The timing could not have been more perfect: Mido launched a tribute collection for its Ocean Star range at the climax of the Mido x Red Bull Cliff Diving in Bilbao, Spain in September 2019. The international sporting event comprised seven heats held at different venues around the world – wherever a dive could be executed from a platform 85 to 92 feet from the water surface.
At the finals, Mido hosted its brand partners and the media from a hospitality center beneath the La Salve Bridge – on which the platforms were mounted – that straddles the Ria de Bilbao. “One of the reasons we came here is that the product is ready; we’re ready to launch our tribute collection,” said an ebullient Mr. Franz Linder, CEO of Mido.
The brand’s participation in the said sporting event as official performance partner was warranted by a link to the collection, explains Mr. Linder. When they looked at ideas for celebrating the Ocean Star anniversary, they decided it would be to strengthen the message by underlining the competence and positioning of the product. An extreme sport, cliff diving is charged with danger, its participants hailed for courage, endurance, strength, and skill – characteristics that could be assumed in the Ocean Star. “We checked a lot of things and ended up with a partnership with Red Bull Cliff Diving because it’s new and a very good match to the collection.”
Mr. Linder admitted that the Ocean Star was a collection with a minor market share in the brand. “The assortment is small so it’s difficult to strengthen. You question if the investment makes sense. But with the success of the Diver 200, we felt it’s the right time to give the Ocean Star a strong push. Divers watches are very trendy right now, and Mido has a very strong legacy of producing them. We believe in divers watches; we feel we are not getting the share that we can have potentially.”
Consistency Meets Opportunity
Mr. Linder places a strong emphasis on consistency. “I will not say our past will be our future, but we are consistent in that we will not change direction in the coming years. It took us 100 years to build a brand positioning that people, depending on the market maturity, understand very well or at least a little better.” He reveals that they will continue to bring out new models in the ranges as they continue to improve quality, technology.
Although he declined to talk about specific products that would release for the range in the coming year, Mr. Linder revealed that there will be opportunities to further strengthen the collection.
“If you look at Mido, you’ll find the collections arrayed like a pyramid. On top of that pyramid is the COSC 35 Chronometer; below that are what we call special movement, smaller complication – GMT, power reserve, chronograph. At the bottom we have the basic product equipped with a basic movement. For every collection, it’s the same.
“You can imagine that in Ocean Star today, we have both the top and the base, between which is where a lot of opportunities lie.
The Volume Factor
Ocean Star watches work at a depth of 600 meters, a rarity for a piece within its price range. But Mr. Linder pointed out that “price alone means nothing – it is relative. Everything is related to value for money. Within the Swatch Group, we may be able to offer a product at lower price than our sister brands; you will understand the reason when you go into the details – movements, special treatments, etc. In Swatch Group, every brand at every level is always trying to offer value for money within its price category, whether the watch is $1,500 or $15,000.”
Mr. Linder acknowledges that being part of the Group has distinct advantages, particularly where watch movements are concerned. “Normally, we have a leading brand initiating and launching a new development; later on, other brands also get (to use) it. By doing so, we reach the goal – the volumes – which key. If you want to offer a good price, it’s only possible if get the volumes. So, one brand will launch the movement, and the other brands can use it later on – it’s all based on quantity.”
That is among the strengths of the Swatch Group, Mr. Linder says. “We have a lot of ‘volume brands’, a lot of factories, R&D centers and people who are constantly working on improvements. Sometimes we get the innovation from a luxury brand within the Group, sometimes we start it ourselves depending on the situation.”
Every brand within the Group has the opportunity to bring out innovation, Mr. Linder shares. However, this is restricted to each brand’s price positioning which must be upheld. “We can invent something that is outstanding, but if it will raise the cost of our watches to $15,000, that’s not Mido’s business anymore. Other brands are more suitable to use such technologies. This is a matter of being able to invent within the price category we are in."
Despite this restriction, the Group will not necessarily curtail a brand’s initiative. “Sometimes they say, support it, don’t reinvoice all the R&D costs because there are others eager to develop new things and trust in the idea. If it turns out to be a success, the returns will come afterwards.”
Mr. Linder underlines the brand’s need to make a profit to secure its future. “Mido is actually a very profitable brand, but we believe that if we do something very well, we will get volume. For Mido, it’s always the volumes that get good prices. If you can produce 1,000 units of a product, obviously, you pay much less than if you only do 20 or 50 units.”
Investments, Mr. Linder points out, are heavy. “The innovation processes within the Group are very well controlled with a lot of quality checks. That is why a new movement is not launched in mere six months; it takes years to ensure it passes all the test and that it will be reliable once it is launched. After all, building a good image takes years, but destroying it is very easy.”
Style is another strong focus for the brand. If Mido appears to be doing a number of vintage pieces, it’s because the style is part of the brand’s patrimony. “It is not about riding the trends. I don’t know how long people will enjoy retro styles, but what I know is that people love consistency. Take Levi’s 501 jeans as an example – are they retro or are they modern? Or are they just classics because you can still sell them after such a long time?”
At Mido, a successful price point is an important consideration for innovation. “If we believe there is a good potential, provided we get the right volumes – if there is something we are interested in and we believe we can reach volumes with the price, we proceed with the discussion,” Mr. Linder clarifies.
The brand will then approach the production company or R&D center and discuss what production volume will it take to make the development feasible. “That’s the way we work. Of course, if there are precious metals, we don’t need to check with anyone – you can read the newspaper for the price of gold. But with technology, automated component production – you really have a large-scale effect.
“Who thought that a brand like Mido would use Silicium springs? It was a relatively new technology, and we were the first to launch it a few years ago because we knew the right volume.”