George Kern – The man behind the gears
Watch & Bullion24 January 2018 | 2 min read
In a world where brand ambassadors are having an ever-increasing importance, it is interesting to see that there is little spotlight on the people behind the brands. Except for Jean-Claude Biver, little is known about the men who pull the strings. That is why today we will highlight one of the most interesting thinkers in the business, Georges Kern.
Kern was born 1965 in Düsseldorf, Germany, and worked hard to build what many would consider an immaculate career. After his studies, he started working at Kraft food before moving to Tag Heuer. This was his entry into the watch world, where he found foot fast and switched from the LVMH group to Richemont in 2000.
Kern seemed to have found the perfect time for the transfer, as it was just prior to the enlargement of the group through the acquisition of A. Lange & Söhne, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and IWC. Seizing the opportunity Kern was given the change to join the IWC team as CEO, making him the youngest CEO within Richemont.
This was a great chance to prove himself and helped lead the brand to be one of the biggest players in the game. To really notice how much of what forms IWC today has his signature on it check out the list of watched released under his lead:
Big pilot 7 days (2002)
Perpetual Calender (2003)
Ingenieur Return (2005)
The worth of Kern to the group was demonstrated by his promotion in November 2016 to become the Head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital following the cold financial climate in the industry leading to 500 positions being cut. And so it was to everyone’s surprise when only a year later in September 2017 he switched ship to join Breitling.
Why Breitling of all brands? Well, Breitling was for ages owned by the Schneider Family, which has been unhappy with their movement maker. Now the Family sold the majority of their shares.
The new owner? CVC Capital Partners with 80% of the shares. One of the worlds top 10 biggest Private Equity firms which however until recently has never been involved in the watch industry. They knew their ship needed a proven captain, and so offered Kern not only the role as CEO but also equity making him for the first time in his career not just a manager but an entrepreneur.
Breitling could be an interesting brand to follow for the following years, and we expect to see some interesting changes to the lineup, which currently seems to consist of the Navitimer, and everything else.