Sascha Moeri has been chief executive of Carl F. Bucherer since 2010, and also a member of the Group Executive Committee at Bucherer, the parent group that bought The Watch Gallery in the UK last year. The watch brand and retail group are both on maneuvers; rolling out in the United States with acquisitions of luxury watch retailers Tourneau and Baron & Leeds this year, which will increase the number of Carl F. Bucherer doors to around 370 worldwide. In such a pivotal year for the business, WatchPro’s Rob Corder was fortunate enough to grab an hour with the charismatic chief to discuss where the Lucerne giant goes next.
Carl Friedrich Bucherer, the founder and patriarch of jewellery and watch retailer Bucherer, loved watches so much that he started making his own. The Lucerne-based jeweller was created in 1888, and the family business almost immediately started work on creating watches under the Carl F. Bucherer brand name.
The aim from the start was to bring horology, gemology and goldsmith skills into the watchmaking business, and this mission was made possible by combining the skills of Carl Friedrich Bucherer’s two sons, Ernst and Carl Eduard, one of whom was a watchmaker and the other a goldsmith.
The business became a pioneer in the early years of watchmaking, recognising that wristwatches had the potential to find customers beyond the traditional pocket watch market, and particularly for ladies who appreciated the craftsmanship of Bucherer’s jewellery watches.
The business continued to produce watches throughout two world wars, and by the 1960s was one of the leading manufacturers of precision chronometers in Switzerland. Like many of its peers, Carl F. Bucherer lost momentum during the quartz crisis of the 1970s, despite switching much of its production to the emerging timekeeping technology.
As traditional mechanical watchmaking re-emerged, Carl F. Bucherer battled back. And, when Jörg G. Bucherer, the third generation of the family took the helm of the parent company in 1976, he nudged the tiller back towards chronometers and chronographs; setting the direction that leads to the modern watchmaking business.
Bucherer the jeweller and retailer was booming as it entered the 21st century, and Carl F. Bucherer were respected among connoisseurs. But the business was limited in its watchmaking potential by a lack of production capacity until it bought Téchniques Horlogères Appliquées in 2007, which gave it the capability to research, develop, and produce its own movements.
“London is a key city for us, and I am happy that our parent company Bucherer was able to purchase The Watch Gallery which means a great opportunity also for Carl F. Bucherer.”
Three years later, Carl F. Bucherer’s current CEO, Sascha Moeri, joined the business, with a mandate to broaden the range of watches the company makes and to increase its production. When he arrived, the company was making around 6,000 watches per year, now that figure has risen to around 25,000, and Mr Moeri says he can increase that a little more in 2018. “The limit today is down to production capacity rather than demand. We are happy that we have been able to build additional production capacity that will enable us to produce up to 27-28,000 pieces this year,” he tells WatchPro.
Around 40% of Carl F. Bucherer’s turnover comes from Europe, thanks mainly to the fact the watches are sold in Bucherer stores in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, France and, since the acquisition of The Watch Gallery last year, in UK. Another 40% of sales come from Asia where it wholesales to around 150 points of sale.
In the United States, Bucherer acquired Tourneau, the country’s largest chain of luxury watch retailers, earlier this year and just last month acquired Baron & Leeds, which has another four doors in California and Hawaii. That will give the Carl F. Bucherer watch brand a considerable boost when added to the 80 independent jewellers it currently sells through.
“This takeover is key to further growth in the US market which offers a tremendous potential for fine watches,” Mr Moeri says. At the beginning of 2018, Carl F. Bucherer had around 350 points of sale world-wide. That number will be nudging north of 350 once some of the Bucherer-owned retailers in America start to stock the brand.
Carl F. Bucherer is comparatively unknown in the UK. It has space within Watches of Switzerland in London, plus Bucherer’s three stores, including Selfridges. That suits Mr Moervi, who says the business is already in a position where it can sell more watches than it can make thanks to the quality of its watchmaking and the balance of its portfolio. “In the last few years, we have completely changed our product offering. If you look back to 2010, eight out of ten timepieces we sold were men’s watches, and only two were ladies watches. Now, with 25,000 timepieces per year, we sell 60% to male and 40% to female customers,” he describes.
The company’s bestselling collection is the Patravi family of sports watches that includes the TravelTec world travellers and Scubatec divers’ sub collections. Higher up the luxury scale is the Manero line, which includes limited edition tourbillons and perpetual calendar chronographs along with a range of more classic automatics.
Ladies have their own Patravi models that house CFB manufacture automatic movements. Plus there are Adamvi dress watches with automatics and quartz movements, and the more decorative Pathos and Alacria watches that hark back to the early 20th century bejewelled pieces that the founder Carl Freidrich Bucherer made.
“Price-wise, the range within the collections is very strong and attractive – from an entry level offer in basic steel with an automatic movement to high-end watches with in-house movements towards complications and jewellery watches,” Mr Moeri says.
The broad range of styles for men and ladies also helps Carl F. Buherer to sell strongly to different types of customers around the world. “Different markets prefer different types of watches. Among the top 10 of sold Carl F. Bucherer timepieces in the US are three or four Patravi TravelTec and the same number of Patravi ScubaTec line. Those watches do not make it into the top 10 in Asia where the Manero, Pathos and Adamavi line are the top sellers. Also the taste of European customers is very diverse. While Eastern Europeans tend to buy larger timepieces, coming in gold and adorned with diamonds, customers from the UK, Italy and Spain prefer simple, clean and classy watches,” Mr Moeri reveals.
The concentration for Carl F. Bucherer in London is part of a wider strategy to focus on key destinations for watch collectors. It also means that the 25,000 watches the company makes per year are not spread too thin to make an impact. “London is a key city for us, and I am happy that our parent company Bucherer was able to purchase The Watch Gallery which means a great opportunity also for Carl F. Bucherer. The same applies to the rest of Europe. Our goal is to have presences in all of the major cities where we can build up brand awareness. In all destinations, our target customer is the watch enthusiast and collector who are fascinated by our timepieces, the brand and its heritage behind. Our intension and promise is to remain exclusive, not mass market,” Mr Moeri explains.
Recognition for Carl F. Bucherer has been increasing in the UK since the acquisition of The Watch Gallery by Bucherer. Even Watches of Switzerland is selling more, despite the additional competition in London.
2018 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for Carl F. Bucherer. It is able to increase capacity, and the additional retail doors bought by its parent Bucherer in the UK and North America are coming on stream. “Starting September 2018, we will begin an initial rollout of Carl F. Bucherer at major Tourneau points of sale in New York City, Las Vegas, Costa Mesa, Palm Beach, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Further points of sale will follow within the next year. Russia and Europe are performing well, and also Asia is picking up, especially China. The US market, particularly thanks to the acquisition of Tourneau, is performing very successfully,” Mr Moeri states.
As well as chief executive for Carl F. Bucherer, Mr Moeri is also a member of the Group Executive Committee of the parent Bucherer company. When WatchPro meets him, he is a little reluctant to speak about the expansion of the Bucherer network, but he does suggest that the retail side of the group and its watchmaking subsidiary are in strategic lock step.
The most recent business move has been the acquisition of Carl F. Bucherer’s distributor in the United States, with the company becoming Carl F. Bucherer North America Inc. “The incorporation of Carl F. Bucherer North America Inc. is a vital step into a bright future for our global brand that will enable us to exploit the full potential of this exciting market,” Mr Moeri says.