How Movado Group’s Efraim Grinberg Keeps a Nine-Brand Watch Empire Ticking

Efraim Grinberg has headed Movado Group since 1990, helping take the company public as president in 1993. Now chairman and CEO, he has built the 135-year-old watchmaker—purchased by his father, Gedalio, in 1983—into one of the world’s leading watch conglomerates, with nine brands under its belt. Grinberg talks to JCK about marketplace trends, whom he really works for, and the importance of walking around.

Are there any management books that have inspired you?

I’ve read a lot of business books, from Jack Welch’s book [Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book] to Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. You always pick up some good leadership tips from them. To me it’s about establishing the right culture in a company, establishing a leadership culture. That is what I’m proudest of: the team that we have built and the level of longevity and dedication of our team. What I try to do is give a direction and set priorities and strategy and then get out of the way.

Can you explain what you mean by “a leadership culture”? 

It is about being able to motivate people, rather than micromanaging, getting them to lead and empowering them to do their jobs. One of the things in Stephen Covey’s book is establishing a culture where people trust each other. When you are small you can manage everything yourself. As you grow, you need to have good leaders and managers. We have nine brands. You can’t have one person managing nine brands. 

So it’s about giving them the power to do things and to get things done, and to accept a certain level of mistakes—as long as you don’t make them more than once, and as long as they aren’t deadly.

How do you motivate people?

Obviously, people have to make a living, but you want them to have other kinds of rewards beyond just money. That means being recognized and showing that their thoughts and ideas matter.

What else do you think distinguishes Movado’s culture?

We believe in a culture of creativity, listening to the consumer, and listening to your people. We believe all our brands have a specific DNA and a specific design philosophy. We challenge our people: If you take the name off the watch, does it look like a Coach watch, does it look like a Hugo Boss watch? The Movado Edge collection doesn’t even have the name on the dial. It’s on the back of the watch.

How do you stay innovative and creative? 

It is one of the things that we challenge ourselves to do. We try to see what the trends are in the marketplace. But we also look at trends from the car industry, from the eyeglass industry—or apparel or shoes—that can translate into watches.

How do you judge what trends to apply?

We look at what we think has longevity. We don’t want a trend just for a short period of time. Several years ago it was matte black. That was something that we introduced and is still selling today. One trend we see now is thinness. We see that across all our brands.

Any important advice that you have gotten?

To always learn. I always tell people I will be in this job as long as I keep learning. It’s when you believe you know it all—that is when you get into trouble.

How do you keep learning?

You surround yourself with really good people and allow them to state their opinions. You don’t want to build a culture where everyone says yes to the boss when they are not thinking yes.

One of the pleasures of running this company is we have a great leadership team. This company is not about one person. It’s about a lot of people.

Edge chronograph with 42 mm stainless steel case and blue aluminum dial; $995; Movado, Paramus, N.J.; 800-408-8147; 

Your dad preceded you as head of the company. What did he teach you?

We have over 1,000 employees. One thing my dad taught me is you work for them. Everything you do, you have to think about how it affects them. My dad believed he wasn’t always the guy who could do the job. So he would get people who were better than him. My objective is to always have people who are better than me. 

You have a public company. What are the challenges of that?

I look at it more as the benefits of it. We are able to be in a strong financial position. Being a public company puts you a little more on your toes. You can’t wait to deliver on things. You have to deliver for the short term, the medium term, and the long term. We tend to be more long-term–oriented, so it provides a good balance.

As CEO, you have a lot on your plate. How do you stay organized?

I’m a pretty informal guy. I like to walk around a lot. I leave time during the day to stop in people’s offices. I try to do fewer organized meetings and spend more time with people inside the company. 

Top: Grinberg with Movado ambassador Kerry Washington at Baselworld 2016