Asian Games 2018: Jakarta & Palembang, Aug 18-Sept 2

Tissot endures test of time with sport

Tissot president Francois Thiebaud feels that, while the brand has 165 years of heritage, its watches are also for the young and sport is the right target for this demographic.
Tissot president Francois Thiebaud feels that, while the brand has 165 years of heritage, its watches are also for the young and sport is the right target for this demographic.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Official Asian Games timekeeper since 1998, the Swiss brand has growing presence in Asia

The company's business lies in clinically measuring the milliseconds separating just in time and too late, winner and runner-up.

But watchmaker Tissot's long association with sports is founded instead upon the immeasurable - emotions and memories.

"A watch remembers emotional moments and sports provides many such moments," said the Swiss company's president, Francois Thiebaud, who was in Singapore last Friday to launch the digital display at Tissot's boutique in Marina Bay Sands, the first of its kind for the brand. "People don't throw an old watch away because of the memories attached to it. You don't have this kind of thinking with mobile phones."

Tissot has signed on as the official timekeeper for the ongoing Asian Games in Indonesia, a partnership with the Asiad that goes back 20 years and five Games to the 1998 edition in Bangkok.

The company's sports partnerships range from basketball to fencing and its line-up of athlete brand ambassadors is equally varied - the list includes India cricket captain Virat Kohli, four-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez and National Basketball Association veteran Tony Parker, who plays for the Charlotte Hornets. Kohli is the only Asian among Tissot's sportsmen ambassadors but the brand is also fronted by Chinese movie stars Huang Xiaoming and Liu Yifei.

Thiebaud pointed to the increasing importance of the Asian market for Tissot, but did not reveal how many watches it has sold in the region over the past year.

Tissot makes about one-sixth of the 25 million watches Switzerland exports a year.

"I visit Asia two to three times a year and I'm always impressed with how quickly things are moving here. Acceleration in the world today comes from Asia," said the Frenchman.

"The competition here is also very tough and that kind of competition stimulates people. We are seeing some amazing new ideas about design and style."

The watch industry has suffered in recent years from competition with fitness bands and smartwatches, but Tissot has managed to navigate those choppy waters smoothly.

Its revenue exceeded one billion Swiss francs (S$1.38 billion) and sales rose almost 10 per cent last year, capping two decades of almost constant double-digit growth.

"We are one of the oldest (watchmakers) with 165 years of heritage. The young people sometimes say, 'Tissot, my father or my mother got one'," said Thiebaud. "But we mustn't forget that Tissot has always been very innovative. So we have to show we are also for the young and sport is how we catch them."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2018, with the headline 'Tissot endures test of time with sport'. Print Edition | Subscribe