WTI: Have you always had an interest in watches?
JK: I love watches, so I get to play with my toys. I enjoy understanding the creative process that goes behind creating a movement, which can, with incredible accuracy, predict the date, moonphase, and sometimes even the equation of time. I enjoy the technical side of it. The marriage is, when you take that technical element and you put it inside a design, a case, and you create a face of the dial is a very special process because then you've created something with such incredible complexity which can be transmitted, understood, shared with your eyes and your heart in a very meaningful way.
See, I was born in the Quartz era - in the late '60's – '70's – when the industry for mechanical watches was devastated. So anybody growing up in that period was taught that quartz watches were superior in every way. The truth is though, as we've seen in the last 20 years, there's been a very strong movement back towards mechanical watches. Not for accuracy or technical elements which are dominated by an electronic circuit, but for the opposite reasons. The fact that it's handmade, it offers an incredible reflection of the human condition. What do I mean by that? A mechanical watch needs energy. If it's an automatic, it needs to be worn, if it's hand wound it needs an impulse, it needs to be wound, loved, and taken care of. Sometimes it requires to go to the hospital for that extra care and attention. Our customers love Audemars Piguet because a purely handmade watch is an important reflection of how they see themselves. They love the artistry but they also love the fact that as men and women, we've been able to calculate and define how to transform this incredible thing of time and space into a mechanical instrument which can adorn their wrist.
WTI: What are your strategies for the Indian market?
JK: I joined Audemars Piguet five years ago as the CEO for Japan and Korea, and now I've moved to Singapore and am responsible for Southeast Asia including India and Australia. It's my first trip to India, so my first order of business is to look and learn and understand the market a little better. I'll do that before I make a plan for India. I joined three months ago and it was very important for me to visit India as soon as possible and certainly before the end of the year so that we'd get a good amount of time to digest and understand as much as possible before 2018.
WTI: What is your opinion on tying up with brand ambassadors and friends of the brand as a marketing strategy for a luxury watch brand?
JK: Honestly, any opinion leader, any person who has shown excellence in creativity or accomplishment or skill or art, if they have a passion for Audemars Piguet, we look forward to building a relationship with them. Whether it's in Bollywood or sports or any accomplishment, the perfect relationship is built when someone that we admire very much, admires us in return. It leads to this beautiful meeting of shared passions, and that's the kind of relationships we build going forward. It's a great joy to meet someone who shares the same passion and knowledge, and when they select us from the many excellent brands around the world, that's when we know that our customers enjoy the legitimacy of these relationships.
WTI: Brands, today, are moving towards the online luxury retail sites as a point of sale. Will Audemars Piguet also be aiming for that?
JK: I think all doors are open. At the end of the day, we are making a handmade product which takes hundreds of hours to create. There's a fine mixture of science, engineering, but also artistry, magic, and that has to be respected no matter what medium you choose to introduce these creations to a customer. I think, as technology moves forward, we will certainly embrace it, use it as far as our customers feel comfortable to do so, because the truth is our watch comes alive when it's placed on a wrist. Whether it's a picture or even a three-dimensional image, the instrument gives true meaning only on wearing it. It's that important moment that is still slightly challenging to create digitally, but I think we'll get there, we'll get there at some point. Things have been moving so quickly. So, doors are open, I could say that we certainly not against any of those avenues, but we will proceed carefully with an eye on the end customers joy and experience.
WTI: Would you be investing in the technology available today for such experiential marketing?
JK: Oh, yes, certainly.
WTI: What is your opinion on social media influencers?
JK: Social media is such an amazing environment. Social media by definition means peer to peer, so the truth is everybody on social media is an influencer to some extent. What I think is really interesting is the science. For example, Instagram, is an interesting peer to peer environment. You have somebody who perhaps has a picture of themselves with their watch and is enjoying that moment, and their followers are free to enjoy that as well and share it. So it's very interesting and it carries a certain legitimacy too because it's considered to be an enjoyment of one person shared by another. I think the danger lies when one tries to insinuate themselves too much into the digital environment, because then the very smart and aware customers will start looking for genuineness in the content. So we'll have to be very careful when we follow that approach.