François Thiebaud, President of Tissot, talks to Lifetime about Tissot, Baselworld and the watchmaking industry.

The first fair in Basel was organized in 1917. And for the first edition there were only twenty-nine watchmakers and Tissot was among them. And we’re here today, 100 years later, we have a bigger booth. We are very proud that, after one century, Tissot is definitely far ahead as the number one Swiss Swatch brand within the traditional segment. To give you an idea, the watch industry worldwide is producing about 1.2 billion watches per year. The Swiss watch industry has produced last year 25.4 million, so very little within 1.2 billion. But out of the 25.4 million Swiss watches, Tissot alone represents 4 million.

The second brand behind Tissot within the traditional segment makes 1.5 million units, while we make 4 million units. This is how Tissot is within – let’s say – the watch world. Now I’ll give you another comparison. If you look at the Swiss market… with 7 million inhabitants, where you have, let’s say, the main watch manufactures, but where every producer of watches in the world wants to appeal to them, so we get a lot of competition, and you get also a lot of knowledge here in Switzerland, because everybody in Switzerland knows what a watch is, so it’s a watch country. They have the knowledge and they know what it is. And within this, let’s say well-knowledgeable country, well-educated, they consider Tissot the number one watch.

We are the number one Swiss watch in the world of Swiss. We have more 420 points of sale on the Swiss market only. We are very proud to be number one, and it’s logical to try to become number one everywhere.

Tissot was founded in 1853, it is now 164 years old. They are proven to really try to make an innovative product, but based on the traditional watchmaking values. If you go back in time, you will see that at the beginning of the 20th century, they came with a special design like the banana shape, which we made into a today replica. This is a very, very modern line.

Later on, because electricity was implemented all over the world… With all the electricity environment, some magnetic field appeared and affected the accuracy of mechanical watches. So Tissot made the first antimagnetic watch in 1930 and some years later, because people started to travel, Tissot made the first watch that could enable people to see the time all around the globe with 24 time zones, called Navigator. So at Tissot we have technique, innovative materials, even in terms of communication, we have always tried to be ahead of time, to be able to answer the needs of consumers of the period. And if now you look where we are today… Apple came already 10 years ago with tactile technology with the iPhone, Tissot came 18 years ago with tactile technology. Eighteen years ago, eight years before Apple. With tactile technology, we could provide one type of normal function like time, chronograph, but also some very useful modern functions like altimeter, compass and so on.

At Tissot we try to discover what are your expectations, what kind of material is best today, so if we make a product according to your wishes, and we present it to you, if you smile, we win. If you don’t, we have to work again. Why? First of all, we know that we are paid to sell watches, not to buy watches. We can buy watches personally, but first of all we have to sell watches. But if we want you to buy our watches, we have to get your confidence. To get your confidence is to come with the right product, it means to come also with the right message so that you feel confident to buy our watch. And why do you feel confident? Because you had a Tissot before and you were very happy, a friend of yours had one, he was very happy, maybe you saw an ad, maybe you saw a sports event where you saw Tissot and you looked at it… You know, to buy anything that you want to buy, of course you need the money. But you also need to be confident. If you are not confident, you don’t buy.

Of course it’s not too difficult to become friends. To remain friends forever is really difficult. Once we have confidence in somebody, we’re ready to buy their product. Then from the first second that he/she is wearing our product they become real ambassadors. Of course, we have ambassadors that we pay. But the real ambassadors of Tissot are the ones that buy our products, and that pay us. That is different. We are first of all to respect rules, very thankful, very loyal. And if something happens that breaks this confidence, we have to do everything in our power to restore the confidence. So that’s our DNA. Good customer care, customer service is our top marketing priority, prior to what we can do in print, in social media, in TV. So if we keep implementing this strategy, that explains why Tissot is successful. And we want to continue, to keep going. Sometimes you go up, then you have to go down, that’s the life cycle. When you go up a mountain, then you have to go down. And then you go up on the next one. That’s beautiful. That’s what makes life so exciting. Tissot is an exciting brand.

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