The young, the bold and the edgy: Meet the CEOs behind four luxury watch brands

(Clockwise from left) CEO of Tag Heuer Frederic Arnault, Girard-Perregaux's CEO Patrick Pruniaux and founder of MB&F Maximilian Busser. PHOTOS: TAG HEUER, GIRARD PERREGAUX, MB&F, THE HOUR GLASS

SINGAPORE – One is the youngest chief executive of a major watch company, one led a management buyout of two brands from Kering and one is the founder of a famous independent label.

In town recently to meet retailers and clients, Mr Frederic Arnault (Tag Heuer), Mr Patrick Pruniaux (Ulysse Nardin and Girard- Perregaux) and Mr Maximilian Busser (MB&F) discuss creativity, innovation and what makes the watch business tick.

Tag Heuer’s Frederic Arnault calls for agility in business 


It has been five years since Mr Frederic Arnault’s last visit to Singapore.

“That’s the most difficult part about the pandemic, not being able to travel,” says the chief executive of Tag Heuer. “It’s very important to travel; meet staff, customers, retailers; to feel the market; and to drive the brand.”

It is also his first visit here after he became head honcho of Tag – probably the youngest of a major watch company – in July 2020. He was then barely 25. Prior to that, Mr Arnault was the company’s head of strategy and digital overseeing the Connected Watch, the brand’s smart timepiece.


Running a company during Covid-19 was ‘a privilege’, says Patrick Pruniaux


For five years, Mr Patrick Pruniaux helmed Ulysse Nardin (UN) and Girard-Perregaux (GP) which, between them, share about 400 years of watchmaking history. In January, he led a management buyout of both brands from French luxury conglomerate Kering which owns – among other big names – Gucci, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta.

Entrepreneurship has always been a life-long dream, says the 52-year-old, who spent four years at Apple – first as a member of the Special Projects team which launched the Apple Watch, then as managing director for Britain and Ireland – before taking over the helm at UN in 2017. A year later, he was also appointed head honcho of GP.

“When Kering decided that it wanted to sell, on the spot, I just said: ‘You know what, I want to be in a position to buy them from you. Because I know not only did I want to be an entrepreneur, but I’m also a very strong believer in the future of both brands,” says Mr Pruniaux.


MB&F’s Maximilian Busser: The end of the world didn’t happen with Covid-19


On March 17, 2020, when Mr Maximilian Busser – founder of independent watch label MB&F – closed his factory and sent his team home because of Covid-19 restrictions, he thought “it was the end of the world”.

“All our suppliers were locked down, all our retailers were closed,” says the 55-year-old Swiss entrepreneur, who was in town recently to open the world’s first MB&F Lab at Raffles Hotel. A new retail experience in collaboration with The Hour Glass, the gallery-like space will highlight the brand’s avant-garde horological creations as well as kinetic artworks by international artists.

But the catastrophe Mr Busser expected did not come. In fact, the reverse happened.


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