This is a text version of Jerome Pineau’s radio interview with Richard Piras, managing director of Ladoire.
Interview with Richard Piras
Ladoire Managing Director Richard Piras, together with his talented accomplice Lionel Ladoire, have developed a reputation for creating cool, witty and innovative watches that buck convention and start trends. Indeed as Lionel Ladoire once stated, ‘Our forefathers have marked their time, now we will invent ours.’ Here Richard Piras talks about the unique Ladoire approach to watchmaking.
Jerome: Thank you for listening. Today we have a very interesting brand on, an independent brand, a kind of UFO type of brand. As I look to call them. It was founded in 2007 by a gentleman called Lionel Ladoire, and the brand is named after him, so it is called Ladoire. They presented their first designs in 2008, and their first watch in Basel at 2009, so it is fairly recent.
Lionel comes from France, and he is from the jewellery world actually. He is also kind of a special dude, he is really cool, he is also into punk rock, and music. I believe he is in to surfing as well. And he is an absolutely awesome designer. A great human being. I was lucky enough to meet him about an year ago. And I was also lucky to meet Richard Piras, who runs the company.
Richard, is online today from Geneva. Hello Richard how are ya?
Richard Piras: I am very fine.
Jerome: Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.
Richard Piras: Thank you for inviting me and for the opportunity to talk about Ladoire.
Jerome: Richard is on today. Lionel does not master English, so he is not going to speak to us directly. But Richard is going to do that for us.
Richard Piras’ role at Ladoire
Jerome: So Richard, what is your role at Ladoire, and what do you do for them? How did you get involved in this?
Richard Piras: I met Lionel five years ago. He is an old friend of my wife, and he explained to me about his vision in the watch-making industry. I tried to help him do his first prototype, and the market was quiet effective at that time. So we decided in 2007, to launch a brand around his ideas.
I am the managing director of the company, and I am in charge of finance and marketing in the company.
Richard Piras’ engineering background
Jerome: What is your background, you don’t come from horology right?
Richard Piras: I have a degree in production engineering, and studied five years in France. I was then in charge of a consulting company of financing and spending ,and then a technological company in different areas, such as satellites, bio technology, the cutting edge of technology.
I wanted to run my own business, the meeting with Lionel was so strong and so nice, we decided to go together on the Ladoire brand.
Lionel Ladoire’s musical influence
Jerome: Is he really a good pop musician?
Richard Piras: Really is a good drum player, he learnt drums 15 years ago, and he did good and great things when he was in Canada. They have nice strong culture of music there. He played with a nice band, and released an album there. Then he came back to jewellery, and set up his company in France when he came back from Canada in 2001. He had a vision for watch-making for a long-time, as one part of his family was in the field of mechanics. So association of goldsmiths and mechanics led to watch-making.
Jerome: I think music has inspired a lot of his designs.
Richard Piras: You are right. It is hard to explain. His vision for watch design, music is in that, and inspires him. Rap and hard rock, all this kind of music.
Jerome: He is on YouTube actually, Check him out.
The team at Laoire
Jerome: Talk to me about the team at Ladoire. Watchmakers, marketing, who is doing what? What is the size and how did you people together?
Richard Piras: The team is quiet small. At the moment we are six people hired in the company. We are working with a network of suppliers who bring us a lot of know how in the watch-making process.
The concept of the Ladoire brand and time pieces, is to provide exquisite time pieces with exquisite designs, and something that is really unique in terms of designs and mechanics. As we do our own movements, so we have a master watchmaker from two major brands, Franck Muller and Harry Winston, where he learnt to how to manage complications. So it makes sense to have this sort of knowledge in the company.
Lionel who’s co founder of the company is in charge of the design, production management, and all the technical management for the movement and complications, and for the production. He is also in charge of all communications, what the Ladoire universe is, is in Lionel’s mind. So he’s in charge of that for the company.
We have other people in charge of the marketing, production, people that help us to set up a nice production for the management and marketing. We just hired a month ago, Joanna who joined us to improve the marketing and communication process.
Jerome: I met her and the watchmaker in Geneva when you invited me down a month ago. You guys do everything from A-to-Z, it is all in house.
An in-house operation
Richard Piras: Yes. Its all in house, we started do our own movement, this movement actually was not really done from scratch, because we are working with Phillipe, a movement engineer. This guy we previously set up with him a company, five or six years ago in the development of design and calibre. Afterwards we gave him our specifications for our own movement, and so he developed self winding movement with microrotors and we industrialized it and made it reliable.
And put it on the market with quite good success.
The appearance of Ladoire watches
Jerome: What I think is really cool. They look nothing like a watch, and I say that with admiration. They looks like a TV screen from The Jetsons, the crown is inverted, just reading the time on it takes a couple minutes of training. They are just magnificent when you look at them. You either fall in love with it right away, or I don’t get it.
In terms of the movement, and what is inside it. I believe you guys you use microrotors and ceramic ball bearings, there is a lot of innovation and a lot of very difficult things to engineer.
How do you manage the complexity? Do you train people to do this?
Richard Piras: We use a network of people who are experts. For the micro ball bearing we are working with a Swiss company. They are a leader of the micro ballbearing, we tried everywhere else in the world, to find a company specialising in micro ball bearing, the only one that has the expertise is in Switzerland.
I tried to find in Australia, U.S. but no one was able to provide us with micro ball bearings in the quantity we need. Usually when you want to work with people in the ballbearing industry, they need you to order millions of ball bearings. The range of volume is not what they want to deal with. So for the ball bearings we are working with this company.
For the movement we are working with our movement engineer, we are always working with the best expertise and know how, that will bring us reliability, good management and good technical development.
Time to develop a Ladoire piece
Jerome: How long does it take to develop one of your pieces?
Richard Piras: Actually it was quiet long. Because, from the moment we set up the company we needed only two years to develop and industrialise and make it reliable, and market the products.
Before we set up the company we did a lot of development work, marketing and technical work. So when we set up the company we knew it was technically possible.
All in all, it took about three years to set up everything in terms of movement, development, complications and so on. And for the second collection we only needed one year to make the development as we used of lot of know how we already had from the first development.
Components of a Ladoire wristwatch
Jerome: How many parts to a movement?
Richard Piras: In the first collection, the Ladoire RGT (Roller Guardian Time) we have about 470 pieces in the head of the watch. And in total, with straps and everything, there are 515 parts. I don’t count all the balls in micro ball bearings. I don’t even them count them in the 515 parts.
Jerome: Does that make the watch fragile? Do they have to be treated differently then a more standard?
Richard Piras: No. Not at all. The micro ball bearings are really strong, and can bare a lot of mechanical constraints, its lubricant free it does not need any maintenance. So it is good for watch making as lubricant you try to avoid in the watch.
Ladoire sales volume
Jerome: How many units per year do?
Richard Piras: Last year we did less than a 100 pieces, and we want to maintain very exclusive in production. The first collection we launched in the market in 2009, the highest sold was 88. From now we decided to do even smaller limited series, with a Black Widow collection we only have twelve pieces for each model.
The Ladoire price range
Jerome: What is the price range?
Richard Piras: 108,000 Swiss franks for RCG for the Black Widow collection, the price point is 61,000 dollars.
Jerome: That is much lower.
Richard Piras: We tried offering something is a not cheaper, but a little less expensive.
Jerome: You can buy the equivalent of two of the original collection. When I came down to Geneve, I noted that you guys offered a life time warranty with all of your watches?
A life-time Ladoire warranty
Richard Piras: When you purchase from us, then you have three year warranty, and as far as you do the service every two years then we extend the warranty for another two years. So it is quite it is so nice for the customer. It ensures the time piece will always be reliable, and when we offer the warranty, we tell them we wont keep the watch for six months, which is quite usual sometimes with highly complicated watches.
It is quite cheap with the shipment and the maintenance in the workshop. We keep it in the workshop for one month that’s it. As provide our own movement it give us clues about how our movements behave in the long-term. So some of the parts will be replaced for free in the term of the warranty. It gives us some knowledge about the ageing of the movement, and help us improve it it the long-term.
Jerome: For the customer that’s pretty cool. I also think its unique. A life time guarantee then usually you are on your own.
Richard Piras: We want to be sure that the time pieces we sell and provide, are reliable because sometimes in the watch-making industry as I know it, you take a highly complicated watch and it doesn’t work. That’s the reason why we provide this warranty.
Jerome: Sounds great. Lets talk about the customer. What’s the typical customer, is someone who can afford and appreciate high level fine horology? Are we talking mostly collectors, or fromall walks of life who fall on their knees and see the piece and love it?
Richard Piras: Some of our clients are collectors. The clients I know personally who purchased from the company. Most of the time we also have agents and retailers in different territories. For territories where we don’t have agencies or distributors, like in Japan, and these guys are mostly collectors and appreciate the ways we provide cutting edge technology and a design that is unique. That is what they love.
Generally speaking our collector clients is someone who is between 35 and 60, is male, It is to big for women.
Sometimes we sell to ladies, I don’t have the info about that. The typical client someone that is really wants to buy to purchase a good, aesthetic, and provides emotion like an desire a watch like an art gallery, as if they were buying a sketch or painting. It is something they buy that will be really emotional.
Surviving as an independent brand
Jerome: I want to talk about being an independent market. You managed to sail through the pass years, which were considered to be crisis years for the industry. As an independent giving the increasing consideration we are seeing in the industry, and these big consortium’s are getting bigger and bigger. How does it effect a small independent brands like yours?
Richard Piras: Quite difficult to tell you. First because the crisis restructured the distribution channels all over the world. Where as before I could go through the retailers, where as today it is more difficult, we still find retailers all over the world who wish to be our partners.
There is a different attitude after the crisis, so the question about the bigger groups in the watch industry. They are big key players on the market, and we are not really competing with them as we don’t have the size, second we don’t have the same kind of product, and we don’t have the same channel they use. We are aside them, and we are not comparable in terms of turnover, know how and whatever. We compete and our first aim is to provide watches and time pieces we love, and we believe will bring some emotion to our clients will get emotions from. This is a different process from the big brands.
Purchasing a Ladoire wristwatch
Jerome: Can people purchase your watches in retail location?
Richard Piras: Our distribution network is quite wide, we have agents in the U.S. In New York, and from January we had a partnership with a retailer in Miami, Florida. We also have retailers in Qatar, in Japan, France, London and Hong Kong. You see we have quite nice partnerships, people that are really good experts in the marketing of the high end watches, and are doing good work for us. And they are able to explain what kind of time piece it is and how to read the thing.
Jerome: For a small brand, you have a great loud marketing voice. Who came up with the concepts of Black Window campaign.
Richard Piras: Actually we try to be original at all levels of the company, and all persons in the company. When we set up the company we said how boring all this marketing was. For our generation of people each time we go to any kind of retailer, we wanted to provide something in terms of product in terms of campaign, content and universal brand.
We do our best to promote our time pieces through innovative and originative campaigns.
The idea of the Black Widow came from the idea of something seductive and attracti. The Black Window spider, seduces you but it really is dangerous. The message is that if you are man enough to wear a Black Widow time piece, you might face the situation that your wife or the people around you may kill you to get it. This is the main message, we have in the campaign, with the Black Widow. The question is not to put the spider up close to the watch to bring the message of emotion. To let you know once you wear the watch, because you love it. Because it is only a limited production of only 12, the other people who might not have it, will do anything to get it.
Jerome: Is the hot chick that promotes it be at Basel by any chances? Can I go see her?
Richard Piras: The lady will be there from the last campaign will be there only one day.
We have two different black widows. The idea of having the Black Widow collection is to have a series of black widows.
Jerome: It is beautiful with the colours, the Ladoire Mr Green watch is really gorgeous I love it.
I heard rumours that you guys are pretty friendly with Jorg Hysek? Anything going on with that?
Richard Piras: You mean confidential projects with others? Actually with Jorg Hysek we have a real close relationship, anmd they help us with many things. We work with them in terms of creation and movement. There is nothing actually going forward at the moment. We always try and set up a collaboration with them.
Jerome: I can see a good match there. You guys work on social media. What are your channels?
Richard Piras: All your information is on http://www.ladoire.com, we are also preparing a collection for the end of the year and 2012.