It’s been a year of exciting changes for Swiss watch brand Frederique Constant, and Karishma Karer was able to sit down with COO and co-founder of the brand, Aletta Stas to find out more.
Dutch-born Aletta Stas started Frederique Constant in 1988 with her now husband Peter. The dynamic duo founded the company with the vision of creating high-quality Swiss watches with a more accessible price-tag. After 20-years, Frederique Constant is a name synonymous with making the very best of Swiss watchmaking accessible to a wider audience.
Aletta Stas has been instrumental in the growth and success of the company and has contributed significantly to the design and look of many of its most recognizable and popular timepieces, including the beautiful Double Heartbeat Collection.
How do you feel the last year has been for Frederique Constant?
The last year has been good for us. It has slowed down in general, the watch business, for the last year and a half. We still made some profits, which is always good. For us, this year with Citizen was a year for integration. We had certain markets where we integrated our distribution. In the US, the UK, Italy and of course Japan. Now we are really seeing it is picking up which is a good sign.
For this year we are very positive. I think in general the atmosphere is positive. You see the early signs that the watch business in general is picking up.
There have been some changes at Baselworld this year. What are your thoughts about the fair?
Of course, I am a little disappointed that so many other participants left the fair. There are nearly 50% less exhibitors this year.
A lot of smaller companies, suppliers, a lot of Swiss suppliers and foreign suppliers have left. I think it is a pity because if you look at the history of Basel, what made Basel so nice is that you had everything. You also had the suppliers and others, not just the brand. You really had the whole watch world. The other thing is also to stimulate entrepreneurship, that’s also gone. Not just this year compared to last year. It is a gradual process, but it has become so expensive that the younger brands do not have the money to be here and I think that is not something good.
However, for us, Basel is still very important! It is where, in one week you can meet the whole world. You can show new products and we talk to a lot of people and get a lot of feedback which is nice. We will continue to come but I hope that the Basel fair will rethink and go back to how it was.
In terms of India, has the brand been impacted by the taxes and duties we have now? We have the GST and now we also have the import duties that have gone up. What are your thoughts on that?
Well it’s always a little destabilizing but everyone is facing the same issue. In the beginning everyone thinks about how they are going to solve it, but then there is a new equilibrium, and everything finds its way. What is a change for us, is that in 2017, we decided to work with two chains only, in India, Ethos and Helios. Before that we had over 50 points of sale and a lot of different customers and now we have decided to work with only 2. This also allows us to control things better and to build up the brand, and we think that it is going well and expect a growth in India for 2018. We are also able to create the same image in every shop. At 8 points of sale we have the shop-in-shop concept so it really feels like the world of Frederique Constant.
Have there been any major changes at Frederique Constant since Citizen took over the company?
Well, I must say that the Japanese have left us to run the business our way, even though we have to report things. We are very free to pursue things. One change is that we have Niels Eggerding as the new Managing Director for Frederique Constant, but that has less to do with Citizen than with the day to day, which is now run by him. Peter and I are still very involved.
In terms of the design aspects of Frederique Constant, has there been any influence from Japan?
No, if we look at the product design, it continues as we feel it should. We have some special models for Japan. But that’s ok, because for the previous distributor in Japan we also had special models for him. Even in India we have a few special models. I think it is good, for certain countries, if they need certain products we are able to give that to them.
What new products do you have at Basel this year?
The Hybrid Manufacture which we are launching here in Basel. We also have other novelties which we will launch through the year.
I have heard that there will be a special launch with Gwyneth (Paltrow) in June or July? Can you give us a little insight into that?
We will be introducing a new ladies collection in the automatic line so that is exciting as well.
What are your views about online and e-commerce? A lot of brands are moving in that direction for selling their watches and for promoting themselves…
I think nowadays, you need to be involved in e-commerce. You can decide how much you want to be involved. For Frederique Constant we will start with some e-commerce but only in countries where we already have our distribution. Customers will have the option of whether they want a watch sent to their home or to the nearest retailer. We feel that it is important as a manufacturer to have more and more direct contact with the end consumer but also to keep a good relationship with the retailer. It’s not that we want to take away business from the retailers. That’s why we also give the possibility for the end consumer to pick up the watch from the store, and a certain margin is given to the store.
Why should a woman buy a Frederique Constant watch?
First and foremost, it’s created by a woman! Which is important. There are not too many other watch brands created by women, so that is one thing. They are beautiful, and also, timeless. Women like to have a lot of different accessories. They like to have a lot of shoes, a lot of bags. I assume that if you have enough money, you would also like to have a lot of watches. With Frederique Constant watches, they will always be nice. In 10 years, you will still like them because they are classical. They have contemporary elements but remain classical. It’s not that in 2 years you will feel that you don’t want to wear it.
We also give to charity so by buying a Frederique Constant watch, as an end consumer, you also contribute to help some women or children have a better life. I think that it is important to buy something that can help someone.
If you had to create a wardrobe of 5 Frederique Constant watches for women, which watches would you recommend?
The two Moonphase Stars, they are beautiful. I personally like the blue one but the black dial is also very beautiful.
I would say the Horological Smartwatch. It is very easy and comfortable to wear with a metal band and it has the smart function.
The Double Heartbeat is beautiful, it is very feminine with the hearts, and it’s mechanical.
So those 3 and let’s see. I really like the oval watch. This year we have an oval watch which a blue dial that I really like. It’s very feminine.
Then I like one of the gent’s automatic watches, 40mm, a little bit bigger but I think I would put that in my wardrobe.
With new ownership and other changes in the recent past, Frederique Constant continues to charge forward in the world of luxury watches. New technologies and innovative designs continue to lead the way for the brand, and we at HOT have no doubt that the company’s new direction will result in ever increasing success!