Eschewing extravagant marketing moves, this watch chief is building a loyal following by focusing on his customers – and what they truly want.

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Eschewing extravagant marketing moves, this watch chief is building a loyal following by focusing on his customers – and what they truly want.

Glashutte Original CEO Yann Gamard has a habit that may seem strange to those outside the watch world – he wears one timepiece on each wrist. It’s a quirk shared by some of the most fanatic watch collectors we have met, as well as Gamard’s boss, Swatch Group CEO Nick Hayek. In town for a visit, Gamard sits down with The Peak for a chat, following a photo shoot.

While he is not particularly fond of having his picture taken (“I’d rather focus on the brand, not myself,” he explains), he is happy to tell us about the watches he is sporting that day. On the left, fresh out of the brand’s manufacture in the German town of Glashutte, is a Senator Cosmopolite, a handsome dualtime watch with 37 time zones.

On the right: a Pano Inverse, an elegant model distinguished by its inverted movement. While choosing from the brand’s “beautiful pieces” might be tough, notes the French national, the decision is made easier by the fact that “we don’t have that many pieces available”. Indeed, at a time when his peers are more likely to be losing sleep over excess stock, Gamard is justifiably proud that his watchmakers are unable to keep up with demand.

Established by the privatisation of a formerly nationalised conglomerate of East German watch factories, Glashutte Original produces 95 per cent of the parts for its watches, ranging from complicated designs like the Grande Cosmopolite Tourbillon to the Pavonina quartz models.

He says: “We have a sevenmonth backlog. When I (took up the post of CEO) five years ago, the backlog was six months. Now, we have three times the production volume, and we still have a seven-month backlog. We have been growing at 15 per cent a year, but we cannot grow any faster, because it takes six years to train someone to make a Glashutte Original piece.”

The brand has 720 employees worldwide, and produces more than 10,000 watches a year. This demand does not look set to abate any time soon. Next month will see the official opening of the brand’s new boutique at Marina Bay Sands – its first mono-brand store in South-east Asia – while plans are also under way to expand its presence in Greater China and Europe.

What isn’t part of the expansion plan, however, is splashing out on flashy advertising campaigns. To cite an example given by Gamard, you won’t find a Glashutte Original ad splashed across “billboards at an airport”. He adds: “Ours are not very, very expensive watches where a lot of money is spent on marketing. We don’t do big wah-bang, big bling-bling communications. Ours are true watches where money is spent on the manufacturing. We want to be true to our customer.”

This philosophy has not gone unnoticed. While the brand’s typical five-digit price tags can hardly be considered small, its watches are considered by a number of industry insiders to be great value for money, considering their quality and innovation. We’re talking in-house movements, plenty of hand-finishing, and high-end components such as swan-neck regulators.

And when it comes to marketing, the brand’s “Five Perspectives” film project perfectly illustrates the brand’s client-centric, unorthodox approach to self-promotion. Instead of commissioning a slickly produced video – a medium that has become a mainstay in luxurywatch marketing – Glashutte Original invited fans and customers to share their personal perspectives of the brand through five short films, providing support and resources for the process.

Response to this campaign has been positive, racking up more than 200,000 “likes” on various social-media platforms. Promising that this short-film series will continue, Gamard muses: “It takes some courage to do this. Everybody is trying to protect their image. We don’t need to protect our image; we just show who we are and let people talk about us – and they talk about us in such a nice way.”