Omega’s chief executive officer talks to Syida Lizta Amirul Ihsan about a new boutique, skiing and rising above negativity
LIKE many other sports, one can learn a lot about life from skiing, Raynald Aeschlimann, the president and CEO of luxury watch brand Omega tells me one afternoon at its swanky new boutique in Suria KLCC.
An avid skier, who spends his winter weekends on the snowy slopes, Aeschlimann says it is one activity that keeps him grounded since many days in the year, he’s a high-flying boss who travels the world for Omega.
“Skiing is a communal sport and people usually do this with their families. Whether it’s being in the ski lift together or skiing, this isn’t a solitary activity so we are taught early on the values of company and families,” he says.
“It’s true that we literally go up the mountains and ski down but the sport keeps me down to Earth. For the younger generation, who would rather snuggle with their gadgets reading WhatsApp messages and Instagram feeds, skiing is a way of going outside and they need to go outside to learn about the world,” he says.
Perhaps it is this philosophy of being in the world and embracing global trends as they are that this brand has recently, bravely embraced Instagram as one of its point of sales.
In case you are wondering, The Speedmaster Speedy Tuesday is a project where the latest Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch — with 2012 limited edition pieces — are offered exclusively for online sales.
This is the 60th year of the Speedmaster, one of Omega’s iconic watches, and making social media as one of its sales channel is testament that the brand is embracing technology and the current way society interacts.
“We have a lot of loyal followers, digital-wise and there’s a lot of influence of emotion and technology in the luxury industry,” he says. And Instagram, with its curated content, filters and heartwarming images, fits this emotion bill to a tee.
But it’s not just emotions that drive a luxury brand forward, Aeschlimann, 47, says. “In the watch industry, emotions and technology go hand in hand.”
For products such as leather goods, he says, the value is seen over time in how the leather ages and the patina develops. But for watches, it’s the other way around.
“To give a watch value, it needs to be precise 10 years after it was first bought so makers need that technology of precision to keep the watch working in perfect order. It’s not like a leather bag. You don’t leave it to chance,” he says.
“So for a watch to hold emotional value, say, for example, something that’s chosen by George Clooney for his wedding or as a gift from a husband to his wife, it has to be accurate. And that’s how our values are linked to technology.”
Aeschlimann says he is positive about what the year will bring, despite the global political scene that’s less than positive. He talks about last year’s terrorist attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport as one that assaults human emotions, above all.
“If you think about it, airports are one of the most emotional places in the world — we say goodbye to loved ones and send them off or wait with anticipation for their return — and to have the attacks there send fears down your spine that we’re really not safe, anywhere.
“But there is no point in being gloomy. People will still have celebrations and happy moments, and if we have this ability to rise above the negativity that surrounds us, we will be successful,” he adds.
WHERE WE WANT TO BE
He counts the new boutique as one of Omega’s success in this country. “We’ve always wanted to be in this exact shopping mall,” he says. “We are confident that now is an ideal time to open a new boutique in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, to honour the demand of our customers.”
The grand opening celebration, held in early February, was accompanied by a traditional lion dance performance to commemorate the Lunar New Year.
The new boutique is designed according to the brand’s global concept, inspired by the natural elements of air, water and sunlight. The cream and champagne interior, with exotic reconstituted zebra wood furniture and chiselled glass surfaces, underline the attention to details and quality for which this watch has long been known for.
The new boutique will offer an elegant and comfortable shopping experience for watch fans.
After the boutique opening in Kuala Lumpur, Aeschlimann travels to Singapore, then Seoul for work before heading back to his office in Bienne, Switzerland.
He reminds me of Santiago, the boy in Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (“that story teaches me something new every time I read it”), who travels to find treasure that’s hidden near his home.
But if our short conversation is any indication, unlike Santiago, Aeschlimann already knows that the treasure is in the journey he takes.