Founder’s Tales: Aletta Stas-Bax, Frédérique Constant
In 1988, checking out watch stores during a winter vacation in Bern, Switzerland sparked off the idea to start a “young watch company offering innovative products”. In 1991, Aletta Bax and Peter Stas were married and began working on the design and development of their first prototype watch. The next year they presented their horological offering at the Hong Kong trade fair and found, to their surprise, an order for 350 watches from a Japanese buyer. Aletta is the chief operations officer at Frédérique Constant, which has recently been acquired by Citizen, and is responsible for all the company’s day-to-day operations. She works on the development of new designs; most notably she played a major role in the introduction of the Double Heart Beat collection.
What’s the one word that you would use to describe your journey?
Isn’t that what your book, Live Your Passion: Building A Watch Manufacture, is about?
It is a mix between a coffee-table and business book, one we worked on together with two journalists from Austria and Germany.
When you are busy building a venture you often do not get time to reflect….
And then you also learn to stand still. You realise that the people whom you work with are also important, in the end, you cannot do it all alone.
Tell us about your role in the Double Heart Beat collection.
It was around 2006. I wanted to have some more presence with the ladies’ collections. Hearts are something that women always like. That is why I designed the double heart. It is now an important pillar in our collection. We also link the heart collection with heart- and child-related charities, where we donate 50 dollars for each watch sold.
Since last year, you have tied up with technology whereas others have only deliberated over it….
You are talking about our Horological Smartwatch. In the beginning, people were thinking that these are two different industries. While much of the Swiss watch industry remains traditional in thinking, we believe that if you can have a quartz watch with ‘connected’ (digital integration) features, then why should you not go in the direction of futuristic innovation, and why would the customers not be interested?
We need to integrate this whole system with cloud functionality, which is not our field. So, we found a partner who could do that. And, having sold 16,000 Horological Smartwatches, I can say that it is a pillar of Frédérique Constant; along with the ladies’ collection, with our new ambassador, Gwyneth Paltrow.
What’s the India story?
We started with a room five to six years ago, and last year, we grew 30 per cent. We have 40 to 42 per cent sales in India. We are really happy! The infrastructure is improving dramatically. I have visited the bigger cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chandigarh — a few times. It’s an impressive country.