Hubert Burda Media

DAVID AMONG THE GOLIATHS

Swiss brand Charriol is back in Singapore after more than a decade-long hiatus and is set to open its third boutique this year.

DAVID AMONG THE GOLIATHS

There is a curious phenomenon that occurs in the Philippines whenever Philippe Charriol enters the country. The brand awareness is so high there that even the immigration and customs officers recognise his name and treat him like a celebrity. “They will call out to their colleagues and occasionally request for a photograph with me,” he shares, with a tinge of embarrassment.
Founded in 1983 in Geneva, Charriol entered the Filipino market not long after. Thanks to the excellent relations built with the local partners there, the Swiss brand became a household name and remains so till this day.
It was not as smooth sailing here in Singapore though. Charriol exited the market during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and only returned two years ago in 2011. But things are looking up and with the third boutique opening this year at Suntec City, it looks set for a “resurgence”.
“When you are family-owned, partners are very important,” explains Philippe, who has no intentions to change the status quo of his business. “It's pleasant to run your own company. You can travel the world and you are well attended to.” While he oversees the watches division, his daughter minds the accessories and jewellery segment as its creative director, and his son is the visual director who looks after matters relating to marketing and branding.
“My children were attracted to the light,” he jokes, when asked if he had a say in their chosen paths. “It is their family name after all, and they grew up following me around the world.”
This year, Charriol celebrates its 30th anniversary. Things have changed quite a bit since the early days. While the business first started out in watches and jewellery, it has now “spread its wings” into other categories of products including accessories, fragrances and leather goods.
Quiz him on why he did not merely focus on his core business of watches and jewellery, and Philippe cites his interest in style and design over the technical aspect of the craft: “I am a lifestyle designer and marketing guru rather than a watchmaker in the pure sense of the term. I am more interested in the current price bracket ($2,500 to $4,000) and would rather we grow horizontally than vertically.”
He points towards his signature watch collection, the Celtic with its cable-design bracelet, as an example. To Philippe, it is more important to be selling something that is distinctive and easily identified. First conceived in 1983, it is now into its fourth generation of the original model: “When you wear a Celtic watch, others can tell straightaway.”
Heritage aside, Charriol also keeps itself refreshed with new collections, the latest being the St Tropez with a rubber strap engraved with the cable design (above): “We first started producing watches with this material 20 years ago but were looked down upon. Now, it has become popular because the material is light and you can play with colours.”
So what else is in store for Charriol? Philippe has aspirations for it to become a major player in the luxury lifestyle brand segment. He likens it to one of his favourite past-times: Car racing, where the goal is always to be number one. He applies the same philosophy to the way he lives his life as well: “It's what gives me the strength, energy and motivation to fight every day. I am forcing David against Goliath so I have to be brighter and more charming.”
charriol.com