Maurice Lacroix to be Even More Exclusive

Swiss luxury watch brand Maurice Lacroix SA is making significant changes in the United States and worldwide to take it even higher in the luxury sphere and become a leading luxury watch brand.

Inrecent months, Maurice Lacroix North America has added a new president/chief executive officer; a new marketing director; streamlined products; begun reducing its retail outlets; and launched a new ad campaign, (part of Maurice Lacroix’s new brand identity global marketing).

This is all part of what Randi Shinske, president and chief executive officer of Maurice Lacroix North America, calls the brand’s “2012 global vision” to become well-known worldwide, focused on mechanical luxury watches using its own movements. The brand, she says, is “rebuilding itself internationally, and redefining itself in the U.S. market.” 

Randi Shinske, president and chief executive officer of Maurice Lacroix North America

U.S. changes began with the appointment of Shinske, who has over 20 years in fine watches and luxury products, including stints as president and CEO of Ebel USA; president and CEO of a consulting firm to luxury jewelry companies; and management posts at SMH/Swatch.

That’s was followed by creation of a new staff including, in May, appointment of jewelry trade show and marketing veteran Fran Pennella as director of marketing and public relations, and the transcontinental relocation of the North American headquarters.

Making movements. Maurice Lacroix makes its watches in Saignelégier, Switzerland, and sells them in 3,500 outlets in 60 countries. Since the 1990s, its focused increasingly on mechanical watches, especially those with complications. In 2006, it unveiled its first in-house produced movement, the hand-wound caliber ML 106 for its Masterpiece Le Chronographe, taking it into the exclusive club of Swiss brands which make their own movements. The brand now has four of it own calibers and two patents pending, notes Shinske, and plans more. “The direction is to go deeply into mechanical movements in the next five years,” she says. “That’s where investments are going.”

Masterpiece Le Chronographe is the first Maurice Lacroix watch 
to use the brand’s own in-house produced movement.

Maurice Lacroix’s output is 60 percent mechanical and 40 quartz watches. By 2012, it wants to be 90 percent mechanical and 10 percent quartz, making 80 percent of its movements. The company produces 150,000 watches annually, but more focus on mechanicals means production will become “more limited,” notes Shinske.

Fewer retailers. The assortment is changing, too. “We’ve tightened collections in quartz, while expanding them in the mechanical end,” says Shinske, (who trimmed the line in the U.S. market, from 400 SKUs to 135). The focus now is on three areas: the mechanical Masterpiece collection (traditional styling, for older, more conservative consumers); the beefed-up mechanical Pontos line (more contemporary, for younger consumers); and some quartz ‘bread and butter’ pieces.

Shinske aims to “establish an exclusive distribution in the United States and the Caribbean, capture market share in the luxury mechanical timepieces niche, and become the entry brand for those wanting luxury watches with quality movements at reasonable prices.” As a result, Maurice Lacroix North America is taking a hard look at its retailers.

The brand entered the U.S. market in 1994, through an agent; began its U.S. company in California in 1995; and eventually grew to over 400 retailers. However, its image and distribution were “all over the place—Who is the brand? Who is the customer?—with too many doors, and not always the right partner or place,” says Shinske. “So, there will be tremendous changes in distribution,” shrinking to 150 outlets by 2009. “We want to ensure the retailer’s vision, store and customers, match our vision for the brand,” says Fran Pennella, director of marketing and public relations of Maurice Lacroix’s North American operations.

Changing prices. Maurice Lacroix’s pricing is also changing, as it moves into higher strata of luxury watches. “The product was undervalued,” Shinske notes. Its average retail range was $800 to $4,000, but “we’re moving quickly to $3,000 to $8,000.” The new Masterpiece collection retails for $5,000 to $15,000, Pontos for $2,500 to $6,000, and quartz watches for $1,000 to $3,000.

To promote its watches and new image, and raise its U.S. profile, Maurice Lacroix North America has a new ad campaign (part of the brand’s global repositioning), featuring a new logo; a new tagline (“More than meets the eye”), and ads starring its timepieces. The campaign begins this holiday season, its first in a while, running in trade and upscale consumer magazines. (There’re also new point-of-sale displays, a new website and talks about possible celebrity endorsements.)

One of the biggest U.S. changes was moving headquarters from California to Hackensack, N.J. (with facilities for shipping, receiving, and after-sales service). The new headquarters ‘DBA’ name is Maurice Lacroix North America (covering the United States, Caribbean, and Canada). However, its legal name—Desco Luxury Americas—draws on its parent firm (Desco von Schulthess AG), and anticipates future business in Latin America, and possibly other luxury products.

For now, though, says Shinske, she and her team are concentrating on “relaunching the brand in the U.S. market and making it number one.”

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