Less than two years into his job as the head of Breitling, Georges Kern has made huge strides in bringing the brand into the 21st century. In addition to shaking up Breitling’s product range with new a slew of new models, he’s brought aboard “Breitling Squad” ambassadors like Brad Pitt and champion surfer Kelly Slater. We sat down with Kern to ask him about his work thus far and his plans for the future.
The Breitling Aviator 8 Mosquito
What has changed about the watch industry in the last couple of years?
I think the luxury industry totally changed in the last five years. Breitling is exclusive in terms of price and distribution, but I’ve thought a lot about what we can do to make it cooler, more relaxed and more inclusive. This is why we are working with sports like surfing and even drone piloting. You and me, we can do this. We cannot drive a Formula One car.
Is part of this appealing to millennials?
I read an article the other day that said capitalism isn’t going to be destroyed by socialism, it’s going to be destroyed by the millennials and by online. Why? Because millennials don’t want to own luxury anymore. They want to experience. The perception of luxury is dramatically changing. I think it’s a lot of fun, and if other brands don’t embrace it, it will give more space to Breitling.
Is sustainability a part of that change, too?
We want to be carbon neutral in the next three years. That’s the number one objective. The most important thing for us would be to change packaging, and this is going to happen for us over the next six months. I don’t understand this whole packaging thing, it drives me crazy. I don’t think anybody wants that stuff. We cannot save the world with Econyl straps, but I reach 300,000 clients a year and we can talk to them, and these people have influence. That’s the point.
Is there a trick to getting celebrities like Brad Pitt to sign on?
It’s very simple. First of all they need to like you. If you don’t have a personal connection, forget it. I don’t think any of our Squad members needs our money, to be honest, but we spend time with them and we’re interested in what they are doing. It’s like with any partnership. If you don’t show interest in what your wife or girlfriend is doing, forget it.
Is there any chance Breitling will release a smart watch?
No. How stupid would I be? Who wants to buy a Breitling smart watch? I mean, seriously, no one.