Ulysse Nardin is a company with a lot of traditions. Basically we have Ulysse Nardin before Rolf Schnyder and after Rolf Schnyder. These can seem like very different companies. How do you get the different pieces of Ulysse Nardin to talk to each other?
I truly believe what we are doing now is a continuation of what has been done for more than 170 years (Ulysse Nardin was founded in 1846). Part of the heritage of Rolf is being extremely demanding in terms of manufacture, investing massively in manufacture, being very innovative. Everyone is claiming innovation in the watch industry, but I think what Rolf did was innovation in a different way than before his arrival – but I think the two aspects that are common to the two eras, before and after Rolf, is innovation. He was able to come out with some amazing products, but he also instilled a mindset in the company – there was a lot of his daring, his audacity.
And I think that is still part of the company – which is funny because usually you’d find that type of mindset in companies that are a lot more arrogant than we are. On the one hand there is audacity, but there is also humility, and in theory, they should be opposed. But at Ulysse Nardin, the two live side by side.
There are some things that I inherited – one is our fundamental R&D, how we do things not just now, but for the next five, 10 years. The second is, how do we make sure we can evolve what we have already, and the Freak is a good example. The Freak Vision is a very good evolution of the Freak – could it become automatic, what can we gain in terms of thinness; how do we make sure we progress? What’s the next big step?
I was recently having a conversation with our Head of Innovation, on something I can’t disclose yet. He explained it twice, and I still didn’t understand, and shamefully (laughs) I asked him a third time .. and I said, Stephan, what’s your chance of success? He said, probably 50%. I said okay, what you’re telling me is, you have a 50% chance of coming up with something that’s a revolution in the watch industry, and he said, Oh, Patrick, the word revolution is too strong. And I said it’s a major leap you’re describing. It’s a major leap on one of the key aspects of the watch, it would be a true revolution. And he says, Well, maybe, you know but it’s only 50%. And I love it. So obviously we’re full speed on that. And every time I see him, I challenge him, I say, Where are we? Obviously I’m interested, for me 50% sounds like 100%.