Linde Werdelin has been wrestling back control of its global distribution since 2015, and is now emerging as a smaller, but more healthy and sustainable business, according to its founder Jorn Werdelin.
In an interview with WatchPro, Mr Werdelin says he realised three years ago that the watch business was being turned on its head as customers took control of how they wanted to engage.
“The industry was, and indeed still is, going through a structural change and an alignment in terms of how new technology such as the internet, mobile phones and pre-owned market place apps impact the consumer, the distribution chain — as well as the fairs Basel — and the brands,” he describes.
Linde Werdelin is a Danish watch company that makes specialist timekeepers for extreme sports, in particular skiing and diving. The company’s first collections launched in 2006, and sold directly to customers and through wholesale from the outset. The company also engaged with consumers directly in the early days of blogging and social media. Mr Werdelin says the brand was the most followed watchmaker on Instagram in 2013-14.
Developing direct relationships with customers has become key to the Linde Werdelin business model. “When the wholesale crisis started in mid-2015 we decided to refocus our business to primarily interact directly with our customers,” Mr Werdelin states.
The aim is to interact with consumers for longer, and over the lifetime of the watches they buy, whether they are new or pre-owned.
“We saw that the pre-owned market was gaining in traction and to some extend now rules over new watch sales. The main part of watch buyers now will always check if the price relates to the pre-owned value. We saw an opportunity to engage directly with new and existing customers, to offer a more personal level of service and to offer the customer the safety of us handling their purchase and sales of pre-owned Linde Werdelin [watches],” explains Mr Werdelin. “We started pre-owned about two years ago and now big brands such as Audemars Piguet are following this path. It makes sense from the brands point of view as well as the customer’s point of view – it is about taking responsibility for all watches ever sold.”
Retail partnership deals have been retired and Linde Werdelin has been trying to clear up an over-stocked channel. “We are not going back the old way of operating with distribution and retailers in every country so when we had bought back stock and stopped supplying it was cleaned up on its own over time,” Mr Werdelin admits.
Fewer watches have been launched, which also helps to unwind the oversupply problem, cuts costs for the business and gives longer lifespan to its current models. “In the last year we have launched about four series plus a service where our customers can customise their new and existing pieces. In the next 12 months we will up our activity somewhat as we do see a more normalised market now and more and more people wishing to engage directly with the brand. We don’t run as quickly as we used to because we don’t believe the customers is asking for a new version once per week — somehow it is not luxury,” Mr Werdelin concludes.