Kartika Winata is an unusual millennial. While so many members of her generation seem to want to own or manage tech companies, this entrepreneurial young lady co-founded Eurobutik Bangun Indonesia (EBI), a distributor of Swiss luxury timepieces, at the age of 24.
“My first watch, I still have it,” she recalls. “I got it when I was seven years old. My mom bought it for me. It was a Forever Friend, a baby blue coloured watch. I wore it every day, even when I was sleeping. The only time I took it off was when I showered! I have kept it to this day because it has sentimental value.”
Along with business partners Hartanto Sutardja and Yanto Chou (who has since left the company), she introduced the independent luxury watch brand deLaCour to Indonesia in 2013. DeLaCour was established by Alfred Terzibachian, Louai Kuzbari and jewellery designer Pierre Koukjian in 2003.
With a mission to offer Indonesians “a slice of European luxury” and “to link the right community with the brand”, the first model the watch firm’s founders introduced was deLaCour’s innovative Bichrono. Powered by two independent chronograph movements and decked with 33 diamonds, the unique timepiece won a Unique Design Watch award in Tokyo.
More recently, deLaCour launched The Passion, “a timepiece that knows no boundaries”, in a limited edition of just three pieces. The Passion is the marriage of two materials: white gold for its main external visible case, and titanium for the inner case. The use of these two materials offers the wearer the benefits of lightweight elegance and comfort. The combination of diamonds consists of 13 carats, lending subtlety to the diamond-paved edges. Besides deLaCour, EBI represents Hautlence, BRM, Moser & Cie and Dietrich. All of these companies are independent luxury watch brands from Europe.
“The reason we specialise in these highly creative independent brands is because we saw that there was a lack of them in Southeast Asia,” explains 28-year old Kartika, who is EBI’s Managing Director. “Initially, the decision to work with deLaCour was helped by input from my partners. I was new to the business, having just graduated from college. To be honest, at first I was really intimidated, because a lot of the people I met were much older and the majority were men. When they saw me there, they would think I was an intern! At that time I was involved in marketing. For the first 18 months of EBI’s existence, I had the role of Marketing Director. This was still acceptable to those big powerful men in Europe.
“For me, watchmaking is an art form. I like watches that are very artistic. Each of my brands speaks differently to me. But ultimately, what makes this industry interesting is the people who are so skilled at making a brand good. It’s all about branding and quality. There are people in the industry whom I have met that I admire and who have taught me a lot. They think differently. They are so influential and powerful. Their mindsets are what gets to me.
“The watch industry has changed tremendously in the last few years. I came into it when it was going through a big change. I saw that in the last three years, going to Baselworld and SIHH in Geneva. The first year, the three big buildings in Basel were all full. But in the last two years, the number of companies taking booths has been getting smaller and smaller. Some brands did not survive the crisis. We don’t hear much about them because most of them are independent brands – not just in watches but also in jewellery.
“But the good thing about watches, even though some companies have suffered, a lot of independent brands are still surviving pretty well because they serve a niche market of people who love and appreciate timepieces. Luxury watches are so expensive that you need to see them before you buy, so competition e-commerce hasn’t affected my business too much. Clients aren’t going to buy a deLaCour or Hautlence watch online. They want to see the timepiece and feel it. They want to see the movement and learn about the watchmaking techniques that have gone into making it. That’s why the retail industry for luxury watches is not going to fail.”
Kartika studied at the University of San Diego, majoring in Marketing Communications, and at Oxford University, where her major was in Psychology. Her father is a watch collector, and deLaCour is one of his favourite brands.
“The person who helped me a lot through my career is my father,” says Kartika. “I look up to him. He’s the person who introduced to me to deLaCour. The watch business is lacking something here, and he gave that idea to work with independent brands. When times were hard, I asked him for advice, but he has never forced anything on me. That’s the kind of mentor I need because I don’t like it when people tell me what to do. What I’ve learned from him is to be persistent. Entrepreneurship requires an optimistic character to keep going. So no matter where you are, keep moving. Be persistent and optimistic, that’s his motto.
“I admired deLaCour watches when I was younger. Years later, when the opportunity came along, I was like, ‘Isn’t that the watch I liked before?’ The timing was right, and I felt that this brand had big potential here. What I like about the independent brands is that they have the freedom to create whatever they like. In my opinion, they are more artistic than the big brands.”
Each brand at EBI has its own identity. Says Kartika: “When I pick a company, I consider price points and market segments. I ask them, where are you going with your brand? I need to know their trajectory. What makes our five brands succeed here is the fact that their principals are so involved. Whenever we need them for a marketing event, they come along to support us. That’s really important, because when we bring in a new brand we have to educate people about it. It’s very helpful if the principals come along.”
Among EBI’s brands, deLaCour has a special place in Kartika’s heart. “The designs are so elegant. They look classy and expensive,” she explains. “The ladies’ models speak femininity because their curvature is inspired by the human body. I would say that the City Umbra (an eight-piece limited edition) is the star of the deLaCour diamond watch collection this year. I love how bold it is and how each stone was meticulously picked out to create the most beautiful rainbow ombre effect.”
Jewellery watches are a niche market that has held up well in Indonesia during the last few years. “The devotees are there constantly,” says Kartika. “Our business has been steady. Assuming you like the brand and admire the design and the mechanical aspects of the timepiece, the most important reason for buying a jewellery watch is the quality of the stones – and how well they sparkle!”