Like time itself, Walter von Känel just keeps on ticking. He joined Longines as a sales executive in 1969 and in 1988 was appointed president. In the intervening years he presided over the brand’s phenomenal growth—Longines is today one of only six watch brands with sales exceeding a billion Swiss francs per year.
Even during the industry’s downtown in the last couple of years, von Känel has maintained the brand’s worldwide performance, and expanded its presence in many parts of the world, including Macau, where a new boutique was opened at T Galleria by DFS, City of Dreams in February. It is clear in our interview with the industry veteran, now 76 years old, that he is showing no signs of slowing down.
How were Longines' sales in the Greater China market, and in Macau in particular, for the year 2016?
We are very proud to be on the podium in China for several years now. 2016 was no exception to the rule. Despite the conjuncture, we consolidated our position in the Greater China and we are very happy of our sales there. Macau is also doing well!
Longines Ambassador of Elegance Lin Chi-Ling at the opening of the brand's Macau boutique (Photo: Courtesy of Longines)
With the opening of the new boutique, it seems that prospects are bullish for 2017. What do you expect for this year?
I am confident that 2017 will be a great year for Longines. The prospects are excellent and I ordered enough stock so that we can answer to the market demand quickly.
You often travel to China. Do you see any prospects for improvement in the region overall?
We are already in a very good position in China and Macau. For me, the key is to listen to our local people, they know what their customers want.
At Baselworld 2017, Longines celebrated the 60th anniversary of its first Flagship collection. Can you please highlight other new products at this year’s show.
We were proud to present a new Conquest V.H.P. (Very High Precision), a great Longines success from the eighties, with a brand new V.H.P. movement, produced exclusively for Longines by ETA.
This watch will have anti-magnetic properties, display a perpetual calendar and be impact-resistant. As its name suggests it, it will also be extremely precise (+/- 5 seconds per year) and have a long-life battery. We decided to launch this unique movement fitted in newly designed Conquest sport watches.
See also: Longines Macau Boutique Opening
We also presented a whole new collection: Record. Available in four sizes for men and women, all fitted with brand new automatic calibers produced by ETA, these models reflect the strong watchmaking expertise Longines can rely on.
These movements, produced exclusively for Longines in 2017, are COSC certified. And with seven different dials, everybody can find a watch to their taste.
Come 2018, you will be celebrating an anniversary of our own—30 years as president of Longines. What has been your biggest achievement? And what is the greatest challenge going forward?
Mr Hayek senior [founder and president of the Swatch Group] asked me to be number 1 in our price segment when Longines joined the Swatch Group in 1984 and I am very proud that I could achieve this.
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