During Baselworld 2014 we had an energizing meeting with CEO and founder, Jean Piere Lutgen, of the still rapidly growing and worldwide renowned lifestyle brand Ice Watch. Ice Watch want’s to be more then a watch brand and it shows.
In 2013 the Ice-Watch once again performed well, consolidating its position of world leader in its niche (€ 50 – € 99) for the third year running in most European Countries. For 2014 they are working on sustained growth in the APAC (Asia-Pacific) and Middle Eastern regions, with approximately 100% growth.
Ice-Watch has also confirmed its dominant position on the social networks with its huge community of more than 5 million fans on Facebook. In so doing the Belgian brand continues to spread the Ice-Watch message all over the world. This strategic online presence is also a good example of the brand’s fabulous energy.
WatchInsight is interested in Ice Watch because there low priced watches are the potential start of a passion for watches.
Before Ice Watch, Jean Pierre was a successful marketer for an advertising agency and already putting watches on the market. The total package of ICE-watch is the key to success. Colourful watches that match with you state of mind of personality, combined with a stackable package, which make it highly collectable.
Ice Watch was established in 2007. They started selling watches in many different colours in a price range starting at €59 until €100. A creative and smart marketing strategy from Jean Pierre and his team, resulting in a stunning 12.000.000 watches being sold by ICE-watch by the end of 2013. This is never been done by any other watch brand. The design got so successful it also became the most copied watch ever.
WtchI: why the strategy of entering the market with low priced watches?
JP: I saw an interesting potential for low priced watches in different colours for a young consumer group, which has a small budget. Buying a watch for them is an impulse action and they’re always out of money. But with the low prices of ICE-watch it gets easy of buying one. Another reason for the low price is that the consumer is used changing more rapidly from clothes/watches etc . The low priced Ice Watches available in many models and colours fulfil this need.
And then there is the box to store the watch. This is an important part of the success. It’s a nice looking transparent plastic box, which you can pile up, and it shows the watch. It encourages the need to collect them.
WtchI: did you ever wear or had a passion for watches before starting ICE-watch?
JP: No I wasn’t interested in watches and never wore one. Three reasons for people to not wear watches is freedom, freedom and freedom. They want to feel free and accessories like watches limit them, they don’t want to conform to time or they don’t want to be judged by the watch they wear.
WtchI: did your interested for watches change?
JP: of course it changed because of the success of ICE-watch and the need to have knowledge of the watch industry. But for me the passion is leading, expending the company and developing creative marketing strategies.
WtchI: What’s the strategy for Ice Watch for the next 5 to 10 year?
JP: I don’t know. I didn’t expect to achieve what we have achieved with ICE-watch. Ice Watch is gaining the quality of the watches every year. This year we again expend our product lines with new colours but also with the use of new materials. Steel, leather, canvas, nylon and denim will be added as well as several other materials in a host of harmonious combinations to ful fil every taste. The ICE collection, which was a huge hit in 2013, and the Ice-Forever, the brand’s best-seller are back in 2014. Other new collections are the result of partnerships with globally recognised brands such as BMW Motorsport, PANTONE and Swarovski.
The installation of our headquarters in new buildings in the centre of Bastogne and the inauguration of our new European Logistics Centre , with a surface area of about 6,000 sq. m., are an excellent illustration of our strategy. In the long term we hope to install a European Repair Centre here as well as an assembly line. Also the design team is developing a more unique design for the ICE-watch.
WtchI: how did Ice-Watch come to a collaboration with BMW ?
JP: a person I know from my hometown is a designer at BMW. We came in contact with each other and this lead to one and other. At the same time Ice-Watch became a hype in Germany due to the explosive growth of our sales. ICE-watch expended the total watch market in Germany with 6%. Our achievements were not unnoticed at BMW and also brand values that corresponded lead to the collaboration. ICE-watch fabricates watches with BMW colours and appearance. Also we saw the possibilities for spreading the ICE-Watch brand name by sponsoring the BMW DTM race team.
WtchI: you did an acquisition of the watch brand Patton?
JP:he latest development is the acquisition of Patton. I ran into the brand Patton, named after a famous military general who had an important roll in the Second World War.
A Frenchman founded the brand 4 years ago with a unique design. I was intrigued by the story of Patton and three weeks ago we signed an agreement. Before I want to go any further I wanted the agreement with the family Patton who own the Patton foundation. They we’re also enthusiastic and signed very quickly.
With Patton we hold a brand with a unique design of liquid filled watches, the Hyperbare collection. These are very well build and so strong, picks up a watch and smashes it several times on the table. With this brand we enter a new market of watches starting over €700
WtchI: Is this a strategic way to take ICE-watch to a higher level?
JP: before the Patton deal we already made a deal with Swarovski to start ICE Swiss. These Swiss made watches are going to be on a higher level. They have made special crystals for our watches with a Swizz cross inside. These are going to be on the woman’s versions of the watch. We are presenting them in June in geneve, unfortunately they where not ready in time for Basel.
WtchI: Is this the start of a new Swatch Group?
JP: laughs. Non With the existing Ice collection we have watches starting at €59,00 to €249 with Ice Swiss from €259 to €500 and over €500 with Patton. So this way we enlarge the business. We also expend in other lifestyle object with our sunglasses and the ICE-Phones. This last project we start in France and will continue in other countries as soon as de licence agreements are signed.
WtchI: Other brands try to hook up with famous people, is this what ICE-watch is also looking for?
JP: We have had collaborations with famous people as David Guetta but we see that we have a better chance of meeting our customers and new customers in a different way. For example if we look at Facebook we are at number 38 in the fashion list. Way above Rolex and Swatch Group. So we are very active with over 5 million friends. This is where we invest in a direct link with our costumers.
WtchI: During your time at ICE-watch is your passion in watches changed?
JP: no I would like to go to politics, haha. I got in the watch business by chance. I believe that a man around it 40 needs a new challenge, because when he gets older he doesn’t dare to make that change. By that time you start loosing a bit of your energy. So maybe I would like a third challenge in my life, something completely different. The goal of my life is not to sell watches, its to create a brand with a large community, meet new people. To share and interact through a watch, but not only a watch. I like the product and if you look around at Basel how many people are working I this business, and if you think for a second we are only talking about an object no bigger than 5 square centimetres.