Will A Butterfly Emerge From The Metamorphosis At Corum?
Few of China Haidian group’s acquisitions in the luxury watch sector have made more recent headlines in the world of watches than the jewel among them, Corum.
Just last month, China Haidian acquired Switzerland’s Dreyfuss group, which operates in the medium-range price segment and includes the Rotary brand. This makes sense as Dreyfuss reportedly has aggressive expansion plans for Asia.
As China Haidian had previously acquired both Corum and Eterna, the group now owns a major Swiss company in each main price segment. And a movement maker.
Unsurprisingly, though, it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. China Haidian’s group communications director, Marie-Alexandrine Leibowitch, responded to my queries regarding the recent ousting of former CEO Antonio Calce and yesterday’s dismissal of head watchmaker Laurent Besse along with a few other employees.
“While these measures may sound like bad news in the short term,” she said, “They may also be viewed as good news for the long-term redimensioning efforts of the company.”
Perhaps it is even apt to compare the ongoing metamorphosis to a caterpillar emerging from its cocoon as a butterfly. Only time will tell.
In Corum’s close to 60-year history – the brand was founded by René Bannwart in 1955 – it has changed hands only twice. Previous to China Haidan, Corum was owned by Belgian philanthropist and art collector Severin Wunderman, who passed away in 2008. Wunderman bought Corum in 2000, having previously built Gucci’s watch business into a global empire in its price class.
Like the Bannwart years, Wunderman’s eight-year tenure at Corum prospered thanks to out-of-the-box thinking. Indeed, it was fraught with quasi-scandalously new and novel products. People talked about it. And people bought these products. In fact, whether they liked the watches or not, most looked forward to what was coming next.
Calce entered the picture in 2005 and successfully worked with Wunderman to add a line of products proudly displaying the brand’s roots.
You, the consumer, may have noticed that Corum’s product lines have gotten away from this a bit in the recent past, expanding with countless references and variations seeming to make little sense. Which, in my view, is a great deal of the reason that things have become so quiet in terms of the collection. Things have been anything but quiet where the company’s structure has been concerned, though.
Leibowitch explains that China Haidian’s owners have now stepped in, initiating a restructuring designed to concentrate on the quality and design of the products to efficiently streamline the collection and increase productivity of staff.
Unfortunately, as many positions were inefficiently duplicated, this includes downsizing staff. The reality is that Corum is losing money due the extravagant nature of its structure, as well as suffering under the seemingly endless number of references in the collection.
This may well bode good news for the consumer as, when all has been said and done, it may result in more competitive pricing and better watches.
And while many are obsessing over the fact that Corum now has Chinese owners, let’s please remember that the brand hasn’t been in Swiss hands for quite a while now. Where the owners come from is beside the point.
What we should be focusing on is where the company is going. And I, for one, look forward to the metamorphosis that is hopefully taking place.
“Corum will be back with a bang in 2015,” Leibowitch promises. Just in time for the brand’s 60th anniversary, it sounds. And I couldn’t be looking forward to it more.