On behalf of the many fans and buyers of Glycine watches who frequent the worlds most visited watch forum site WUS , I took the opportunity to ask a few questions to Stephan Lack, CEO of Glycine Watch SA.
We appreciate the value of his time and generosity in taking some of that time to satisfy our curiosity.
I am nicely surprised by the sincere replies and am pleased with the information provided.
Fellow WUS members, hope you will enjoy the interview, a good long read and please share your opinions.Thank you Uwe W.
for your help in rephrasing the questions and the whole interview concept.
Stephan Lack, CEO, Glycine Watches SA ( photo,custody of Glycine SA )
Q1: With respect to Glycine’s 100 year-old history of watchmaking, does the company maintain an official archive, and if so, how thorough are the records that are being kept?
SL: Contrary to the after sales service my predecessors didn't maintain an official archive of our very historical and beautiful brand. Even worse I assume that they threw away quite some valuable information, particularly of the great time between 1914 and 1950. As you know Glycine's ébauche division was acquired by ASUAG 1942. Theoretically a lot of information should be in the archive of ASUAG / ETA. Our new team is very eager to put the puzzle together again. There are old Glycine watches in watch museums and we have contact to quite a couple of collectors. It would be great if we can altogether put the puzzle together.
Q2: We believe the invention Glycine Eugene Meylan Automatic Module (patented in 1930) was one of Glycine’s first innovations in the watch manufacturing industry. Does detailed information concerning this milestone exist, such as its years of production or the quantities it was manufactured in?
SL: What we know is the following: Under the firm EMSA (E.Meylan.S.A.) in La Chaux-de-Fonds Glycine obtained patents on a hammer automatic design already in 1930 and 1931. This was a complete automatic unit book of automatic wristwatches, designated Caliber 35, which was formed as a ring with a U-shaped profile and could be installed in a previously developed basic movement measuring 8.75 lignes. For this purpose, EMSA usually utilized its Caliber 20 with eccentric or Caliber 43 with center seconds. Although both basic movements were prepared for the installation of hand winding, they were usually delivered without it; the crown thus served only for hand setting. The two components could be attached to each other without screws and were thus extremely well suited for servicing. The movement of the hammer, which wound in one direction, was limited by spring buffers. When the watch was fully wound, damage to the balance was prevented by the mainspring wound to some extent so the watch would start after just a few arm movements.
Q3: Information found on the internet claims that Glycine’s ébauche division was acquired by ASUAG in 1942. This move apparently resulted in Glycine becoming more dependent on the use of ébauche movements from other manufacturers such as AS and Felsa. In retrospect, how is this important business decision in Glycine’s history viewed upon today?
SL: AS and Felsa are also nice movements, but no doubt in retrospect this concentration in the Swiss watch production - under the lead of the Swiss government - hasn't been optimal for Glycine and the world of fine watches. A pity - of course! But we have to respect, it was a different time and many companies were fighting for their existence.
By the way the agreement has been clear. Companies who brought their ébauche divisions into ASUAG have always had the right to get the movements they needed, what was nothing else than fair. As you see, this part of the watch history seems to be a bit forgotten which is not a satisfactory situation in a monopolistic Swiss movement market.
Q4: Was there any relationship between the watchmakers Charles Henri Meylan, A.R & J.E Meylan and Marius Meylan, and Eugene Meylan, Glycine’s founder? I have contacted the Meylan Corporation (meylan.com) with this question, but they refused to provide any details regarding A.R & J.E Meylan and oddly stated that this was privileged information.
SL: We guess yes, but we would need evidence either from family Meylan or the administration in the villages where the Meylans are coming from.
Q5: Is there a correlation between the markings found on Glycine case backs and the movement used in the watch or its production year? Essentially, Glycine owners are wondering about the significance of the 6 digit numbering format (i.e. 323.211) that was predominantly used between the ‘60s and ‘80s.
SL: We guess no. However, we have all the numbers 100001 to 888571 in an old book registered. This book is in our archive.
Q6: As active (and frequent) buyers of watches from Glycine’s current collections, several of
the forum’s members were interested in knowing more about Glycine existing operations
with respect to the watches it produces.
SL: We will make about 6000 mechanical watches in 2013. This is already considerably more than 2 years ago.
Q7: Can you share your thoughts on becoming the CEO of Glycine? Did you have any expectations or goals when you joined the company? Or
conversely, after accepting the job was there anything that surprised you?
SL: May be the biggest difference compared to my predecessors is that I see Glycine first as a brand. A brand with a great history with all these ingredients a great brand must have. This is the first reason why invested my money into Glycine. The history of the brand is outstanding and so is the history of the products. And in the coming years we want to put the puzzle together again. You know, I am coming from the classical brand management. Already in my first years after university I clearly learnt the difference between a brand and a product at Unilever. In the last twenty years I had the chance to work for and learn from some great Swiss watch brands. The product is definitely the most important part of a brand. But a product it's not enough to be a brand, you also have to communicate and respect your history.
When I started studying Glycine I quickly realized that this brand is a real gem. All the ingredients of a great brand were just there. We don't have to invent stories like some other brands have to do. Of course, I also noticed that the previous owners were basically interested in the present and the future of Glycine, mainly Airman. Yes, I was a bit surprised that the two owner families after Eugene Meylan somehow neglected the full brand's history, and the archive. Anyway, the 100 years anniversary could be the right moment to work on this great history.
It has been my goal to improve communication, to professionalize distribution and to give a new swing to the products, everything step by step.
Q8: What are Glycine’s current production volumes per annum? Do these numbers reach or exceed the company’s expectations? Which models are the most popular?
SL: We plan with 6000 automatic watches in 2013. We had a significant increase in 2012. We can say that we have 3 strong families. All of them sell well. In terms of quantity Combat 6 is the number 1. In terms of value it's Airman. But also Incursore is a strong family.
Q9: What are Glycine’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to its global distribution? Are there markets in which Glycine sells particularly well, or markets that you feel will be essential for future growth?
SL: First of all I believe that there is plenty of potential for our products in all markets. Independent brands are welcome in multi brand shops if your marketing mix is promising and if your wholesale partner is strong enough. Independent retailers appreciate the uncomplicated and personal contact to the brand owner and the excellent view for a long- term partnership. Our strongest markets are USA, Italy and Spain. But we see an excellent potential in Asia, where we are just re-launching the brand in Greater China, South East Asia and Japan with a very experienced and strong distribution partner. Potential we also see in Turkey, Russia, Brazil and India. Absolutely unsatisfactory is the distribution in Switzerland and Germany: It has been totally neglected, unfortunately. In the coming years we will work on that. We think that Glycine has definitely deserved a better place in the Swiss watch market.
Q10: How has Glycine reacted to the Swatch Group’s shifting policies regarding the supply of ébauche movements to manufacturers outside of the Swatch Group?
SL: First of all, we are optimistic that the "Competition Commission" of the state of Switzerland as well as Swatch Group respect the fact that Glycine's ébauche division was taken over by ASUAG in 1942 also under the condition that Glycine has a right to get enough ébauche and movements (lead under Swiss government at that time!). This is why I think it's more than fair to treat a watch brand like Glycine with a special right for movements.
I have an understanding and I agree that Swatch Group intends to have a right to choose to whom they want to sell their movements in future. On the other hand the market has to play, also in a transition phase! If it doesn't, it basically can't be accepted according to Swiss and European law. In other words, if there is a change in the future, the "Competition Commission" has to guarantee that the market (supply & demand) fully plays, particularly in the segment of the entry level of mechanical watches.
This will last another 10 years may be, compared to the more of 80 years of united collaboration in the Swiss industry a short time.
Q11: Are there any plans or discussions within Glycine about the company one day manufacturing its own movements again?
SL: We started working on own movement decorations as well as on small Glycine complications. It's an option as well as a dream to have an own movement again one day, why not.
Q12: Always the subject of debate within the forum is the question of watch case sizing. Glycine has embraced the manufacturer of larger cases; are there any long-term plans to move existing models in the collection to other case sizes? When it introduces a new model, how does Glycine determine which case size it will be offered in?
SL: We offer the Airman in 46mm, 42mm and 38mm, we think this covers the needs of the market quite well, also for the Asian and the ladies wrist.
Combat we offer in 43mm and new in 36mm. We think that the proportions of the 43mm are just perfect and that the smaller version will open some more market possibilities.
Incursore is a big watch with a big crown. At the moment we can't imagine to go smaller than 44mm as we think it's just the DNA of Incursore. But never say never.
Regarding the sizes we also talk to the markets, to the retailers and for the future I can well imagine to listen directly to the voices of the Glycine fans in the Forums. There is may be a trend to go a bit smaller, but as you know Glycine basically doesn't like to follow trends.
Q13: Many Glycine owners consider the Airman to be the company’s signature model. With more than 25 Airman variations produced over the years, will it remain the flagship of the brand, or do you see a greater emphasis being placed on another model in the collection?
SL: Airman with a 60 years history will remain the flagship of the company, no doubt. And especially this year's novelties are particularly dedicated to Airman as you will see in Basel. But the day will come when Glycine also wants to give a certain tribute to the great time before Airman. The 100 years anniversary in 2014 may offer us some ideas in this respect.
Also in the very basic classic line - which will be launched very soon- the Glycine fan will already find some elements of the good old time.
Q14: Where do you see Glycine positioned in the highly-competitive watch market in 3 to 5 years?
SL: Glycine will be more and more recognized as a cult brand in the niche of the big players distributed by highly professional wholesalers of independent brands. A Glycine is not me-too-product: If a salesman or a saleslady wants to sell a Glycine she must understand and love the brand but also know and like the products. The 60 years anniversary of Airman in 2013, the 100th anniversary of Glycine in 2014 as well as much more activities in social media will increase brand awareness and brand recognition step by step. Glycine will be bought by watch lovers who look for their own watches in the market instead of following a mainstream. Airman will definitely remain the flagship and also the price positioning stays at the entry level of mechanical watches.
Q15: Are there any special plans in place for the 100th Anniversary in 2014? Should Glycine’s hardcore fans expect something special?
SL: Here I am also open for inputs from all our fans!
Q16: A question always on the lips of serious watch collectors, are there any hints regarding upcoming models that you can share?
SL: This year is an Airman Year. We will come with a very special tribute to the Airman No.1 as well as quite some genuine novelties in the Airman range but always following the DNA of the brand.
Q17: Models such as the Combat SUB Stealth prove that Glycine has its finger on the pulse of current design trends. Now, as in the past, Glycine seems to enjoy producing Special Edition timepieces. Can you provide us with a little insight as to how such models find their way into production?
SL: First of all I have to mention that we work with a very passionate new power team in the product development. We all work with a great respect towards the brand's DNA but also try to bring in some new wind with quite a feeling for design trends.
Usually if we plan to make a special edition there is a story behind. And as Glycine has quite a lot of stories there is even a certain risk that you make too many special editions. Actually to make special editions is always a big effort and sometimes the inputs come from the markets. I think one or two per year are just right.
And finally: As the CEO of Glycine is there anything in particular that you would like to say to the fans of the brand and the watches it produces?
SL: It's great to have you! It's definitely our idea to involve you more in our communication and our decisions. Many thanks for your dedication and your loyalty towards our fantastic brand.
Glycine Official web site: http://www.glycine-watch.ch/
Glycine Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/glycinewatchsa