Luxeplace Exclusive | Catherine Rénier, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre: Emotional Connection and Artistic Expression are Crucial for Watches

10月 16, 2023

In the relatively traditional industry of watches, the emergence of female CEOs is becoming a striking landscape for high-end watch brands.

In the fashion luxury goods industry, female CEOs not only possess the same outstanding abilities as male leaders but also have a delicate insight into female users, unique insights into brand communication, and even a more sensitive grasp of market trends. These qualities can help them open up broader business prospects for the brand.

Recently, interviewed a female CEO in the watch industry, and she is Catherine Rénier, the Global CEO of the Swiss luxury watch brand Jaeger-LeCoultre.

She took office in May 2018, and before joining Jaeger-LeCoultre, Catherine Rénier served as the President of Van Cleef & Arpels in the Asia-Pacific region and lived in Hong Kong, China, for 10 years, visiting approximately 50 cities in China. Earlier in her career, she started her professional journey with Cartier in New York.

In the interview, she revealed to us that Jaeger-LeCoultre’s main focus over the past five years has been on communication, events, opening boutiques, and creating a dialogue between art and watchmaking. As a female CEO, she emphasized to us, “For watchmaking, in addition to technical expression, emotional connection and artistic expression are also crucial.”

In fact, the gender ratio of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s brand customers is currently balanced, which is quite valuable in the industry.

  • “Jaeger-LeCoultre did not start from scratch in China.”
  • “Emotional connection and artistic expression are also crucial for watchmaking.”
  • “The spirit of innovation has always been in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s DNA.”
  • VIP customers and new customers are equally important.

“Jaeger-LeCoultre did not start from scratch in China.” What do you know about the Chinese market and different cities?

Catherine Rénier: I came to China 15 years ago, and during my time at Van Cleef & Arpels, I lived in Hong Kong, China, for 10 years and have visited approximately 50 cities in China.

Every time I visit, I am drawn to a new city, and this time is no exception—such as Changsha in Hunan. In Changsha, I see the city’s development and the vitality of the young population.

I also have a great fondness for Chengdu, where I can enjoy hotpot and see giant pandas, and the history behind the city fascinates me.

My first trip to mainland China was to Harbin, which is very close to the border and gave me a different experience, both in terms of culture and cuisine. Hainan is also booming now, and the investment and tourism there are impressive.

I appreciate the diversity of China, and the speed of development here amazes me. Therefore, I’m willing to spend a lot of time understanding the culture here to truly appreciate the diversity of cities. To this day, I feel like I’ve witnessed the growth and development of Chinese cities. What is Jaeger-LeCoultre’s primary audience in the Chinese market?

Catherine Rénier: Our customer base has a balanced gender ratio, which is highly valuable in the industry. Currently, we have a very young consumer group in China. Nowadays, consumers are getting younger.

Most people choose Jaeger-LeCoultre because we are experts in watch movements, and whether you are a man or a woman, you will find a watch that suits you at Jaeger-LeCoultre. What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the brand in the Chinese market?

Catherine Rénier: First, the Chinese market is changing rapidly and continuously evolving and growing. In the luxury and fashion sectors, the Chinese market is always ahead, and the same goes for the watch industry. The public’s interest and expectations are high. We need to constantly meet those expectations, which is a challenge for us.

The opportunity lies in the fact that Jaeger-LeCoultre is already well-known in the Chinese market and is seen as a benchmark in the watchmaking field. Therefore, we can build upon this foundation to go further and enrich it, exploring activities beyond watchmaking. For example, this year’s “The Reverso Musical Show” is an attempt on our part to move towards a more artistic expression.

This is one of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s strengths—we are not starting from scratch but continuously innovating on the basis of existing achievements, aiming to bring richer expressions to the Chinese market in the field of watchmaking. For instance, our iconic Reverso reversible watch series combines unique style with professional movements. The collision of this creativity and design has won us a group of young people who appreciate unique creations.

In the future, we want to convey a unique, innovative, fashionable, and bold spirit to the Chinese market. These are crucial elements for Jaeger-LeCoultre and represent our direction and vision for the future.

“Emotional connection and artistic expression are also crucial for watchmaking.” You have worked for major jewelry brands like Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, which primarily target women. Jaeger-LeCoultre also has a rich history of producing women’s watches. What do you think are the similarities and differences in working between these two fields?

Catherine Rénier: As the CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, I believe that there needs to be a shared set of values and passion with the brand. I have worked at Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, where the focus was on craftsmanship and creativity. Continuously conveying the brand’s unique spirit to the public is a goal that Jaeger-LeCoultre is committed to as well.

Since its founding in 1833, the Grande Maison of Jaeger-LeCoultre has brought together 180 watchmaking skills under one roof. Upholding an unwavering spirit of innovation, we have developed more than 1,300 movements, all designed, manufactured, decorated, and assembled in our Grande Maison in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland. With a commitment to innovation, we continue to develop new movements each year, which is a testament to craftsmanship and heritage.

The team at Jaeger-LeCoultre is passionate, proud of their work, and possesses the ability to generate exceptional creative ideas, dedicating themselves to exploring the forefront of high watchmaking. All of these factors provide a strong foundation for my work. I want Jaeger-LeCoultre to have a unique style, artistic expression, and emotional connection, while continuously enhancing communication with consumers.

For watchmaking, in addition to technical expression, emotional connection and artistic expression are also crucial.

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Grande Maison of high watchmaking located in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland

“The spirit of innovation has always been in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s DNA.” Please use three words to describe Jaeger-LeCoultre’s uniqueness.

Catherine Rénier: Craftsmanship, Art, and Creativity. What is the key to creating an iconic product?

Catherine Rénier: For Jaeger-LeCoultre, the key is the enduring design of the piece. For example, our iconic timepiece, the Reverso Reversal series, has evolved in design over its ninety-year history, but it has always retained the original proportions and incorporated innovative designs such as colored dials, complex functions, and Duoface dual-time zones. One can say that to create an iconic design, it’s essential to innovate while building upon tradition. We also infuse modernity into watch designs through details like hour markers and hands.

In 2023, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched the Reverso Tribute Small Seconds, featuring four sunburst guilloché dials. The black dial is paired with a new ultra-thin rose gold case, paying tribute to the original 1931 Reverso prototype; the silver dial echoes the silver dial of the first-generation Reverso watch.

In 2023, Jaeger-LeCoultre introduced two colorful watches in the Reverso One Precious Colours collection, featuring intricately decorated art deco-style cases. In the world of high watchmaking today, is innovation and breakthroughs in watchmaking technology still the most crucial?

Catherine Rénier: I believe it’s very important. We invest a significant number of resources every year in technological innovation and the creation of new movements. These movements often lead to patented discoveries, representing the complexity of high watchmaking. The spirit of innovation is deeply embedded in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s DNA, and it has been continuously nurtured throughout our 190-year history. I hope to carry forward this DNA because once you stop innovating, you become stuck in the past and unable to envision the future.

We use innovation and art to showcase our work to the public, such as the gradient dial of our new Polaris collection chronograph watch, which employs intricate dial enameling, representing a creative process and expression. We are not satisfied with repeating the past but constantly thinking ahead, even in the smallest details. How do you interpret sports watches?

Catherine Rénier: Sports watches represent a unique style of timekeeping. The Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris collection, from its case and bracelet to its dial, embodies the characteristics of a sports watch while being suitable for everyday wear. It draws inspiration from the popular 1968 Memovox Polar Alarm watch, showcasing the enduring charm of this watch design. For the Polaris collection, this history and inspiration are crucial.

Jaeger-LeCoultre’s new Polaris collection chronograph watch

VIP customers and new customers are equally important Is Jaeger-LeCoultre more focused on VIP customers or new customers?

Catherine Rénier: For Jaeger-LeCoultre, these two aspects are not contradictory but complementary.

Watch enthusiasts and collectors are very important customers for us, and they play a crucial role in driving our innovation and expression. We also need to maintain close communication with younger demographics and new customers, creating future VIP customer groups and new brand stories through a broader consumer base. What aspects of the brand does Jaeger-LeCoultre hope to convey to consumers?

Catherine Rénier: Jaeger-LeCoultre combines exceptional watchmaking with aesthetic style, creating highly recognizable collections such as the Reverso series, the classic Master series, the sporty Polaris series inspired by the 1968 style, and the Rendez-Vous series with a delicate feminine touch.

We have outstanding watch collections, combined with in-house developed and manufactured movements, to meet the general needs of watch enthusiasts. These collections also allow consumers to express their identity and emotions, which are the foundation and core of our success.

We want the public to understand Jaeger-LeCoultre’s watchmaking craftsmanship, so in our flagship boutiques, we have established the Atelier d’Antoine, a watchmaking workshop for curious consumers, guiding guests to explore Jaeger-LeCoultre’s world of high watchmaking and experience numerous Métiers Rares® rare crafts and watchmaking techniques gathered in our Grande Maison.

At the same time, we have a very artistic side, as seen in this year’s The Reverso Musical Show, which attracted a wider audience. These consumers explore Jaeger-LeCoultre watches through an emotional connection that exists between art and music, learning about the stories behind watchmaking technology. A watch not only displays time but also forms a rich connection with important emotional moments in life, such as anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and other milestone events.

Jaeger-LeCoultre has been partnering with the Shanghai International Film Festival for 12 years. During this year’s festival, Jaeger-LeCoultre presented an “Art Deco Cinema” inspired by the world’s first automotive cinema.

During the Shanghai International Film Festival, Jaeger-LeCoultre collaborated with musician TØKIO M¥ERS to perform the world premiere of The Reverso Musical Show.

In 2023, Jaeger-LeCoultre launched the Reverso Hybris Artistica Calibre 179, featuring the Calibre 179 movement with Jaeger-LeCoultre’s iconic multi-axis tourbillon technology combined with artistic craftsmanship.

| Image Credit: Provided by brand

| Editor: Zhu Ruoyu