Time to Meet Prince Charles

Time to Meet Prince Charles

When The Swatch Group purchased Breguet the mission was to put the brand back in the annals of European cultural history. But what about the USA?  What about the UK even?

Sitting at the pinnacle of The Swatch Group is perhaps the most legendary of watch brands: Breguet.  Abraham Louis Breguet is commonly known as the “grandfather” of the modern watch.  Just about all of his inventions are still in use today.  His five signature elements still bear his name even when used by other brands (often one sees the description “Breguet Numerals” as an example).

When The Swatch Group purchased Breguet the mission was to put the brand back in the annals of European cultural history. But what about the USA?  What about the UK even?

In the late 1700’s Breguet did something quite unconventional.  Upon delivery of one of his tiny masterpieces, he asked the buyer to sign for receipt in his book.  That book, in the Breguet Archives in Place Vendome, Paris, are the signatures of Marie Antoinette, Queen Victoria, Axel de Fersen and other historical figures.  None for the new world, though.

So when I arrived in London to take over marketing and communications for the brands of the group – the question from the Breguet UK team was “what are we going to do?”

Here’s what we knew: we had history.  We had European royalty.  We had some connection from the past to the present.  Our solution was very Left of Center:  The Royal Hall at Harrogate – a Frank Matcham masterpiece in North Yorkshire which the royal family would visit en route to summers in Balmoral.  A landmark under renovation, it needed benefactors to finance the repair.

Prince Charles was on a mission too.  He wanted to restore English heritage and this provided the ticket to get on his radar.  We positioned Breguet to underwrite a grand re-opening gala as renovations were complete.
Then word came that HRH The Prince of Wales wanted to visit the landmark.  Gulp.

It was the year of his 60th birthday.  We needed a gift!  We contacted the factory and secured a timeless timepiece for the prince and engraved his personal seal on its back.

I met with His Royal Highness for 20 minutes after he toured the Royal Hall.  He was most gracious, inquisitive and informed about the state of Swiss watchmaking. I presented him over our gift and welcomed him to the family noting that King George and Queen Victoria both carried Breguet watches once upon a time.

Prince Charles showed me the OMEGA he was wearing – said he received it on the occasion of his 12th birthday from none other than Haile Selassie!  Wow.

The photo of that presentation made it into the 2008 Annual Report for The Swatch Group and remains one of my personal best career moments.