ET: Can you tell us how you got involved in watch-making and give us a brief overview of your career?
Jan Edocs: I grew up in Biel, the cradle of watch-making at the foot of the Swiss Jura. In 1989, I started my career at Omega, followed by various management positions in sales and marketing at other Swatch Group brands, which allowed me to gather relevant knowledge and expertise in the watch industry. In 1996 I joined the former Milus, where I was promoted as marketing and sales director. I left briefly in 2001 to work for Versace in Italy as international sales manager and sales and marketing director for Switzerland. When I was contacted by Peace Mark, the actual owner of the Milus brand, I wanted to come back to take over the challenge to reposition the brand based on my clear vision. I did not hesitate one second as this was always my dream.
ET: Why are you so passionate about watches and from what age did watches interest you?
Jan Edocs: At very young age I was fascinated by watches. In my entourage there were collectors and connoisseurs of the watch industry, and so I “inhaled” the spirit of time-measuring during my childhood. And at my very first job at Omega, I was asked to clean all the watches at their museum, and this was so incredibly fascinating to be able to hold all these witnesses to history in my hands.
ET: Milus was re-launched by you in 2004. Can you describe the brand before you arrived and where it is today?
Jan Edocs: The story of Milus begins with the ideal of its pioneering founder, Paul William Junod, to create a robust yet elegant watch—a precious accessory that everyone would wish to own. With this goal, in 1919 he set up the business in Bienne. After his death in 1951, his son Paul Herbert took over management of the family business. In 1982, Paul Herbert Junod handed over the company to his two sons, Paul and Pierre Junod. The former Milus was more positioned as a niche brand known to a very design-oriented clientele. From 1986 to 2001, Milus watches were honoured with various prizes; these models feature in exhibitions in leading museums throughout the world. In 2000 the brand was finally chosen and nominated for the special edition “The 50 brands of the Swiss watch industry in the 20th century”.
ET: As a growing brand, tell us about your plans for Milus over the next 10 years.
Jan Edocs: Within the growth of the brand and the increased demand and sales results, the development will be permanently pushed onwards with a clear focus on a world-wide retail strategy. Within the next few years, Milus will be present in all leading luxury markets world-wide. The current collections have been noticed and judged as very valuable timepieces by renowned watch industry experts and, this is helping to assure a very strong brand identity in the markets. So our aim will be to deepen and anchor these values and to maintain the philosophy and DNA of the brand.
ET: Your management group has all worked together previously at Swatch Group, and you went to school with your head of sales, so your group appears quite tight-knit. Can you tell us a bit about your management style?
Jan Edocs: There is indeed a tight knit between the people working for Milus. The best way to describe our management style would most probably be: A highly personal style that remains firm but respectful.
ET: What role do you play in designing the watches and how do you balance this with the time required to manage a growing company?
Jan Edocs: The watches incorporate the DNA of the brand. Therefore, it is one of my most important tasks to ensure that the DNA of the brand is reflected in each and every Milus timepiece. A lot of the workload can be delegated, but this task is a must to handle personally and all other tasks have to be managed accordingly.
ET: You are quite successful at a young age. Are there any things you would have done differently, and if so, can you give us a couple of examples?
Jan Edocs: I am someone who is looking forward—I am happy about the past…in any case it could not be changed.
ET: Aside from work, do you have any hobbies?
Jan Edocs: There is almost no time for personal hobbies as my spare time is entirely dedicated to my family. I love playing soccer with my son and telling stories to my daughter. In the evenings at home, I enjoy drinking exceptional wine from my cellar with my wife and friends.
ET: Do you like to travel for pleasure, and if so tell us about two or three of your favorite places to go or activities you enjoy while on vacation.
Jan Edocs: In general I am often away from home and have the chance travel all over the world. I am fascinated by all the different cultures, that inspires me a lot. There are many wonderful places, but if I would have to choose I’d pick Hong Kong, New York, Barcelona and Paris. These four cities offer so much richness, and it would take too long to describe them all.
ET: Do you have any favorite hotels or resorts? For business? For pleasure?
JE: Again, there are many excellent hotels and resorts all over the world. I think it has much more to do with how you feel and how open-minded you are to explore different cultures. It doesn’t need to be 6 star hotels all the time. You can get a very relaxing feeling and excellent service on all different levels. For example, my family and I love to spend our holidays in Thailand as much as in Sardinia. But as we also love to explore new places, it remains a challenge every year to decide where to go for leisure trips.
ET: Do you ever travel by private jet, and if so, what is your impression of the experience?
Jan Edocs: Yes, I have traveled by private jet for business. My experience is only positive as the time-saving factor and flexibility is enormous.
ET: Milus is actually part of Peacemark, a very large Chinese company. Can you tell us a bit about your parent and how this benefits a high-end Swiss watch company?
Jan Edocs: Peace Mark, with its headquarters in Hong Kong, was founded in 1983 and has grown exponentially in recent years. With strong design and manufacturing capabilities for watches and movements, the group has facilities in China and overseas. The group was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1993.The group also distributes timepieces to markets like the USA, China, Europe and other Asian countries and operates an extensive fashion watch retail network with over 100 mid-range and luxury watch brands in the Greater China region. Peace Mark employs than 10,000 persons in China and overseas. With Peace Mark Group, Milus has a highly attractive parent with a solid financial situation, great experience, remarkable knowledge and know-how and an impressive outlook on future growth and business opportunities.
ET: When your owner is 5,000 miles and a continent away, what challenges does this provide as a manager and how do you answer them?
Jan Edocs: The greatest challenge at the beginning was not the distance but the different mentalities. Both parties had to realize that they could learn from each other; that they could take out of this relationship the utmost of benefits for each partner by respecting the experience and know-how from both sides. Furthermore, it was very important to be able to manage Milus independently, as the know-how and watch-making skills we rely one are typically Swiss. This kind of give-and-take and trusting each other is the secret recipe for a prosperous and long-lasting collaboration.
ET: You are the CEO of a Swiss-made luxury watch company in your hometown of Bienne, right in the cradle of Swiss watch-making territory. How does it feel to be a hometown hero, and does this bring any added pressures?
Jan Edocs: Bienne is a tiny town—only 55,000 inhabitants. It is also a bilingual town—60 percent are German speaking and 40 percent speak French—and therefore it is quite open-minded. As I am traveling a lot, I tend to socialize with people I feel comfortable with. There are many other hometown heroes here; Bienne is the headquarters for several important companies, which is great for the networking. Swiss people are usually very contained and polite, so it is really a perfect environment.
ET: If you were not in the watch industry, what would you have done as a career?
Jan Edocs: I would have become a pianist or soccer player.