Watchmaking combines tradition and innovation
Richemont’s new research and innovation centre in the heart of Microcity has now been operational for several weeks. More than fifty researchers work side by side in an unrivalled ecosystem for innovation. The centre’s managing director, Edouard Mignon, explains its operation.
Housed within Microcity’s walls, the centre’s objective is to boost innovation across the Group’s various brands, particularly watches.
“Watchmaking has always been a mix of tradition and innovation,” notes Edouard Mignon, who coordinates Richemont’s research and development activities. The Group had decided to bring all of its R&D activities under a single roof just as plans for Microcity were materializing. Becoming a part of this innovation hub in Neuchâtel was therefore the obvious choice.
Here, we benefit from an ideal ecosystem, at a geographically central location. Our engineers, who work essentially on applied research, are in direct contact with fundamental research carried out by other partners within Microcity. This proximity is priceless. Collaborations can be agreed at the coffee machine and lead directly to partnership agreements.
And the proof is conclusive. In just a matter of weeks, joint projects have already seen results and the innovations could be presented soon, “for instance at the next Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva,” promises Edouard Mignon.
Several fields of research
The Richemont research centre has a workforce of 55, most of whom are engineers. “We operate according to a decentralised model.” Most researchers spend half their time at Microcity, and the other half at the Group’s various brand offices and workshops located in Geneva and Schaffhausen. The science pool conducts research in a range of fields, first and foremost in the quest for reliability and performance. It was with this in mind that a laboratory for tribology (the science of friction) was set up as a priority. Another area of research is new manufacturing methods. But researchers are also tasked with exploring new fields, such as connectivity.
A multi-brand group
Richemont encompasses 17 brands in the worlds of watchmaking (Vacheron-Constantin, Jaeger-Lecoultre, Panerai), jewellery (Van Cleef & Arpels, Cartier), and fashion (Lancel, Chloé). The group attaches great importance to the continual quest for innovation. At Microcity, the group funds the Richemont professorial chair at EPFL and the associated Galatea Lab. Additionally, Richemont sits on CSEM’s board of directors.