Got A Minute? Hartmut Kraft, CEO Kering North America Luxury Watch Division: Ulysse Nardin, JeanRichard, And Girard-Perregaux
On May 1, 2015, Hartmut Kraft took over as the brand-new president and CEO of Kering North America, a position that includes leading three very well established brands, Ulysse Nardin, JeanRichard, and Girard-Perregaux in the North American markets.
You may recognize Kraft from his most recent position as the North American president at Maurice Lacroix, a brand that has had its ups and downs in the United States over the last two decades. When Kraft took over Maurice Lacroix in 2011 after leaving Chronoswiss when that brand was sold, it had a half-million dollar deficit. He leaves his successful tenure at Maurice Lacroix behind with a legacy of approximately $6.5 million in annual sales and a reputation in the mid-priced watch segment as “the next hot thing.”
But business aside, what I have always admired about Kraft is his unbroken enthusiasm for the segment he works in, which I believe comes from the fact that he is not “just” another executive in the watch industry, but rather a true watch enthusiast with genuine respectful admiration for horology.
I met Kraft for the first time more than a decade ago when he first left his original profession (law) to join Chronoswiss under its founder and previous owner, Gerd-Rüdiger Lang and we bonded over our mutual love of fine watchmaking.
I recently chatted with a very enthusiastic Hartmut Kraft shortly after the announcement of his new position.
Q&P: What are your immediate goals for your new position?
To consolidate the office and service center for Ulysse Nardin, Girard-Perregaux, and JeanRichard in our Boca Raton premises and maintain clean and effective structures. We have a state-of-the-art facility in Florida where our many watchmakers are able to service and repair pretty much all of our most complicated timepieces. I’m also very enthusiastic to work with the excellent team we have in place, which will benefit from consolidated leadership and a considerably upgraded media presence.
Q&P: What are your goals for the first year in this position?
The goal for the first 12 months is obviously considerable growth for Ulysse Nardin, preparing to take it to the next level, and to stabilize and add sustainable growth to Girard-Perregaux. The longer-term goal is to triple sales of the luxury watch division in the United States.
Q&P: What has surprised you the most in the first few days since your arrival at Kering USA?
How Ulysse Nardin’s product range encompasses so much more than “just” the Maxi Marine Diver line. I always knew that Ulysse Nardin was high-end and an excellent business case, but I was not so aware of the extraordinary quality and innovation of the product. The same applies for Girard-Perregaux; I always liked it but was stunned when I handled the watches again – it has been a couple of years since I last owned a Girard-Perregaux (the SF Foudroyante chronograph).
Q&P: Who are you looking forward to working with?
I am very excited to work with a new set of retailers in addition to some that I have already worked with before as well as being a creative “sparring partner” to the excellent existing team. I am ready to lead this team to new heights!
Q&P: What are you most excited about?
The watches! I feel like I’ve arrived home when I look at the amazing collections of these two big-league brands. Every detail is just so perfect; there is phenomenal potential in both cases and I have a wonderful mission to accomplish.
Q&P: What watch are you wearing now?
At the moment I’m “double wristing,” though I’m not sure I’ll continue to do that. On one wrist I have the Ulysse Nardin Marine Chronometer Manufacture, which retails for $10,300 with an in-house movement. And on the other, I have the Freak Lab. I’m also wearing Ulysse Nardin’s steel-and-enamel cufflinks.