Saturday, July 13, 2019

A Few Minutes With Fortis CEO Lorenz Aebischer

Courtesy of Fortis
Before we go too deep into this, it is important that I state clearly that the subject of the interview is someone I am very proud to call my friend.  I have worked with Lorenz in a former life when he was the CEO of Auguste Reymond.  

He is one of the most straightforward, honest and decent people that I have met in a business that is all too-often littered with con men, and bullshit artists.  And that is putting it kindly ; )  In a business where all too often the people who actually work for the brand are not valued, Lorenz and the team he is working with at Fortis have really turned around a brand that has a great deal of potential, and now will hopefully realize it.  I still remember the day that I found out he had been named the CEO of Fortis and I was so happy for him that I immediately stepped out of the office to call and congratulate him.  It is truly proof that sometimes, good guys finish first.

And now, a few minutes with Lorenz Aebischer -

James Henderson
With nearly a year under your belt as the CEO at Fortis, how are things looking?

Lorenz Aebischer - Well, with Jupp I have the chance to have not only a president of the board and shareholder but also an operational director in the daily business. Most of his time he is sitting in the office together with us and travelling to meet partners together with us. On the other side we have a great team with the sales manager, the marketing manager and the operational manager. In the management team we are 5 person and come most of the time to a common sense when we have decisions to take.

Very important is also the rest of the staff. I’m happy we have motivated people running in the same way to create the great FORTIS brand story for the next 100 years.

Last but not least, the international partners are also very important. Whatever we are doing, we need our partners to follow us.

So, TEAMWORK I guess is the main issue. And good partnerships. I guess we met a lot of interesting people and we will come within the next months/years with many nice good surprises.

JH - Moving from Auguste Reymond to Fortis was more than a simple move from Tramelan to Grenchen. What are some of the biggest differences between running a brand like Auguste Reymond and running Fortis?

LA - With Auguste Reymond I invested in a small brand with a nice history. My private finances were not enough and the Russian partner became main shareholder. It was very difficult for me to manage a Swiss brand with the Russian culture. Running a small brand with no budget is very difficult and everything you do in a short term view.  Today I already can say, the move from Auguste Reymond to Fortis was great luck.

Courtesy of Fortis

With Jupp as a shareholder we can think about the long term. This is crucial when you want to work with a great brand like Fortis. Amazing history as Fortis was the world first producer of automatic wrist watches, produced plastic watches before Swatch, was one of the first watch brands in the space, was the first Chronograph watch in the open space. So, talking about changes, Fortis has a great history and was a great brand. And I’m very proud to work in the original Fortis building. Fortis is one or the rare brands still in the original building built over 100 years ago. While the previous brand is a brand like others, Fortis has a character. Fortis brand is a good supplement brand in the portfolio of the retailers. The time pieces are robust and have their own unique character. We cooperate with professionals to create precise tools to measure the time.

Another big difference is the team. We have great watchmakers managing all the pieces of a mechanical alarm. All our watches are assembled in-house and we always look to cooperate with local suppliers. We have a great logistics team and a great administration team.

- What is the big release for Fortis this year?

LA - 8th of may we could launch the new PC-7 TEAM watch of the air base of the Swiss army in Dübendorf.  All the pilots of the PC-7 TEAM wear this new Fortis watch.  Together with many invited customers we watched the training of the squadron. Amazing to watch that. The PC-7 TEAM stands for dynamism, elegance and precision and fit perfectly to the values of Fortis.  It was a special pleasure for us to present this new watch to them and to the markets.  Especially as this year the squadron celebrates its 30th birthday.

Not a release but we had a big start in the development of the new Flieger collection. This new collection will be presented early next year.

JH - What are some of the biggest challenges that you and your team are facing?

LA - This I see in 2 chapters.  One is outside, and one is inside our house.  Outside, we are working with our partners to strengthen their position and focus on quality retailing and giving them more support with more pictures and videos, new displays and new catalogues.  Inside, we developed together with a big international agency our brand positioning.  Now we are starting to work on our communication channels.  The biggest challenge is to tell the people about what we are doing.  Nobody is waiting for us, but everybody who follows will realize the interesting potential of our brand.

JH - What is the strongest market for Fortis?

LA - Actually our main focus is Germany, USA and Japan.  As an independent brand you can’t drive a strong global campaign.  But we are working with all our other countries to develop them and intensify their activities together with us and cooperate straightly with the local retailers.

JH - Who are your key competitors?

LA - As mentioned Fortis has it own character. We do watches we love and we do it with passion.  Therefore we don’t see a key competitor but for sure our customers compare Fortis with IWC, Bell & Ross, Breitling.  We want to be seen and compared by them. We don’t call them competitors but purchase options for similar customers.

JH - What should we be on the look out for from Fortis?

LA - I guess watch fans, watch lovers and retailers have to follow our Instagram and Facebook but also in various print magazines and in some months our new internet site.  They will see step by step changes and interesting news.  In the last months we had so many contacts with various partners and exceptional personalities. We will create with passion new tools to measure the time and we will communicate more with all our actual and new ambassadors. Very soon, in August and in September, you will hear some news with our partners Castor Fantoba (who just became Spanish Champion some weeks ago) and Peter Balmer.

Stay tuned and follow our great evolution. We are FORTIS!

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