How strong is the economic recovery in Asia, and in particular for DFS?
Like the Octo Velocissimo Chronograph where it’s based, the Bulgari Octo Maserati Chronograph comes in a 41mm-wide case. The case material is stainless steel. It keeps the intricate and complex design of Bulgari’s Octo instances, but the bezel in this version features a tachymeter scale, which can be right for a wristwatch with automotive connections. In addition, it makes me wonder why the non-limited variant Octo Velocissimo Chronograph watches do not have tachymeter scales on their bezels. I get it tachymeter scales are largely decorative these days and that very few people actually use these, but it just makes the watch look more “right.” One of my favorite elements of chronographs in the Octo collection and the Bulgari Octo Maserati Chronograph are the pushers. The pushers are cleverly integrated into the case only above and below the crown, and this, by the way, is inlaid with ceramic. If you don’t look carefully, you would probably mistake the pushers for crown guards. Water resistance is an adequate 100 meters.What immediately grabs your attention with the Bulgari Octo Maserati Chronograph is its dial. Rather than white, we’ve got a rich blue lacquer dial up that, together with the polished stainless steel case, reminds of a white Maserati MC12 – which, if I’m not mistaken, remains the fastest and most powerful production Maserati even to this day. Blue also appears to be the traditional color of Maserati.Something aesthetically pleasing about the dial is the 3 white enamel registers, that can be set in place utilizing a procedure called champlevé enameling. It’s reportedly a time-consuming process. In cases like this, the dial has to be prepared by dividing and etching, filled with enamel, fired. But what’s more, it offers contrast against the blue lacquer dial and just looks wonderful. There’s also a date window between four and five o’clock, which is unobtrusive.
We are seeing positive signs of a retail recovery in our locations around Asia. Travelers account for around 30 per cent of worldwide luxury purchases, and because we serve this steadily growing market we are able to see trends much faster than traditional domestic retailers. At DFS we will continue being disruptive in our product offering with new exclusive products and experiences to innovate and surprise our customers.

What brands perform most in percentage?
Some of the best performances we have seen in watches and jewelry are the brands who continue to be daring in their approach to product development and who excel in digital communication. At DFS, we curate our customers’ experience as well as our product collection around the thrill of discovery through new and innovative store designs, unique pop-ups, personalization services, and our engaging and well-trained sales associates. Watch and jewelry brands that have been able to reinvent their product offer, controlled over-distribution, and maintained a close relationship with their audience have been seeing the best performance. We have seen many trends in watches this year, whether it is the explosion of the blue dial offering, to Worldtimers, or new strap systems that give the customer the flexibility to wear their timepieces in a formal or casual sport setting. 

Is there any surprise (out-performing brands for instance?)
At DFS, we are committed to having the right product at the right time for our discerning consumers, and this means that we need to plan events like the Master series up to 12-14 months in advance. Knowing how to balance the most popular brands now with ones that we predict to be hot a year and a half in advance is really a skill for us. Research tells us that travel retail is expected to grow at a CAGR of +8% by 2020, and Watches, Jewelry, and Accessories is expected to grow by +14% (fastest growth of sales mix) followed by Fashion (+9%). So we closely monitor consumer patterns, trends, and brand dynamics so that we can stay ahead of the needs of our traveling customers.

Is there an impact on your mid-term strategy ?
We will pay close attention to the novelties launched at each year’s SIHH and Baselworld events as injecting newness to the core timeless products in each assortment offering is key. Classical dress and sports watches respecting the brands’ heritage and DNA make up a large part of our watch sales. It is very important to also support the smaller brands as much as the larger brands – they invest constantly in pushing new innovation and product development. We are always amazed at how technology mixed with traditional watchmaking skills advances the selection of watches year after year, whether it is ultrathin movements, new materials hosting more accurate movements, and all the work on the development in ladies offering. But at the end of the day it is the customer who decides what we do and where we focus.

Do you see an evolution in customer trends for watches ?
Watches are very personal companions that last a lifetime and can be tailored to one’s mood, lifestyle, or even profession. Many of our customers are looking for the watch their parents used to wear. Equally, a growing segment of younger customers want to discover a new brand with some edgier styling and not anything that their parents might have worn! While this segment is growing, the brands who have a long heritage and recognizable DNA remain in the highest demand in our network.

What’s special about Macao Masters of Time this year ?
This year, we took our customers on a sensorial experience revolving around the concept of memory and how watch collectors and creators commemorate life’s most significant moments.  Parmigiani Fleurier made its debut while Montblanc displayed high-end writing instruments for the first time. Bulgari, Tag Heuer and Piaget showcased worldwide exclusives or pre-launches. We also hosted Vacheron Constantin’s exhibition “Invitation to Travel: Blue Hour” with exclusive commissioned photos of Hong Kong and Macau from photographer Romain Jacquet-Lagrèze. We also integrated other DFS categories to delight all our customers, such as offering them The Macallan whisky and fine Petrossian caviar. The 2017 Masters of Time exhibition will remain available for viewing and purchase at T Galleria by DFS, Macau, Shoppes at Four Seasons until February 28, 2018, so there is plenty of time for people to visit this year’s display.

As a VIP retailer, what do you think of Baselworld’s new format?
As a partner to many brands in the various fairs around the world, what we love most about our job is gathering together with the industry and fellow retailers to talk about WATCHES! While Baselworld is shorter this year, our teams stay from start to finish – planning ahead for the years to come and also taking the time to meet new people and new brands. 

Will you attend GMT’s 18th Anniversary during SIHH?
Only if the champagne is cold enough! Of course we will, the GMT gatherings are always a great place to relax and talk about watches with new and old friends.

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