Veteran watch executive David Gouten recently arrived at Geneva based DeLaneau with big plans for the small brand. Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan recently visited Gouten at DeLaneau’s atelier in Geneva’s historic old town where he got a lesson in hand painting dials while Gouten shared his plans.
ET: You were part of the famous Harry Winston watch-making team that launched the Opus series and established the company as a legitimate maker of complicated watches.
David Gouten: It was a great adventure. When Max Busser took over the watch division it was nearly bankrupt and there was the launch of Opus and from there history.
ET: What brought you to Delaneau?
David Gouten: I had a brief stop at Graff, and after that I took a step back and said, what do I want to do? I decided I wanted to do something with a small plan, and through a friend I was introduced to the owner of DeLaneau as he was looking for a CEO. I did a business plan and it was as it turned out the vision he head. My asset is the relationships I have with retailers around the world, but for a small brand fighting to get attention that is very important.
ET: What’s your plan?
David Gouten: I did not promise the owner the moon, and we are not public so I am in a nice place. When I got here the previous management had positioned DeLaneau is feminine horlogerie which is a niche within a niche. We also know in virtually 99 percent of the time, at a certain price the woman doesn’t buy without the man and in fact we were doing no men’s watches. So for a niche brand, we were in a very small position. Instead we are going to promote the value of enamel and the artisan element of what we do. We really need to educate. This is a broader target and this is something where we have some real advantages from other companies doing enamel.
ET: What are your advantages?
David Gouten: Each dial is unique and we have three women in the next room who are the artisans. For a client they can come and discuss what they want here in the atelier. A single dial can take weeks to do. It is really a creative and unique process. We are really bespoke and it is not just enamel. It is also the stones. We find amazing stones and then use them or if we can’t find rubies we like, then we don’t use rubies. The big houses have collections and they have to produce which is the opposite of what we do. If you tell an artisan what to do, they are no longer an artisan, they are manufacturing.
ET: Are you going to have men’s watches?
David Gouten: I would put it that there is a nice bit of what we do that is unisex. Today it is about what you like and a beautiful painting of a lion on a dial could be for a man or a woman.
ET: What are you key markets?
David Gouten: Right now Russia and Southeast Asia, particularly Singapore. However this week (during the Geneva watch shows) we met friends from Arabia, the U.S. and some other places and they all were very impressed with what we do?
ET: Will you be opening more boutiques?
David Gouten: No. We have flagship stores in Geneva and New York. Our target client comes to Geneva and New York or will come if they need to so we don’t need more boutiques. Because of our low production the issue is even having enough product for the boutiques.
ET: Do you have anything new coming up?
David Gouten: We are working on jade dials and some other things, but that’s all we are saying for now.