Watches & Jewellery

Tiffany & Co. Looks Beyond Celebrities and Jewellery Watches

Tiffany & Co’s head of watches Nicola Andretta tells us how he plans to make Tiffany & Co's watches great again, banking on the New York brand’s Swiss watchmaking legitimacy, storied past and bright future
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Tiffany & Co.’s Vice-President and General Manager of Swiss watches, Nicola Andreatta, is certain the day will come when the American brand behind the little blue box will equally recognised for fine timepieces as for its jewellery. It’s getting there.

Watches, though not an entirely dormant category, still stand in the shadows of Tiffany’s jewellery as it has for over a century. But Andreatta is all about reminding the world that Tiffany has a blue blood heritage in watchmaking: “We’ve been making watches since 1847, before many of the brands we now compete with.”

Uniquely branded with both "Swiss Made" and "New York" on their dials, Tiffany & Co's watches marry the best of two spirits, he says. 

It may surprise some to hear that Tiffany was once serious enough about its watches to have a watchmaking factory in Switzerland, though that was sold off somewhere along the line of the brand’s history. To prove the company’s renewed intent, one of the first things that Andreatta (right) did after he joined in 2013 was to start an office in Switzerland – world capital of watchmaking – and expand into a factory from there. The credibility of being a Swiss watchmaker would allow Tiffany to vaunt the craftsmanship and reliability of its watches.

“We’re unique in that every Tiffany watch dial has ‘New York’ and ‘Swiss Made’ on it. This is exactly what we are: We are Swiss in the way that we conceive and work on watches, and we are American in spirit and design. This mix of two different souls comes across when you look at our watches,” Andreatta says.

Tiffany is known now as a jewellery brand. How do you create watches true to Tiffany’s DNA without necessarily making jewellery watches?

Let’s not forget that our DNA is that of a watchmaker too. Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1976 went to Switzerland himself and started a factory in the centre of Geneva in a time when the American watch industry was very developed, so it’s clear that he realised and he understood – ahead of many other competitors – that the best place to make watches was Switzerland.

When we restarted our watch focus, our first objective was gain back our credibility as a watchmaker, not only as a jeweller making watches. To be a legitimate player in the world of watches, I think that you need more than a clock moving to a diamond piece. For that reason, we decided to launch the CT60 collection, which would talk about craftsmanship, which would talk about Swiss-ness and not only about our American DNA.

To your understanding, why did watches fall off the radar for Tiffany in recent history?

It was a question I had since I joined. I believe the answer, we found, was that Tiffany was a very proud man. In the time before the watch fairs like Basel and SIHH, the international Expositions [in Europe and America in the 19th century] were where each brand and inventors presented their novelties and beautiful pieces. Tiffany always went to these watch exhibitions with watches and jewellery, and for some reasons, we won more prizes with jewellery than watches. I imagine that Charles Lewis Tiffany did not like that and so he decided to push more the jewellery which was more successful. That said, you know, watches never really disappeared from the world of Tiffany – even before I joined, there were collections. But we are investing more now with watches, and there’s definitely a very different energy around watches than what we had a few years.

Where do you hope to push it to?

We announced two years ago that we aim to bring watches to 10% of the Tiffany’s turnover in 10 years. We are between 2-5% now. We know that it’s going to take some time, and I think it’s important we do things carefully and we don’t make mistakes, because for such an important brand like Tiffany’s, every mistake is a big step back. At every new step, we make sure that our customers maybe understand what we’re doing. And we also need to understand what they want from us, while making sure we are true to our DNA. That’s a very important thing for any brand, and it’s something not every brand in Switzerland is now respecting.

Do you aim to eventually be high watchmaking?

It’s a question we’ve had since the very beginning. But, step by step. Coming out with a tourbillon or triple tourbillon from the start – it would be easy, you know, to find a manufacturer to do that and launch with the craziest of complications. But that’s not us. We are an American brand, which differentiates us from Swiss brands. Americans have a different way of thinking: If you have complications, they should stay inside the watch and has to serve a purpose and make life easier; the outside has to remain intuitive and easy to use. Which is not the case for most of the complications you have today in watches. So, from our automatic chronographs to our annual calendar, to the new dual-time movement that we launched at the end of last year, they’re all easy to use and easy to set, and make life simpler, in a way. You set the annual calendar once, and it runs the whole year – you don’t have to reset the calendar every month, and it’s automatic so you don’t have to wind it. That’s perfectly American.

A Tiffany & Co CT60 three-hand watch

Are you targeting men or women more with your watches?

We’ve concluded that our main customer is the woman, and most of our collections in Tiffany’s are more orientated to women. This year, we’ll launch a collection 100% for women, and we’ll have new East West pieces for women as well as add diamonds to some existing models. We’re going to work more on specific cores from the Atlas collection and the CT60 collection, too.

That said, we do have a couple of variations of the CT60 for men. Importantly, we’ll have a new square watch that will launch in October this year – a 180-piece limited edition to celebrate 180 years of Tiffany. I’ve seen samples of the design and am in love with it.

Who dictates the look of the Tiffany watches now?

It’s a good question since Francesca Amfitheatrof left in January. As design director, she always had to ensure that our watches were in line with Tiffany, the brand. Designing watches is completely different from designing jewellery though, so we have an amazing, experienced designer in Switzerland, Anna, who worked with Francesca and will now work with Reed Krakoff [chief artistic officer, succeeding Amitheatrof] to create beautiful watches.

And you’ve met Reed? First impressions?

I met him for the first time on my last trip and we spent four hours together. I think he’s very creative, he knows what he wants and already has a line in mind. I like the fact that he’s dictating the line, but he empowers the team a lot. With the talent we have at Tiffany, that’s a very good thing. We agreed that we should create a more recognisable language in all our timepieces. Our watches have been inspired by different pieces from the past and also different design directors, so right now our watches aren’t immediately recognisable as a Tiffany watch. We plan to find some little details that will make every Tiffany watch very recognisable.

And what’s your pricing position going to be?

Very good question, because there is no answer (laughs), in the sense that Tiffany is a very different brand from all the other brands in the world. We call our positioning “inclusive luxury”, not exclusive luxury – and that’s a very American approach. You know, the fact that everyone can come to Tiffany, you start coming to Tiffany when you are very young, and maybe you can look for the most beautiful diamond in the world, then you keep coming back to Tiffany as you grow up, achieve in life and can afford bigger and more beautiful things. It’s also our approach with watches: We start at let’s say, US$3,000 for an entry level piece, and we go up to the sky. You know, our Blue Book this year has some amazing creations, fully encrusted with diamonds. But, you know for the people who appreciate the amazing and beautiful things in life, these things are not really expensive.

This article first appeared in the April 2017 issue of L'Officiel Singapore (out now on newsstands and Magzter).



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