brands but then you have to go into details to discover why: like movements, special treatments, etc. At Swatch Group, every brand at every level, is always trying to offer good value for money in its price category. So whether it watches $1,500 or $15,000 it does not mean you know it’s equal. We try to offer great value for money.
And and for you, there are some genres where you completely have no competition like your Commander Big Date, is is this going to be a strategy moving forward that you will find a certain complication that is not offered at a particular price point and then capitalise on that?
Yeah, we have developments for movements thanks to the advantage of being within Swatch Group. We can initialise a concept for an exclusive movement which other brands can use later on and because by doing so, we get to reach key volumes. If you want to have a good price, it’s only possible if you get some volumes. That’s the strength of our group. We have a lot of volume brands. Yeah. And of course we have all the factories and research development centers, and all these people always trying to work on improvements.
Every brand has room to bring out innovation within the restrictions of the brand’s price positioning. Example: we can invent something very outstanding but if the watch will cost $15,000 that’s not Mido’s positioning anymore, there might be other brands more suitable to use such complications. So this is a matter of whether we able to invent what we want in the price category we are in because we are so eager to develop new things and if it is a success, the returns will come afterwards because such investments are heavy. The research and development process is expensive even for a company as large as Swatch Group, especially when innovation is very well controlled with a lot of quality checks. That’s why a new movement is not launched in six months it takes years in order to pass all the tests to ensure that once we launch it will be reliable because it takes years to build a good image but a single moment to screw it up.
I’ve noticed that now the Mido Ocean Star also has innovations like a diver’s bracelet strap extension that was only found on competing watches like the Pelgaos, you’re offering it at a far more compelling price point. Is this the kind of strategy you’re pursuing for each SKU?
As I said, the pricing is based on a calculation. Mido is profitable and we believe in doing something very well in order to attract volume. If you can produce 1000 dials, you pay much less than if you only do 50.
The vintage trend is something Mido has been successful in riding on, how long do you think it will last?
I don’t we’re riding it in so far as it is very much our brand’s patrimony. I don’t know how long people will enjoy it but people love consistency. The Levis’ 541 has been around for ages, these have become real classics. It is retro? Or modern because of its continued relevance? You can sell such a product for a long time.
Earlier, you were mentioning that innovation will depend ultimately on Mido’s position within the group. Does it also mean that when you want to introduce innovation, you’re always keeping an eye on price it put another way, does it hold you back? “Because this innovation might be fantastic. But it will put me in another category.”
Yes and No, I mean, we try to attack the issue in a different way. The question is, if we have an innovation, what would be a successful price point for Mido? If we believe there is serious potential to go into this level with the right volumes, that’s how we will approach the discussion in terms of production and R&D. It might not be possible today but if we can do 40,000 to 50,000 timepieces, that’s the way we work. We were the first to launch silicium escapements at our price point, we are also the only rand to offer COSC certification at our price points. COSC adds an additional cost but precision has always been a key statement for Mido for almost 50 years.