Founded in 1929, Louis Erard had remained under family control until 2003, when it was sold to investors, led by Mr. Spinedi. The brand initially grew, but then lost ground as its so-called “accessible luxury” category, loosely defined by watches costing around 1,500 to 3,000 Swiss francs, became more competitive.
The brand’s line of mechanical and quartz watches for men and women had become “large, diffuse and unclear,” Mr. Emch said. “And at the same time, margins became smaller every year. Very quickly, they lost their identity.” In 2020, he agreed to develop a turnaround strategy, but when the question arose about who would implement the plan, he initially demurred.
“But we found a good working logic,” he said. “I joined the board and invested in the company because I believed in the strategy.” He said 85 percent of the company is owned by five major Swiss investors, including himself, with the remainder owned by long-term shareholders. (Mr. Spinedi retired in 2021 and sold his shares earlier this year; he did not respond to emails asking for comment.)
What was the strategy? “You can see the first chapter, now,” Mr. Emch said, referring to the brand’s slimmed down offerings led by a line of classic round timepieces called Excellence. Powered by movements made by the Swiss company Sellita, the majority of the Excellence watches retail for 2,000 to 4,000 Swiss francs. A sports watch line is to follow, he said, either next year or in 2024.
He also went back to a tried-and-tested formula: collaborations. There has been a colorful collection with the 1990s star watchmaker Alain Silberstein; a monochromatic piece created with the Swiss design and architecture firm Atelier Oï (Mr. Emch was their first trainee 30 years ago); and another with the watch collaborator Massena LAB. Each was limited to 178 pieces.
This fall the brand is scheduled to introduce the Excellence Marquétrie, a 99-piece limited edition design priced at 3,900 Swiss francs and featuring a wood marquetry dial crafted by Bastien Chevalier, who has worked with the likes of Vacheron Constantin and Parmigiani Fleurier. “He’s introducing fine marquetry to a different clientele,” Kristian Haagen, co-founder of the platform DailyWatch, said in a phone call.