More Changes For Hautlence Expected In 2016

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by Elizabeth Doerr

As we head into the 2016 fair season with the SIHH opening its doors next week, I thought it would be good to take a brief look at Hautlence, a boutique brand making its debut at the first fair of the year.

About 15 months ago in Hautlence, Branding, Eric Cantona, And The 10-Year Anniversary, I wrote, “In the ten years since [its founding], Hautlence has basically experienced its own birth, middle age, near death, and reincarnation.”

As the SIHH opens, evidence of this state of reincarnation is still in full swing — as going forward, the Hautlence team will no longer include co-founder Guillaume Tetu. At the end of 2015, Tetu announced that he would be leaving his own company to “take up a new challenge.” I’ll come back to the new challenge below, but for right now I’d like to concentrate on what’s going on with Hautlence.

Time for a change

Tetu founded Hautlence in 2004 with a few other partners including Renaud de Retz and Sandro Reginelli. All three of these men met while they were working at TAG Heuer.

Hautlence HL Black Ceramic on the wrist of brand co-founder and CEO Guillaume Tetu. Nice cuff links in the form of the Hautlence logo
Hautlence HL Black Ceramic on the wrist of brand co-founder and CEO Guillaume Tetu. Nice cuff links in the form of the Hautlence logo

Hautlence HL Black Ceramic on the wrist of brand co-founder and CEO Guillaume Tetu

The three men held down day jobs while they worked on the introductory Hautlence product — the HL — in their free time. Reginelli, the designer, eventually went from TAG Heuer to become product manager at Maurice Lacroix (which is where I met and became friends with him); Tetu and de Retz left TAG Heuer to work full time at Hautlence.

Hautlence co-founders Renaud de Retz (standing) and Guillaume Tetu
Hautlence co-founders Renaud de Retz (standing) and Guillaume Tetu

Hautlence co-founders Renaud de Retz (standing) and Guillaume Tetu

Reginelli left so early in the boutique brand’s history that he is rarely if ever mentioned as one of the founders; de Retz left the Hautlence fold when the economic crisis of 2008 hit.

Why I mention this now is because Reginelli has been named the new CEO of Hautlence. “I am really proud to see what has been achieved [at Hautlence since I left] and am looking forward to continue building what started as a dream with friends 11 years ago,” said Reginelli, who has worked in the watch industry since 1995.

Hautlence co-founder and now CEO Sandro Reginelli
Hautlence co-founder and now CEO Sandro Reginelli

Hautlence co-founder and now CEO Sandro Reginelli

He has gathered a great deal of experience in these 11 years, working as product manager, product director, and marketing director for Maurice Lacroix and as interim CEO at Gucci Timepieces. I look forward to what he might now bring to Hautlence.

Tetu and Reginelli

While this move might not sound super positive for Tetu on the surface, you can rest assured that it is. Tetu is a product guy; his great love is creating timepieces. And he has created many of them over the years at Hautlence (my personal favorite being the incredible HL 2.0).

Tetu, as the CEO and face of Hautlence, was very busy with sales and administrative work while spending less time — perhaps no more than 10 percent — on the creation of new timepieces. Additionally, Tetu was also spending a great deal of time traveling the world in the service of his brand — and not so much at home enjoying his very young children.

The arrival of new owner MELB in March 2012 additionally saw a new and more commercial route chosen to guide the brand. MELB is a small group comprising independent watch brands including H. Moser & Cie and Hautlence and distribution rights for others in Asian countries. It is owned by previous Audemars Piguet CEO Georges-Henri Meylan and his family.

The culmination of these elements led Tetu to make a difficult choice, but one he feels very positive about. And having Reginelli fill his shoes as the new head of the brand is icing on the cake: they really couldn’t have made a better choice in my opinion.

Both Tetu and Reginelli will be on hand at the 2016 SIHH to welcome guests to the booth and make the transition period a little easier for everyone. Tetu has been working hand-in-hand with Reginelli over these last few months in preparation.

Hautlence Tourbillon 01
Hautlence Tourbillon 01

The Hautlence Tourbillon 01, powered by a Moser movement, was launched in the late fall of 2015

Tetu’s new challenge

After the SIHH closes its doors, Tetu will be heading to Ralph Lauren Watches and Jewelry, where he has taken a position as the head of product development. This puts him right back in the function that he loves most: creating new timepieces.

Not only will he be in direct communication with Ralph Lauren in this respect, but will also be once again working with Luc Perramond, who has been the president and CEO of Ralph Lauren Watches & Jewelry since 2015; Perramond left his job as CEO of La Montre Hermès to take on this new challenge. Tetu and Perramond worked together at TAG Heuer, so the circle closes here.

We know that Tetu’s character would never have allowed him to leave Hautlence to take on a cushy job somewhere, and he does expect this new challenge to be a real challenge. Part of what he will have to do at Ralph Lauren is help give the collection a real identity.

Wristshot Hautlence Vortex
Wristshot Hautlence Vortex

Hautlence Vortex on the wrist

The Richemont joint venture brand has not done particularly well since its founding, and likely part of the reason is its timepieces’ lack of appeal to collectors and connoisseurs. If anyone can help improve this, it would be Tetu.

While the future is still uncertain for Hautlence — and, really, any independent luxury brand at work today — it certainly has the tools to maintain success.

And on that note, we can look forward to the debut of Hautlence’s second watch in collaboration with Eric Cantona during the SIHH. Stay tuned to this space for details as they unfold.
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Originally published at Quill & Pad.