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Incredible Women

The Incredible Women at the helm of horology

Thanks to a combination of remarkable leadership, shrewd business acumen and exceptional vision, these four women have all made watchmaking maisons their own. Here, CHARLIE BOYD asks each of them to reflect on the determination required to make it to the top – and the initiatives that continue to drive them onwards and upwards

Chabi Nouri

Chabi Nouri began her career as a product manager for Cartier in 1997. She was appointed CEO of Piaget in 2017, having joined the house in 2014 as global brand equity, marketing and communications director.

“My responsibility and priority is to make Piaget shine across the world, by sharing the amazing heritage and savoir-faire of the maison. My vision is to project Piaget into the future – by remaining authentic and true to the stylistic codes of the house, and by always striving to innovate. To succeed in the watchmaking industry, you must have curiosity – I’ve always been driven by my curiosity and I constantly challenge myself. I’m a big believer in continuous learning – I believe that a little bit of each experience makes you more complete. At Piaget, we celebrate extraordinary women. We celebrate not only the achievements of women who have changed the game, but also encourage them to generously share their tips and their advice, exploring what allowed them to achieve such success – and I think that’s very inspiring for the next generation. The more we share these stories, the easier it is for younger women to think, ‘Ah, OK, that could be me.’ The advice I would like to share with women of the next generation is that they need to believe in themselves and grab every opportunity they can. We often see women questioning their own capabilities, but we should all be much more confident, push open any closed doors and go for it. If you have confidence that you can do something, then you can do it. It’s never easy for anyone – that’s true for both men and women – but you have to fight for what you believe in.”

The advice I would like to share with women of the next generation is that they need to believe in themselves and grab every opportunity they can
Chabi Nouri

Catherine Rénier

Catherine Rénier was appointed CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre in 2018, following her role as president of the Asia and Pacific division at Van Cleef & Arpels. Rénier began her career in 1999, working in a Cartier boutique in New York.

“A defining moment for me at Jaeger-LeCoultre was when I first visited the manufacturing headquarters, a few years before I joined the maison. It made me quite stressed when I came back as CEO, because I had an image in my mind of this important and impressive institution full of watchmaking history and talent. The reason I am compatible with the maison’s values, however, is that I love this spirit – the willingness to go further, always striving for excellence and steering our expertise towards the future. A CEO position is very much about knowing yourself and what drives you, being able to listen to the teams around you and having a long-term mindset. It’s never a one-woman job; you have to be humble enough to know you’re only a small part of this company’s life and you owe it to the maison to build something stable for the long term – not just come in and give it a quick polish. Very often, it’s outside opinion that can slow you down; people asking things like, ‘Are you sure? It’s more a man’s world, isn’t it?’ I’m not someone who is passionate about cars, for instance, but if you told me tomorrow I had to lead Ferrari, I’m sure I could do so because of our shared values – I highly respect craftsmanship, innovation and mechanical complexity. To learn a lot, you have to challenge yourself beyond your comfort zone. It’s natural to feel you’re not ready, or you don’t know enough, and it’s the same for our personal lives – getting married, for example, or having kids. Life is made of big steps and small steps – you just need to walk the walk.”

A CEO position is very much about knowing yourself and what drives you, being able to listen to the teams around you and having a long-term mindset. It’s never a one-woman job; you have to be humble enough to know you’re only a small part of this company’s life
Catherine Rénier

Franziska Gsell

Franziska Gsell began her career as a brand manager and marketing manager for Carlsberg SA in 1999, climbing the career ladder to be appointed CMO of IWC Schaffhausen (in 2015), where she also chairs the company’s sustainability committee.

“When I became chair of our sustainability committee, it was a real diversification of my role at IWC Schaffhausen. I took responsibility for something incredibly important for the future of the brand – there are so many passionate and inspiring women driving positive change in this area, and to be counted amongst them is wonderful. One of our aims, for example, is to double the share of women in management positions, compared to a 2017 baseline – and promoting peer networking and more flexibility in working hours are just two of the steps we have already taken. As a parent, I am reminded by my son of the great responsibility we have to make sure there is a livable planet with healthy societies for our future generations. He asks the most perceptive questions, such as, ‘Will there still be any animals alive when I am older?’ So, even if sustainability was not already on my agenda, it would be an impossible topic to ignore. I hope that we are empowering the next generation to continue this progressive approach. The luxury-watch industry and the world of sustainable luxury are fast-moving and demanding, and you’ve got to be adaptable to keep up. By staying true to the brand’s heritage and your personal values, while listening and reacting with empathy, you can drive positive, thoughtful change. This is one of the many things that I find so amazing about the women in my industry.”

As a parent, I am reminded by my son of the great responsibility we have to make sure there is a livable planet with healthy societies for our future generations
Franziska Gsell

Angela Au-Yeung

Angela Au-Yeung has almost two decades of digital and technology experience across media and advertising, fashion and luxury retail. She is chief digital officer at Vacheron Constantin and a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion.

“When I joined Vacheron Constantin three and a half years ago, we were tasked with bringing a new digital vision and energy to the house, but innovation has always been an integral part of our DNA. I was drawn towards digital because it’s all about evolution, and I wanted to be part of the problem-solving and exciting forward-thinking strategies that allow us to evolve. Much like wider society, the watch industry is seeing more discourse and discussion around diversity. We are a talent-based industry that requires very specific skills, which are not easy to find, so when you spot someone talented, you have to grab them – irrespective of gender. The diversity itself isn’t hard. Companies setting KPIs [Key Performance Indicators] is a good way to start – and inclusion is very important. But how to make people feel included – and feel comfortable contributing, regardless of gender or age or cultural background – is the important part. When you think about a watch, it is made out of hundreds of parts – collaboration is the very basis of it, so working together is crucial. In business, we talk about diversifying our product, or our risks or portfolio, and it is the same with people – diversification is just good common sense. If I had one piece of advice for younger people out there, it is this: if you really want to do something, stop analyzing it and just do it, because we have no idea what will happen today or tomorrow. A lot of beautiful things take time. So just start doing it today already, so you can create something beautiful tomorrow.”

Much like wider society, the watch industry is seeing more discourse and discussion around diversity
Angela Au-Yeung