Victorinox product director Francois Nunez works with a team to develop winning watch designs. WatchPro discovers what his role involves and what drives him.
WatchPro: What is your role and how would you describe what you and your team do?
Francois Nunez: I am the Victorinox Swiss Army timepieces product director. I’m surrounded by a team of four people, as well as some external watch designers. Our role consists of carefully translating the philosophy and the promises of our brand into a tangible reality. It is quite an extensive process that starts from a precise brief, quickly followed by numerous sketches and their faithful technical transcription, until they are gradually materialised. Then there are many animated prototype reviews. What really matters to us is the idea of creating real products for real people.
WP: How did you get into your role, was it something you’ve always wanted to do?
FN: I was born in Vallée de Joux, the so called Swiss Watch Valley, and my parents were both working in the watch industry. That alone says that I did not feel much of a choice! As a kid, I don’t think that I had such a precise dream, or any defined objective. I guess I was mainly driven by passion, as well as by this obsessive interest for design – way beyond the watch world – the constant curiosity for what happens around us, and what defines a generation. I am grateful that I met the right people at the right moment. They made so much of a difference.
WP: Do the ideas you have for watches just come to you or is there a set process?
FN: I believe there is no other way than progressing layer by layer. Design is an answer to very specific needs, in the best way possible. People tend to think that creating a watch is about designing it, when design is a first step. Somehow, a watch only truly exists once it starts ticking on a wrist. It’s about establishing an enduring relationship, finding a companion for life.
WP: How do you work with your team?
FN: In a very intuitive way. Each of us has very different skills, belongs to a different age group, comes from a rather different background and has quite a different point of view. But at any moment in time, we are all conscious that we have a common objective. We can debate for hours about the length of a second hand. However, to be honest, it usually takes less than a fraction of a minute to take a mutual decision. All you need is to find the right balance, without ever compromising on quality or details.
WP: What’s the best part of your job?
FN: It’s a never ending process.
WP: Are there any challenges to your role and if so, how do you overcome them?
FN: Product is not a science and it’s not about filling Excel sheets. Developing a new timepiece is a very gradual and emotional experience. You try to do your best, with a certain type of person in mind, but in reality, you never quite know. Then, one day, you meet a person wearing the watch, while you walk down the street. Only then do you really know – but this usually happens many years later.
BRINGING THE BRAND TO LIFE
WP: How would you describe Victorinox as a brand?
FN: An iconic Swiss brand that places customers at the centre of its attention by providing them with qualitative products that are real companions for life.
WP: How has the brand and its products evolved over the past few years?
FN: For the last few years, we have mainly tried to clarify and reduce our watch range to offer a focused collection and be able to deliver a real point of view as a brand. This obviously is a rather progressive process but I have the feeling things are slowly falling into place.
WP: What do you think Victorinox customers are like and what do they want from the watches?
FN: I love this idea that we are a real brand for real people. Our customers are looking for a tangible product, with legitimate and authentic roots. I guess they expect a product to resist the wear and tear of time.
WP: What does the process involve when designing and developing a new timepiece or collection?
FN: True to our Swiss army knives, function rules design. It therefore does not start with design but a pretty extensive thought process to make sure our product will answer a modern customer’s needs. A new model can only be the result of a pretty obsessive process that considers every single detail, from a design perspective but also from a technical stand point. The result generally is the balance between tradition and innovation, between intuition and conviction.
WP: Is it exciting seeing your visions come to life?
FN: What truly is exciting is for a product to really meet its audience.
WP: What would you say have been recent exciting developments on the watch market in terms of design?
FN: After a decade of ‘maximalismus’, where everyone kept adding layers of unnecessary complications not to be missed, I find it truly comforting to see things going more to the essential. It’s again about beautifully considered details, timeless lines and relevant features, and I love when things make sense.
WP: Which Victorinox watches were best sellers last year and why do you think that was?
FN: The new interpretation of our NightVision was an absolute hit. As opposed to its two predecessors, we conceived this model to emphasise its classic attributes by completely integrating its external flashlight device. As a result it no longer looks like a gimmicky object but like a credible watch that offers additional unexpected features, and I guess it makes real sense with a brand like ours.
WP: What are your plans for Victorinox products going forward?
FN: Our ultimate objective is to come with products that capture the essence of our brand. We definitely want to offer a product that stands the test of time, both in terms of tough qualitative construction and timeless design, in other words – a future classic.
This article first appeared in the October issue of WatchPro magazine. To see the full digital issue, click here.