Patrick Pruniaux has been at the helm of Ulysse Nardin since 2017. Having revived the innovative spirit kicked off by the late Rolf W. Schnyder and Ludwig Oechslin, he is now leading the brand into a new phase of independence.
We sat down with Patrick Pruniaux to talk about sustainability, becoming independent, and the manufacture’s strong link with the ocean.
How is the kitesurfing going?
Not too bad! I don’t have much time to kitesurf but it’s a sport best practiced regularly. We had a couple of nice outings last year. The season hasn’t started yet but once it does, the south of France is a nice spot for it.
Sustainability is an area of focus for Ulysse Nardin. Could you elaborate on how you will continue with this strategy?
We have four “pillars” for sustainability. The first is hygiene. We do everything we can inside the manufacture to make sure our energy consumption footprint is lower. We started doing this almost 10 years ago at Ulysse Nardin by trying to limit our use of water and energy, to give you just two examples. We’re always looking at how we can lower our consumption.
The second aspect is our commitment to causes. We decided to pick only two – shark protection and fighting plastic waste at sea. We practice recycling and upcycling, which is a good segue for our third pillar – alternative materials. We’re constantly asking ourselves: How can we leverage and use recycled materials the way we’ve done it with the Diver?
The fourth pillar is our ambassadors. All of our ambassadors have some link to sustainability.
Ulysse Nardin is a manufacture with a long history. How do you see the history of the brand being relevant to consumers today?
I think consumers today buy into a brand or product because of the story, because the product itself is sexy for different reasons. It could be sexy for the design, it could be the materials, the innovation behind it, the movement, etc. But they are always reassured that there is a real history behind the product.
It’s interesting – this morning I was wearing the Diver Net. One of the clients in the meeting thought it was super cool, before we even told them the story. They knew nothing about the watch, like the fact that it’s made from recycled materials. But I’m glad – that’s perfect. It means they’re falling in love with the design first and foremost. The second layer is the story, then the history of the brand. It was just perfect.
What do you see as the advantages or freedoms from becoming independent?
We’ve done very well working with Kering. It has been a very valuable experience I must say. Now we can go even further, maybe in some of our other initiatives. Kering was a great place to nurture creativity. I think it comes also at an ideal time in terms of the brand’s level of maturity. There’s a desire to accelerate a couple things so it all gels together. Having said that, there’s no revolution in the way we run the business. Maybe now we have a little bit more agility. Everything was useful at Kering. Maybe now we can look at running some processes slightly more efficiently. But that’s really it.
Could you tell us more about the decision to expand Ulysse Nardin in Australia?
Australia is a big and vibrant market. We’re very happy to be partnering with the Hour Glass. For us, it’s a great chance to have a presence in Australia. Who we are as a brand could be very interesting for the Australian market. The Diver, for instance, is a very good example. I think it is a perfect watch for someone who wants to move away from the mass luxury brands to something a little more refined or with a little bit more content and exclusivity. The Hour Glass is the perfect partner to do it with.
Kitesurfing, shark protection, fighting plastic at sea, the Diver watch: there seems to be a strong link to the ocean, much like Ulysse Nardin’s maritime heritage. Is that by coincidence or by design?
No. I wish I could tell you that I’m always extremely rational in my decisions, but at some point, you are always influenced by who you are and what you do. So, it’s no surprise I’m talking about the Diver watch. This is my weekend watch – always.
I believe that at Ulysse Nardin we make products that can be worn, that are manufactured and luxurious, and help you in your day-to-day lives. In between my lifestyle and the personalities of the people who work here, we have the same goals – you join UN because there are specific things that attract you to the brand. You like innovation, luxury and practicality.