Tissot President François Thiébaud on why the brand is for the masses
Four million tissot watches were made last year. It’s an impressive number considering the total output of all other Swiss watch brands combined is 25.4 million. This is all part of the plan for Tissot and its long-time president François Thiébaud, who has been championing the importance of the entry-level luxury watch brand for nearly 25 years.
Certainly no horological upstart, Tissot was founded in Le Locle, Switzerland in 1853 and has played a fundamental role as part of the Swatch Group since 1983. Following Swatch’s industry-shifting decision to pull out of the global watch fair Baselworld, few people are better placed to able explain the decision than Thiébaud who formerly served as the watch fair’s President.
ESQ: Four milllon is a big number. What makes Tissot so popular?
FT: Tissot has been at the centre of watchmaking for a very long time. We are unique because we are still a luxury brand despite being affordable. There is a demand requiring us to produce four million pieces, which shows that we serve a clear purpose in the world of horology. When I took over Tissot nearly 20 years ago, we were selling 840,000 watches per year.
ESQ: With a brand that is more than 160 years old, how do you ensure that its heritage is alive in the message today?
FT: If you belong to a family you have to respect and honour the people who came before you. We try to offer the same product we always have, but updated to serve today’s market. We still look to discover the expectations of our customers, like what different materials they would like, because at the end of the day those are the people who we create for. A watch is a watch, and a wrist is a wrist, so when someone buys a Swiss watch they have a little piece of Switzerland on their wrist.
ESQ: Tissot is very much considered as a first-time buyer’s watch. Would you ever change that?
FT: No, that is part of our identity, as a way to introduce people to Swiss watches. The way the Swatch Group is structured, we cannot climb up in price point as that would affect Longines, just as they can not go up in price and affect Omega. There’s space for everyone. Also, we do not consider ourselves inferior to Omega or Longines, Tissot is still a luxury Swiss watch brand at the end of the day and we have a lot more new ambassadors every year who value and respect us.
ESQ: How important is a market like Dubai for you?
FT: Dubai is very modern and cosmopolitan, which is everything that Tissot is. The Indian expat population in Dubai is a very important market for us. Our brand ambassadors are Deepika Padukone and Virat Kohli. Deepika is like a daughter to me, and Virat is such a huge sportstar, not just in Indian cricket, but across the globe.
ESQ: What does Swatch’s withdrawal from Baselworld mean for the future?
FT: I cannot be against Baselworld as I was its president for 20 years! But it’s true, times have changed. The age-old cycle means that everyone showcases their new products every year all at the same time, so you are each fighting for the same attention. Tissot is a brand that is big enough to hold its own events that would get people to pay specific attention, rather than competing with others. That is quality one-on-one time with the brand, which is invaluable.