Portrait of Longines CEO Matthias Breschan: Facing Unprecedented Challenges

Looking back at the state of the watch industry throughout the first half of 2020 can be quite thought-provoking. Events were cancelled, new events with new formats were announced, launches were delayed, new novelties were unveiled. And, of course, there were also new names and old names with new titles. Perhaps the most important this year is Matthias Breschan, the new CEO of Longines.

Breschan is definitely not a newcomer to the scene, having previously managed two other brands under Swatch Group—namely Hamilton for seven years and, more recently, Rado for nine years. His appointment to the spot of Longines also came with the announcement of Walter von Känel’s retirement. It goes without saying that Breschan had his work cut out for him. Yet, despite facing unprecedented challenges, Longines has managed to turn things around and has been posting positive results. Not only that, the winged hourglass brand is set to celebrate a major milestone soon. So, if anything, it is safe to say that this new normal era will certainly see new surprises with a new skipper for Longines.

DAMAN: First of all, while it’s a bit late, congratulations on your new position. Can you share us what went through your mind when you first learned that you were named the new CEO of Longines?
Matthias Breschan:
Thank you! It is an honor for me to become the CEO of Longines and work hand in hand with the teams to lead the brand towards unexplored territories. We will continue to use our rich heritage and we will have to be innovative, to stay curious and sometimes to take risks.

DA: Can you also tell us a bit about your journey in watchmaking? What was it that first drew you to this world and what were the major milestones of your career in this industry?
First of all, I have always been an art, history and new technologies enthusiast. The watch universe is truly fascinating and it is the only industry I know that always looks back to its tradition to go further and innovate. In watchmaking, honoring tradition is what allows you to stay alive. This is particularly true for Longines, a brand with a rich history and offering very technically efficient products.

A stainless steel model with sunray blue dial from The Longines Master Collection

DA: What would you say were some of the biggest changes in the industry that you observed throughout your career? And how did those affect the way you approached your work?
Today, nobody buys a watch to check the time anymore. Watches have become an accessory that allows people to express their values. It is particularly true for Longines. Owning the brand’s timepiece is more than having a practical object, it is more considered as a status symbol, telling people who you are, what are your tastes and affinities. For example, even though wearing a HydroConquest model does not make you a professional diver, it displays a sporty and dynamic image of you.

DA: What were some of the most immediate challenges you faced as CEO of Longines? And, on the flip side, what did you immediately recognize as the brand’s most important strengths to face these turbulent times?
For several months, most of our stores and points of sale around the world were closed. Fortunately, we have seen again a positive trend since June, and in August we already achieved better results than in August 2019. We are convinced that this trend will continue in the coming months. Longines will soon celebrate its 190 years of existence through three centuries. Based in Saint-Imier since its inception, our brand’s heritage is a true treasure we intend to cherish and we can also count on the industrial power of the Swatch Group, proving state of the art technologies and synergies to the brand to achieve these goals.

The Longines Skin Diver watch

DA: How would you describe your overall impression of Longines before your appointment as CEO of the brand? And how did your views change afterwards?
Longines is undoubtedly a great brand. It is part of the big leagues through the wealth of its history, the extent of its distribution and the quality of its products, today, as it was in the past. Since its inception in 1832, Longines has been a pioneer in many aspects. Innovation being part of the brand’s DNA, Longines has always been at the outpost of watchmaking precision, be it in aviation or in timekeeping, associating its name with the world of sports.

DA: Consumer habits have changed drastically in the past half year or so, with, for instance, “revenge buying” being a relatively popular phenomenon. Has this also been the case for Longines? Or have there been any other major or noticeable trends among Longines’ clientele?
Indeed, “revenge buying” is a new social and consumerist phenomenon observed after the confinement imposed following the COVID-19 outbreak and it has positively impacted the brand in some markets. As mentioned, at Longines we see a positive trend as in August where we already achieved better results than in August 2019. We are confident that it will continue in the coming months. What I can tell you is that our products, most notably the Longines Spirit collection, meet the demands of today’s public in its quest for authenticity.

The Longines Heritage Classic – Tuxedo
A case back of the Longines Spirit
A case back of the Longines Spirit

DA: It goes without saying that online shopping has become the “new normal” for many businesses. How is Longines’ e-commerce ventures doing at the moment and what are your plans for the foreseeable future in regards to online retailing?
Online shopping has become essential to reach customers nowadays. In this regard, one of our short-term plans is to expand e-commerce into more and more local markets worldwide. During these last couple of months, we’ve seen a huge growth of traffic on our e-commerce platforms all over the world and we will definitely continue to develop our online retailing.

DA: On a slightly related note, what will be Longines’ “new normal”? Will there be any major changes in the way the brand creates, introduces and sells watches?
Building a brand’s universe around what makes Longines unique. This is the strategy we want to achieve in the coming years. Moreover, what we have learned from these past months is that curiosity and creativity are essential. For instance, we faced difficulties to organize physical events to highlight our new products, therefore we decided to organize digital rendezvous to gather our clients, as well as the media. The “new normal” is not set in stone yet, but the change is real.

Brand Ambassador Simon Baker

DA: Despite most trade shows and launch events being canceled, since around February we’ve seen a slow but steady flow of new watches from Longines, most recently the Longines Heritage Classic – Tuxedo. Among the brand’s 2020 novelties, which are you most excited about and why?
The Longines Spirit collection is definitely our 2020 highlight novelty. The Longines Spirit is not only a timepiece, but a slice of history. The one of brave individuals—such as Amelia Earhart, Paul-Emile Victor, Elinor Smith and Howard Hughes—who wanted to push boundaries and achieve their dreams. This watch is associated with a strong conviction, encapsulated in its slogan: The Pioneer Spirit Lives On!

The Longines Spirit

DA: Finally, what’s the next big thing for Longines? Especially for the rest of 2020… Or perhaps you have anything major envisioned already for 2021?
In November, we launch The Longines Legend Diver Watch—an emblematic timepiece from Longines Heritage segment—that is now available in bronze. This warm-toned design gives one of the brand’s earliest diver watches a new look. It houses an automatic movement with silicon balance-spring. In search of performance and precision, and committed to offering our customers the best possible service, Longines announces that the warranty on all models with antimagnetic silicon balance-spring has been extended to five years. As for Longines in 2021, the keywords are consistency and continuity. We will offer new variations and extensions to some of our key collections such as Longines Spirit, HydroConquest, and The Longines Master Collection. In regards with Heritage timepieces, we will also present new models for our customers who value vintage watches.

The three hands model of the Longines Heritage Classic – Tuxedo
Dial view of The Longines Spirit with the “Chronometer” inscription