Swiss watchmaker Mido takes its name from the Spanish phrase Yo Mido which means “I measure”. It’s just a coincidence that the Mido is particularly popular in Hispanic countries, especially in Mexico where it is still seen as something that the locals aspire to buy. Such is the popularity and cachet of the brand that it was practically used like currency during the Mexican Peso Crisis of the 1990s.
“Most Swiss watch brands have what we refer as ‘home countries’. Mido’s beginnings were in Latin America - Columbia and Mexico. A lot was done to build the brand in these markets, to make the watch more desirable for audiences here. Mido has kept its brand image in Mexico,” says Franz Linder, CEO of the watchmaker that celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2018. Linder would know, he’s been with Mido for the more than 23 years.
“When the peso dropped, Mexican retailers bulk bought Mido Commanders. I remember going to a retailer and seeing hundreds of Commander models in the safe. They know that this model would always sell, it would keep its value. A customer could always trade it for money at the pawn shop. It was like refugee currency,” he says. It’s no surprise that to date, the Commander remains a best-selling in Mexico where people buy the watch on credit. “It’s incredible, they make a down-payment first and then pay up the rest in installments.”
It’s an interesting parable of how Mido has been perceived over the years. A part of the Swatch Group now, Mido is placed between Tissot and Longines. Hamilton, also part of the Swatch Group, also occupies the same price-category but the brand message (Hamilton is of American origin) is quite different. Mido is more of a traditional Swiss brand that focus on delivering value at what it considers attractive price points. A good 90 per cent of the watches it makes feature mechanical movements and Mido also figures consistently in the list of brands that are awarded COSC-certification for chronometer-grade watches.
Linder was in Dubai to inaugurate the Mido’s first flagship store in the region at The Dubai Mall in September. “The Middle East is not our biggest market, but Dubai is a special place. Given the number of tourists it gets and the city’s global appeal, it only makes sense to be present here. And to be in Dubai’s biggest mall is just great – this is the best shopping experience we can offer here,” he said.
The boutique, opened in collaboration with local retail partner Rivoli stocks some of the watch’s big releases from Baselworld this year. “Mido is known for its functional movements. Yes, we work with ETA movements but we offer them at high quality and with great finishing. We also produce a lot of COSC-certified chronometers and we were the first company to introduce silicon hairsprings at our price range. Innovation is part of our history.”
Functionality, innovation and quality – these are the three values that Mido focuses on.
To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Mido released a bunch of new models this year. Among them is the Commander Big Date – a modern-sized dress watch with a big date display. The movement, based on Caliber 80, features a big date module that was developed by ETA exclusively for the brand. “We developed this new caliber to mark our 100th anniversary, and as always, we were not looking to do anything too fancy. We wanted something that was functional and we believe a big date, while not a sexy feature, is a really useful complication that is mostly seen in high-end watches. So we thought to bring a big date to a more popular price point would be a good way to celebrate our 100th anniversary,” explained Linder.
One hundred years is a pretty good run, even in an industry that routinely prides itself on the longevity of its brands. What has made Mido tick along so well over the years? Linder has a simple explanation. “If you look at the brands that have stayed successful over time in the watch industry, you’ll see that they are always the ones with the most consistent strategy, brands that are known for their values and DNA. Functionality, innovation and quality – these are the three values that Mido focuses on and we deliver these values at a very attractive price. This is what has made Mido successful till today and we just need to make sure that we remain consistent for the next 100 years as well,” he said.
Mido today has six established product lines – Commander, Ocean Star, Multifort, Barnocelli, Belluna and All Dial – all with their distinct DNA and character. According to Linder, Mido plans to grow within the product families. “We don’t need to do everything. We are not a generalist, we like to think of ourselves as a specialist brand. Now because of this, we work within our limitations, but for the consumer it presents a clear statement. For example, if you buy a Baroncelli, you get a watch with a timeless classic design; a Multifort is a watch with a more robust, masculine design. We will grow our offerings by rejuvenating the existing product lines, by introducing interesting new functionalities to the watches. This brand has a clear positioning and brand DNA,” he said.
Vintage-inspired watches are such a dominant trend this year and most brands that have been operational over decades have continuously raided their archives department to produce modern timepieces that pay homage to past classics. Not to be left out, Mido jumped into the fray with the Multifort Datometer, a runaway hit for Linder. “The Datometer was sold out immediately at the factory level. We don’t do vintage revivals at Mido, the Datometer was going to be a one-off to mark our 100th anniversary and I must say I’m very happy with the result. So who knows, we might produce more watches based on historic models if we know it will please the consumer. But as a rule, we would rather look forward than backwards,” he said.
This is an abridged version of the interview published in our Winter 2018 print magazine out on December 15.