Aldo Magada is a veteran of the Swiss watch industry whose long and varied career includes stints as chief executive of Badollet, now dormant, then Zenith when the company was still a sleeping beauty in search of its prince. He now heads Vulcain and Anonimo, brands that have both had their ups and downs and which now belong to the same Luxembourg-based investor (Anonimo since 2012, Vulcain since 2017). Clearly Magada isn’t one to shirk a challenge – which is a good thing, considering the work to be done at Vulcain and Anonimo. “We’ve already come a long way with Anonimo,” he says. “We’ve restructured the collections around three pillars. They are the Nautilo range of dive watches, the Militare line of robust, functional watches and, the most recent of the three, the dressier Epurato line that will also enable us to expand in the women’s segment. When you look back at the early days of Anonimo, which forged its reputation as a maker of professional dive watches with obvious ties to Panerai, you get the measure of the progress already made.”
Set up by the ex-CEO of Panerai, who didn’t appreciate the subsuming of the brand into the Richemont group, Anonimo gained a cult following, mainly in Italy, for its technical (and expensive) watches before losing itself in a profusion of limited editions without any real common denominator. Since Magada’s arrival, sweeping changes have been made, including a relocation to the other side of the Alps, a necessary condition of the Swiss-Made label, and a refocusing on the brand’s principles – synonymous with functional, robust timepieces with Italian design flair. Original features include a secured crown at 12 o’clock on the Militare or, more ergonomic, at 4 o’clock on the Nautilo; the 4-8-12 layout of the numerals, and of course cushion-shaped cases in bronze that quickly became a trademark of the brand, long before the current trend began. Movement-wise, Anonimo uses tried-and-tested Sellita calibres, namely the S200, S260 and S300 with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module. Again, a sensible and pragmatic move aimed at a niche in the mid-range market.
A fresh start for Vulcain
“Our offering now makes sense and we will build on this foundation. Our price positioning means we deliver real value propositions,” Magada continues. “This is a pivotal year for the brand as we work on our distribution and image to create an Anonimo community. Our role as official timekeeper of the FIA World Rally Championship should be seen in this context. This is one of the most popular sporting events, watched by more than 800 million people a year. In a similar vein, Anonimo also sponsors Leopard Racing in Moto3, the “junior” class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.” Building on these two partnerships in sports that demand incredible control from drivers and riders, and its “massively” Florentine style, Anonimo is currently canvassing retailers who, it has to be said, need no small amount of convincing to take on independent brands. Objective: to break through the profitability threshold by 2020.
Vulcain is still some way off that mark. Its last product releases date back to 2016. They included the V-40, the most recent rendition of the legendary alarm calibre – the very one that equips the no less famous Cricket watch worn by U.S. presidents. The property since 2009 of Excellence Holding, which also owns Swiss retail chain Les Ambassadeurs, Vulcain never really took off and was earmarked for sale. Yet as Aldo Magada points out, “Vulcain represents 150 years of history as an all-round watch brand that has always succeeded in positioning its products in a classical, reasonable register. But classical doesn’t mean traditional. It’s an important nuance as our role today is to find a place for Vulcain away from the horological freeways, on a quieter road where it can deliver pleasurable driving, to carry on the “mechanical” metaphor, that will leave no-one indifferent. We took advantage of Baselworld to reconnect with our customer base and are currently putting together a new catalogue of existing models that we’ll be presenting this summer. Then, towards the end of the year, there’ll be a new Maison Vulcain with an original movement derived from the brand’s in-house calibre. People have a soft spot for Vulcain. It’s up to us to convert that into sales.”