During Hautlence’s 10th anniversary event last week, I caught up with MELB Holding’s president and owner Georges-Henri Meylan for a few minutes to talk about the brand and the new direction it’s heading.


The Horophile: A 10-year anniversary might not sound like much among watchmaking names that are centuries old, but what does it mean for an independent brand like Hautlence?

Georges-Henri Meylan: we took over Hautlence only 3 years ago. We haven’t been with Hautelnce 10 years ago. We took over when the company was in a very, very bad shape. We tried to rebuild the collection, the image, the brand DNA,  its corporate identity, everything had to be redone. most importantly was bringing down the costs of products, which were just too high. also tried to bring down the cost of products, which was just too high. The price just wasn’t in the right segment. All this is still in progress. We are not completely out of the woods yet, but we believe in the brand. I think Hautlence is a very original and unusual product. We think we can have a share of the share of the market, not very big because at the end of the day Hautlence is a niche brand, but we can certainly be successful.

We’re trying to do things differently. We’re pushing Guillaume to bring out more of his creativity, to be more of a rebel and anti-conformist.


TH:  I was quite surprised three years ago when I read that MELB Holdings were acquiring Hautlence, quite a contrast to the brand and structure of H. Moser & Cie. As an investment, what potential did you see in the Hautlence?

Georges-Henri Meylan: for me it was more of a “coup de coeur” as we say in French, a sort of spur of the moment crush. At the time, one of my sons was working with Guillaume Tetu (Hautlence CEO and co-founder) in Asia. Not very successful, they didnt’t sell a lot of products and the company was close to bankruptcy. We discussed it a lot internally, the shareholders disappeared, and suddenly with my partner Bill Muirhead we said “why not try to rebuild this?”. It wasn’t a very studied or calculated move involving deep market analysis. We just liked the product and wanted to do something with the brand.


TH: We’ve recently seen more accessibly priced watches from Hautlence with the Destination and newly unveiled Invictus lines. How would you say Hautlence should position itself in the future as an independent brand with a global presence while still remaining niche? Isn’t that a paradox?

Georges-Henri Meylan: It can be. In the past, Hautlence had  products between $60k and $150k for the HL2. We can’t stay between those price ranges, the market is just too narrow. We needed to broaden our base. If we exchange a little bit between H.Moser and Hautlence for movements and parts, we can achieve certain economies of scale.

I think $60k for just changing the way of showing time is quite expensive. Maybe it’s not complicated enough at 60k, save for a handful of aficionados. You can’t expand in market that way. Is 20k or 30k the right price? We’ll have to wait and see the answer. With the new chronograph I’m confident that $20k is a very competitive price in that larger segment.


TH: With the signing of Eric Cantona as a brand ambassador or “Gentleman Rebel” in Hautlence vocabulary, the brand is clearly on a new more mainstream trajectory. Is wider visibility the key to customer acquisition for a niche brand?

Georges-Henri Meylan: Well as Guillaume Tetu said during the press conference, we except to make 1’000 watches in 2017. Can we become recognisable with only 1000 watches? It’s not enough. Today, we are recognized by people who love watches. We need to expand our potential customer base to people that do not know about watches. If they see a watch they find appealing, they won’t buy it at $60k or $150k, but they might buy it at $20k. That’s one way we hope to expand the number of members in the Hautlence owners’ Gentlemen Rebels Club.


More information on www.hautlence.com