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Optimistic Meistersinger sees opportunity ahead

MeisterSinger_CEO_John_van_Steen

Meistersinger has always been a lean and hungry watch business with a growing community of customers and collectors that appreciate the uniqueness of its single-handed timekeepers.

Based in Munster, Germany, the company would not classify itself as a watchmaker, preferring to leave the manufacturing of its pieces to expert firms in Switzerland.

This leaves the business free to focus on the design of its watches, and the equally creative process of building and managing a global network of retail partners with the passion to make a success of the quirky brand.

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Meistersinger, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, is still a young company by Swiss watchmaking standards, but its distinctiveness has helped business hold up in the challenging times we face today.

Jon Van Steen, the company’s managing partner, thinks that sales will be down by around 30% this year, a downturn he describes as “manageable”.

Mr Van Steen’s optimism is founded on recent sales data from Europe that shows normality returning to countries that have reopened their retail sectors. “When we look at the German market where Meistersinger is based, and the market in The Netherlands, which I know well because I am Dutch, shops have been opening up,” he tells WatchPro at the end of May.

“The reaction from retailers has been quite positive in the very early days of opening up with a lot of customers coming in. Many of them were needing their watches serviced, but there were also a number of good sales,” he adds.

Meistersinger’s Astroscope was selected as the cover star for WatchPro’s June edition.

Although eager to see retail continue to open up across the world, Mr Van Steen sounds a note of caution because it would be disastrous if there were a second spike of Covid-19 cases later this year that sent us all back to our homes. “It is great to see all shops opening up now in Europe and some parts of the United States, but we have to do everything gradually and safely. We must not allow a second wave,” he says.

Time during lock down has been used productively, with Meistersinger turning to video-conferencing to promote its new collections and to train staff at authorized dealers around the world.

“Video online has become a wonderful tool during these difficult times. We can have meetings with each other, it worked for all the watchmakers launching their collections online at Watches & Wonders and it is also a fantastic way for us to speak to our retail partners and give them training. We have been training forty to fifty people at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in Dubai, and it is an excellent way to introduce them to our novelties,” Mr Van Steen describes.

Training and promotion are seen as key to steer any pent up demand for gifts and luxuries in Meistersinger’s direction, and Mr Van Steen is confident demand will rise significantly once people have the confidence to go out and shop again.

“Not only since lock down, but also during lock down the demand was still there for luxury goods. There were birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Retailers have been selling online throughout the crisis or doing personal visits to customers. I spoke to one jeweler during the lock down and he said he was visiting his customers at their homes with a carefully chosen range of pieces each time. He did quite good business,” he reveals.

Meistersinger had a stroke of luck at the beginning of 2020 because it launched the majority of this year’s new watches at Inhorgenta, a major watch and jewelry show held in February in Munich, Germany. “That allowed us to introduce all of our novelties and we were ready to distribute them to our retail partners in early March and got off to a very positive start for the year,” Mr Van Steen recalls.

By the end of March, Meistersinger, like virtually every other sizeable watch brand in the world, hit a wall. “We were hit harder as the virus hit Europe and the rest of the world and we are now behind,” Mr Van Steen admits.

The company might have been even further behind had it not launched an intelligent ecommerce strategy a few years ago that binds its authorized dealers into a mutually advantageous pact. While many retailers rage against brands that compete with them via their own ecommerce sites, Meistersinger rewards its retailers for every watch it sells from Meistersinger.com.

For example, if a customer in Florida buys a watch online directly from the brand, its retail partner in Naples is notified and gets a percentage of the sale. If customers pick up their watches in-store, the dealer gets to start a relationship with them. The program is not yet launched in every market, but it is coming.

In the meantime, during the pandemic, Meistersinger.com offered a 10% discount plus, for every watch sold, the company donated €100 to the Red Cross. “That offer was popular with consumers, and we have now extended it so that our retail partners can also make the same offer as they open,” Mr Van Steen reveals. “We are always eager to cooperate with our retailers and we also have to stimulate interest and demand for consumers. It is more important than ever to come up with fresh ideas and promotions to excite customers these days,” he adds.

Looking further ahead, Meistersinger is unsure how it will launch new collections in 2021. Inhorgenta looks highly likely again, as a far lower cost alternative to the now-defunct Baselworld. A new show being spoken about by the Baselworld management team could be another option.

“What we have been told by the Baselworld team is that they are consulting on whether a new concept in a new location could work for exhibitors and visitors. We are still waiting for the outcome of that process,” Mr Van Steen says.

“Inhorgenta was good for us this year and we will do that again next year. We will look at other opportunities as they arise, and we are pretty confident there will be other opportunities to show our watches.”

For more information please visit www.MeisterSinger.US or call +1 727-896-4278.

Star gazing with Meistersinger’s Astroscope

Meistersinger has followed up on the success of its Lunascope moon phase watch with a second model with an astronomical theme, the Astroscope, which displays the weekdays with ancient symbols of heavenly bodies: the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.

Symbolising the days of the week with astrological bodies most likely dates back to the Babylonians who ruled over Mesopotamia from the 18th to the 6th centuries BC.

Meistersinger has arranged the weekdays with these symbols in a non-linear pattern and a white dot jumps from one to another to show the current day; wandering back and forth in a constellation that only occurs every ten to twelve years in the southern night sky of the northern hemisphere, the watchmaker says.

This year’s Astroscope will be available in two night sky-coloured models with the dial’s markers in blue or copper. They both come with leather straps that pick up the colours of the dials. Inside the steel 40mm watch is a Swiss-made SellitaSW220 movement with 38 hours of power reserve, visible through a crystal window.

The watches are on sale now for £1,990.

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder