IN ITS next phase of evolution, Singapore-born watch company Azimuth will focus on raising its profile overseas through the recent appointment of a new Swiss chief executive, Giuseppe Pichi.
The challenge for the outsider will always be one of acceptance.
For Singaporeans, Christopher Long and Alvin Lye, intrepid time travellers who created the Azimuth brand just over a decade ago, it was always going to be an uphill task to become accepted by the centre of the watchmaking universe, Switzerland. Despite their innovative designs and creative quirkiness, there was always the issue of the brand not being Swiss, other than being made in Neuchâtel.
But it was nevertheless important to get things in motion and the brand has enjoyed a reasonable acceptance in certain markets. Europe is still a challenge, and one they hope to surmount by the introduction of a new shareholder, Giuseppe Picchi. The Swiss watchmaker will serve as CEO and technical director and is already in the throes of making the next Roboto movement.
Giuseppe has worked with Longines, Concord, Movado and the ever-expanding Richemont Group, and connected with the Singaporeans on a fact-finding mission in Asia a couple of years ago. He liked what he saw, and more importantly the relationship ticked along nicely.
STORM: What potential do you see in the Azimuth band?
GIUSEPPE PICHI: As the brand is relatively young, and it has a dynamic team charting its course, I think there is a great future for Azimuth. Azimuth is always looking for the next unique way to tell time so we are excited to work towards this goal and to offer our customers and fans something that is not a “me-too” watch.
STORM: Does the origin of a watch matter?
GIUSEPPE: With more and more brands emerging every year from different parts of the world, the country of origin is not as paramount as in the past. But, for a serious brand to succeed, it is still important to have the ‘Swiss Made’ tag as this is a form of quality assurance for the customer.
STORM: What do today’s watch collectors and connoisseurs want in a watch?
GIUSEPPE: Today, reading the time has become simple with our mobile phones and other accessories. Collectors of fine watches seek, above all, a real watch movement, a timepiece that is refined as well as exuding excellent craftsmanship. If it has a unique way of telling time, then all the better.
STORM: What do you see as the next step for Azimuth?
GIUSEPPE: The future is now! We want Azimuth to seize the day. This means we explore innovative concepts to shake up the traditional notions of telling time.
Now is also the time to relaunch the ‘new’ Azimuth with its more focus on extreme and unique timepieces. From this year, with me in the team, we see a bright future for Azimuth and I am excited to open new markets for the brand, too.
STORM: Will the new direction be vastly different to what’s already been achieved?
GIUSEPPE: We are still developing as a brand, but from the outset, we have been fearless with our innovations, and wish to remain so. However, I can help put in place the entire process of movement development, construction, assembly and distribution and so be able to control the entire process in-house.
STORM: How do you balance creativity with consumer demand?
GIUSEPPE: We feel that one cannot be a ‘Jack of all trades’ and so, in Azimuth, we will focus on the avant-garde ways of telling time and on unique complications. Indeed, we must not overlook the economic side, and will seek the feedback of our collectors and make sure that what we design and produce will meet their expectations.
We want to sell watches and be profitable, but our goal will also be to focus on giving our collectors something unique at the end of the day.
STORM: How will changes in the Swiss watchmaking industry affect the Azimuth business?
GIUSEPPE: Since 2009, we have had our own company in Switzerland, and decided to transfer it to Neuchâtel early this year. My task is to manage the development phase, assembly and after-sales service. The distribution of watches continues from Singapore. So, in terms of the changes affecting the Swiss industry, these changes do not affect Azimuth.
We will power on and continue to make exceptional and unique watches.