The Women on TopBy Joy Corthesy
There’s a change in the tide of the industry — more women being appointed to head positions of brands, and their influence is becoming evident. We see it in the design and real watches for women and the increasingly diverse marketing campaigns. Revolution talks to the female veterans who have been in charge of their own companies, some for decades, to see what they had to say about bringing more women into the fold.
Christelle Rosnoblet, CEO of Speake-Marin
When Peter Speake-Marin left his eponymous brand in 2017, it caused a bit of a stir in the industry, and in the midst of the chatter, Rosnoblet quietly took the helm and steered the ship on a new course. Focusing on the brand’s heritage, Rosnoblet is staying true to its roots by producing uniquely refined pieces — showing that good design isn’t dependent on gender.
“I have been a watch enthusiast and collector since an early age. I am passionate about the watch industry and fascinated by its codes, its high expectations, its quest for perfection and its aesthetic sense. I really find in the watch industry the same values that surrounded me in my childhood: respect, heritage, sense of sharing and excellence.
“What I love the most in my position is the freedom to create stunning timepieces following my passion for watchmaking. At Speake-Marin, as an independent haute horlogerie watch brand, we do have this liberty to investigate new areas, and to bring fresh views in an industry that has always been very tied to tradition. We do have this flexibility to move fast thanks to my team who are highly skilled and creative. Would that be easier if I were a man? I doubt it. The difficulties are linked to the role, not the gender. Managing a brand is to have a vision, motivate the teams, and propose timepieces that will make our clients dream! They are not specific barriers to women in watchmaking. Every job linked to mechanical or micro technology was traditionally dedicated to young men. It is probably the result of a society, education and culture perpetuated during the 20th century. But society changes and barriers are coming down.
“At Speake-Marin we only sell men’s watches. However, we know that women can wear Speake-Marin timepieces too. I think that the gender line in terms of products is more blurred than before: women do love to wear big watches nowadays and are looking for complications as well. Women are more and more interested in mechanical watches, which was not the case a decade ago. But I am still convinced that women may make more emotional purchases than men. So, the last objective is maybe to raise more emotion in both products and communications. For sure, a more balanced gender mix at top management levels will change the direction a bit. Men and women have complementary skills, and it has been demonstrated that an equal gender mix brings more value to business. I think that it comes from both ends: it is both the will of the new female generation to reach top management levels, and the will of shareholders to trust women in their managerial and strategic skills.”
Christine Hutter, CEO of Moritz Grossmann
Starting her career in the industry as a watchmaker, Hutter’s genuine love for mechanical watches compelled her to honor one of Glashütte’s greats, Moritz Grossmann, and create a company in his name. Starting the company from the ground up, Hutter is one of the few female CEOs in the industry who has been there since the beginning of her brand’s story, navigating it through tumultuous economic times and growing pains.
“I started my career in the industry more than 30 years ago and worked in different regions in the retail business. When I came out to Glashütte and worked in marketing, I recognized the importance of the watchmaker Moritz Grossmann. The vision and the idea were born to really start a manufacture for Moritz Grossmann, and in 2008 we started the brand from scratch. We set it up from a small team to a full team of 50 people and a full production where we develop all our movements in-house. And I love what we’ve achieved, and just surviving as a woman in a man’s world. Here I have creativity and diversity, and we can create models and set marketing communications how we want and make quick decisions.
“Being a female CEO is a challenge. I do not care about men versus women, but it would be amazing to have more women in the industry. If you look around, there is no other woman who has set up a manufacture from scratch. If you have more women in the watch industry, it would be different. If you look at our German region, half of our watchmaking team is made up of women. In Germany, it’s not a question, but in Switzerland it may be different. And we do not look at gender when hiring, we hire for character and the quality of the work.
“One of the biggest challenges is establishing a brand in the market when you’re not well known and letting the world know about our watches, as well as creating new timepieces and managing development and production time and working with suppliers. With more women in watchmaking, the feeling and taste would perhaps be different. If you look back 20 to 30 years, ladies’ watches were quartz, and today that is changing. There is more haute horlogerie in women’s pieces because the customers are changing. We started early with ladies’ pieces, and we developed a line including mechanical and jewelry pieces and we are moving more towards mechanical movements because that’s our core: classic design while still being innovative and open to customizing.”
Caroline Scheufele, Artistic Director and Co-President of Chopard
Chopard has always been a family business, even when the Scheufele family took over in the ’60s. With a legacy to uphold in the high jewelry and watchmaking industries, Caroline Scheufele has led the company with a quiet grace and upbeat attitude.
“My favorite part of working here at Chopard is always creating new collections and coming up with new ideas and materials. For example, we are celebrating 25 years of the Happy Sport collection — when it was presented it was almost revolutionary to have a diamond steel watch. Normally, there would be no diamonds on steel — diamonds always had to be with gold. Another example is that we have developed a way of working with titanium in high jewelry, which hasn’t been done before either; we have a system where we can color titanium so it can match the gemstones we want to use. It’s this type of work that I love: working with partners creating and rethinking pieces. That and getting my hands on exceptional pieces before anyone else can! It can be a real challenge, to not do things that have been done in the past.
“There are certain collections that are known for Chopard, like Happy Diamonds. It’s part of our DNA. The Chopard style always includes a little twist, and it’s there in these pieces. The diamonds are moving — they’re free and they’re happy. That sort of joyfulness and playfulness is part of our foundation — so we always try to keep that in mind in the atelier when we think of new pieces. And I always try to involve a lot of different people, listen to outside views and communicate with my team.
“I had to work myself up to where I am today — at first it wasn’t easy. The watch industry is pretty much run by men. In my team, I try to keep it very well balanced, so it’s all mixed in my atelier. The attitudes and changes are coming around, but in the beginning, I remember people being doubtful of what I could bring and thinking: “Oh, the daughter is coming in, what is she going to do?” I think there was more pressure on me because of my family. But I’m quite ambitious and I’m positive, and I think team spirit is very important. You can do a lot of things on your own, but you always need a very good team, so you should always involve a lot of different people.
“You always have to start with the movement, whether it’s a man or a woman designing. If more women could get involved, the products would have a more feminine touch, and we could move away from first making a man’s watch then adapting it to a woman’s wrist. We’re very unique at Chopard, our passion is both watchmaking and jewelry, there’s a great synergy between the two worlds. We have a passion for both fields, and ultimately, everything you do needs to start with passion — writing or painting, anything that uses creativity, has to start with passion.”