Concern about the impact of smartwatches on the Swiss quartz-watch market was a factor in Stas's decision to compete in the smartwatch category. Frederique Constant is a leader in Switzerland's "accessible luxury" category of watches (priced roughly from $1,000 to $4,000). It produces quartz men's and ladies' watches for the lower end of the product line.
But that wasn't the main reason, Stas says. "First of all, we started this in 2015 because I like it. I like the product. I like the innovation part. That's the driver. I like it because you are adding features to a fine quartz watch, which is inherently a little bit boring, a little bit standing still for at least 25 years already. So now we can add really meaningful features, things we can experiment with, things we can use. I like the apps. And I am increasingly intrigued by what kind of insights we can give to people.
"But at the same time, it is a defensive move. I also see clearly that the smart category is going to eat into the quartz category. So, it's also partly a defensive move. I am very open about that."
Stas is very glad he took the leap into smartwatch technology. Smartwatches have become an important niche for the group. In less than three years, they account for 14% of FC Group's total annual revenue. For Frederique Constant, the leader brand, they represent 12% of total sales; for Alpina, 20%.
"That's important," Stas says. Smartwatches enabled the company to grow through the Swiss industry's downturn of 2015-16. "[The industry] had a difficult period," Stas says. "If we didn't have this category, we would have missed between 10% and 15% of turnover. And we would not have grown, I tell you." FC would have been among the horde of Swiss watch firms whose sales slumped during that stretch, he says.