Switzerland-based company Victorinox, which is best known for its revolutionary Swiss army knives, recently released a new line of female-centric time pieces for its I.N.O.X. collection.
Specifically catering to today’s modern and empowered women, the I.N.O.X V suits unique characters and lifestyles, and is capable of embodying femininity and strength both at once.
To celebrate its Philippine launch, Victorinox recently hosted an intimate lunch for members of the local press.
CEO of Victorinox watches Alexander Bennouna graced the event and entertained questions regarding the new products and the company’s future endeavors.
Below is the full transcript of his one-on-one interview with INQUIRER.net:
INQUIRER.net: Victorinox is known primarily as a Swiss knife manufacturer, and you began selling timepieces in 1989. How did the company venture from utility knives to watches?
Alexander Bennouna, CEO of Victorinox watches: The company is 135 years old. It was mono-product for more than a century and diversified since 30 years, roughly. Why? Because it was an economical decision that the company had to take after the 9-11 attack. Because it showed that it’s very vulnerable to be standing only in one leg. What happened overnight, most of our business was terminated for obvious reasons. We couldn’t sell knives anymore. That’s when the…top management…said ‘we need to diversify.’ We have a Swiss army knife in our hand which is very emblematic, very iconic, which speaks for what Swiss quality is. It was a kind of a natural evolution into the watch business, because watch business is all about precision, it’s all about quality and all about functionality. It’s a time measurement instrument. It was almost like a no-brainer to venture into this activity.
INQUIRER.net: Obviously, you guys started out from the traditional wristwatches to a more modernized designs in recent years. How hard was it to transition from the classic designs into something that would cater to today’s generation?
Alexander Bennouna: What’s important for a brand like Victorinox is to bring a contribution to the watch industry. I was referring to the values of our Swiss knife; the quality, functionality innovation and iconic design.
A Swiss watch, by definition, known as a quality item and by definition is functional because it’s an instrument that measures time. We had to go beyond those elements in order to offer something to the watch industry that is new. That is unique. If we do it the same like all the other watch brands are doing since decades and centuries—which they do very well—there is no added and value and there is no contribution. So we took this source of inspiration as a challenge. Our customers expect from us an alternate quality for a very high level of functionality. This is how we decided to engineer a watch that would be resistant to a number of tortures and tests so that it sets the highest quality standard the exists. It was a long process because once we engineered the watch, we had to test it.
We identified the areas of improvement. We engineered it, then we re-tested it and re-engineered it. We sacrificed a lot of watches, but at the end of the day we are very happy and proud that we came up with this line called I.N.O.X. It sets the quality standard and really stands for what Vicotrinox is all about. It’s like a Swiss army knife you have it in your pocket. 90 percent of the time you’ll never use it. But when it comes the time that you need it, you’re sure that it will meet your expectations. And that is the message of the I.N.O.X. line. It’s a watch that will never let you down no matter where, how and when.
INQUIRER.net: Prior to the release of the I.N.O.X. V, Victorinox was also known for your unique take on diving watches. What makes it different from other diving time pieces available in the market?
Alexander Bennouna: What we did was, we included certain features that are very important for diving. The uni-rotating bezel with visibility of the dial in the depths. The anti-magnetic aspect as well, that we introduced in the watch. It is resisting the same standard tests, but applies to the needs of the diver. One of the tests which we had was the ten-meter drop test. The watch will resist the drop tests, but the bezel might be affected so that it doesn’t turn properly anymore, which is a source of danger when you are diving. So we really dated and tailor the tests to the needs of diving activities. It meets all the norms of Swiss diving watches. For I.N.O.X, we tried to go beyond those norms and offer the game a diving watch that is coming up with the ultimate level or resistance and reliability.
INQUIRER.net: How different is the watch from its predecessors? Are there any special or innovative materials used to come up with the product?
Alexander Bennouna: We used a lot of special materials, but the main secret of the resistance of the watch is in the construction. The way we protect the movements from temperature shocks. The way the case is built and even the way the bezel is constructed to redistribute the pressure. So it’s a lot on the engineering and the functional engineering of the case where the elements of the resistance are used. When it comes to materials, we have cases that come in steel, some are coming in titanium. We also have a carbon version and obviously all these materials offer different levels of reliability. As you know titanium is shock-resistant. The carbon version goes one step further when it comes to shock resistance since it’s also used for ballistic missiles. It resists such a greater shock which is very very extreme. Titanium as well is used in aeronautics like for space shuttles when they re-enter into the atmosphere. I think the material offers us another level of resistance on some of these tests. But ultimately what is important is the comfort of wearing because its not every day our consumers will be exposed. However, in the everyday use and the everyday wear of our watch is where they can experience a warranted resisted team that lasts the wear of time.”
INQUIRER.net: The I.N.O.X. V is described by the company as the perfect watch for the empowered woman. What a exactly do you mean by that and why do you think it would be perfect for the modern Filipina?
Alexander Bennouna: We strongly believe that “strong is the new pretty.” Our view is that ladies of the modern world have a very active lifestyle and obviously their expectations regarding the watch have to meet the needs of this active lifestyle. The lady version of the I.N.O.X line was exposed to the same torture as the standard version. It also uses the same aspect of versatility and a level of customization that aides will surely appreciate. We have designs that serve as double functions of protecting the case of the watch. We often joke that this line is “crash-proof, not scratch-proof.” Of course, it gives a different look to the watch. So it comes with different colors and versions where users can completely customize their watch depending on their moods each day. The case has been completely redesigned as well. It’s little bit more round and little bit more generous to give this touch of femininity. It comes in different declarations: two original straps and two versions in black and white.
INQUIRER.net: I also noticed that there aren’t much extravagant or over-the-top designs like fancy stones or jewelry in the watch. Why did you decide to distance yourself from the usual design, which is prevalent from the usual female watches?
Alexander Bennouna: We try to speak to a modern audience. We consider the modern audience as a versatile and very practical bunch. So we thought that distancing ourselves from the extravagant designs of the past is actually more vivacious, more feminine and more modern in one word.
INQUIRER.net: Moving forward, what kind of innovations can we expect from the company?
Alexander Benonuna: Innovation is one of our core values and we will keep on innovating in order to improve the quality and functionality of our product. As I always say, innovation is a permanent process, it’s something like an adventure and you don’t know where it’s gonna get you to.
At the beginning you always hear impossible. I must confess that in a project like I.N.O.X. there were a lot of nervousity and slamming doors among our engineering team, but if you look at our work today there are a lot of impossible a few years back and we made it possible. So what is possible? We have to make it. What is impossible? We have to make it possible. Impossible is a word that simply doesn’t exist in the vocabulary of Victorinox.
INQUIRER.net: In this day and age people just look at their phones to check the time. Aside from it being an accessory, why still wear a watch? Why do you think it remains an essential part of our everyday lives?
Alexander Bennouna: It is true that we can consult time on a lot of different devices nowadays and we basically do not need a watch on our wrist to read time. But I think a watch has a different function. First, it keeps you connected to time. I intentionally used the word “connected” because we all have relation to time that is permanent. Especially in a world we live now, which is an open village in terms of where we are and we can communicate with anyone from across the globe. So I think relation to time is definitely permanent. The other aspect is obvious: a watch is something that you don’t have in your pocket. It’s a de facto accessory. Its a de facto that says something about you. I think these elements will always remain. Now, how the consumer will respond to that, how they will interchange on these parameters—this is what makes this industry very exciting. Its always evolving and always changing. If the watch industry doesn’t want to be a dying industry it has to reinvent itself. This is clear to us.
And to the question, “should a watch be doing more than just telling the time?” our answer for a brand like a Victorinox, is yes it should. It’s something we will keep exploring. /ra