Vacheron Constantin Defies Asian Slowdown With China Expansion

Vacheron Constantin, the oldest Swiss watchmaker in continuous operation, plans to expand its sales network in China this year even as demand in the Asia Pacific region industrywide shows signs of easing.

The company, which has been in business for more than 250 years and is part of Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, plans to open two boutiques in Shanghai and Beijing this year, expanding its network in China to 12 boutiques, Chief Executive Officer Juan-Carlos Torres said in an interview today at Geneva’s watch fair. Vacheron Constantin will also open two smaller points of sale in the country in 2013, he said.

Richemont said today its revenue excluding currency shifts in Asian and Pacific markets stopped growing in its fiscal third quarter because of easing wholesale demand. It was the first time in four years that sales in the region didn’t increase in the final part of the calendar year. While some Chinese are opting to buy during trips abroad, Vacheron Constantin’s Patrimony range of products are still “selling like crazy” in China, according to Torres.

“In the top segment in China, we are the leader and we continue to grow,” he said, without providing details. The brand faces a delivery backlog worldwide of six to seven months, according to Torres.

Even if more Chinese consumers are buying abroad, boutiques on the mainland give shoppers a chance to examine models and a way to have watches serviced, he said. Geneva-based Vacheron Constantin started to build up a team of watchmakers in China 10 years ago, Torres said.

Enamel Watches

Vacheron Constantin is bringing out new models from the Patrimony range of watches at this year’s Geneva show, including a ladies’ model decorated with diamonds that will retail for 650,000 euros ($865,000) before tax. The brand will also introduce a range of enamel-decorated pieces for women.

Vacheron Constantin’s output will probably rise to about 25,000 pieces this year, compared with about 22,000 timepieces in 2012, Torres said. The brand is expanding its manufacturing facilities and aims to make all of its own movements, the mechanisms that make watches run, by 2016. Vacheron Constantin makes about 75 percent at present, he said.

Richemont doesn’t disclose sales for each watch brand.

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