Adrian Bosshard is not your standard, MBA cookie-cutter Swiss watch boss. We meet at Baselworld to discuss Certina’s progress in the UK but instead started with a recollection of how a slippery Donnington Park circuit and the inclement British weather put paid to his ambitions of becoming European MotoGP champion.
The former superbike racer was crowned Swiss champion in 1990 and envies the variety of race tracks in the UK. He explained: “I got the license to do the European championship and I came to Donnington with Steve Hislop, a great champion of the Isle of Man TT. I fought with Max Biaggi and Hislop for victory and on the last lap I was in front, but it started to rain and I crashed.”
It is perhaps fitting that a watch brand so invested in motorsport – Certina currently has Rally and GT partnerships – should be led by someone who knows their way around a race track. But while the brand’s sporting credentials and chronographs have helped it become a huge brand in European markets, Certina is still a relative fledgling in the UK, having begun its current push just four years ago.
Certina currently has 30 doors in the UK and Ireland but Bosshard would like to see the brand become ‘one of the leading mid-priced watch brands in the UK’. New UK brand director Damien Reido has been given the task of elevating the brand by working with the best possible retail partners.
“Now step-by-step we are developing our qualitative distribution,” he explains. “We are very carefully selecting the partners we would like to work with. It’s very important for us to build very healthy ground. Where we are one of the leading brands – in the Nordic and Eastern countries and in Germany and Switzerland – the basis is to have a healthy distribution.
“Our aim is not to distribute the watches everywhere, we want select qualitative, reliable, premium partners who are in-line with the value of our products. It’s not just our aim to make short term sales, our aim is to find the right partners.”
The growth of the brand will, according to Bosshard, be driven through partnerships with bricks and mortar retailers rather than online sales. Online sales will only be sanctioned where the retailer also has a physical presence.
“Our main aim is not to sell online and forgo the physical stores because in my opinion physical stores are important to pass the message of the brand. Move through this booth now, look in the windows and look at the visuals. This is definitely another level of taking a message compared to just looking at a screen. Screens are important and online sales are a part, but the main part for us is the physical business.”
Online will feature heavily in the marketing push to raise the profile of Certina in the UK, with an increasing percentage of the brand’s budget set to be spent on online support for the numerous sporting events that it sponsors. Certina also has a slick new, mobile-optimised website that went live as Basel opened its doors.
Given Bosshard’s motorsport background, he is clearly relishing his brand’s support of the World Rally Championship and the prospect of the series coming to the UK in October with the Wales Rally GB. The arrangement sees Certina serve as Official Timekeeper, a role that Bosshard believes will raise the British public’s perception of Certina’s technical proficiency.
This month Certina launches a newly redesigned DS-1 Powermatic 80 collection, part of its Heritage line. The design is more authentically heritage-inspired than the outgoing model, directly referencing the first DS-1 – or Double Security – Certina model from 1960.
This was the watch that Certina handed over to a Swiss climbing team as they ascended the Himalayan peak, Dhaulagiri, in that same year. The watches in the new DS-1 Powermatic 80 collection might look traditional but inside they boast the technological benefits of being part of Swatch Group, namely the Powermatic 80 movement developed by ETA and first used by stablemate Tissot. The collection is headed up by a Himalaya Special Edition with distinguishing gold ring on the dial and steel silhouette of the mountain visible through the watch’s sapphire crystal caseback.
The Heritage line works well for Certina in Asian markets and Bosshard points to increasing demand for automatic watches in European markets. Like Tissot, Certina is able to bring well-made mechanical automatics to market at a price that is difficult to ignore. The Himalaya Special Edition is just £530 on leather.
Of course it doesn’t hurt their chances being part of the biggest watch group in the world, with Bosshard adding: “We have the product for [growth], we have the marketing tools for it and fortunately we have a very strong structure with Swatch Group UK.
“We are offering high quality for a very fair price, we are also offering innovation in terms of movement, which is possible because we are part of the biggest watch group worldwide. This gives us tremendous access to all the production competences such as Nivarox, ETA, Comadur and all these factories. This is an amazing strength we have.”
Certina uses these strengths to continually impress through innovation, although more usually with quartz-based advances. Two years ago it presented its DS-2 Precisdrive with 1/100th of a second visualisation and followed that in 2015 with the DS-8 Chronograph Moonphase.
“It’s important to develop products that are unique and special and underline our capacity in this segment,” said Bosshard. “Not a lot of companies have this opportunity. There are a lot of companies just buying movements, buying components and creating marketing. We have access to these production resources.
“The [forthcoming] DS2 Flyback Rattrapante is a perfect example; it’s an innovation for a customer who has a budget below 1,000 euros to really buy a complication and innovation in quartz. Not everyone has the budget to buy a tourbillon. It’s really our target to serve customers with a normal budget and we are proud to be able to present great innovations every year which are exclusive and unique.”