[Herald Interview] Crystal accessories in digital age

By KH디지털2

Swarovski CEO talks about the company’s push for innovation based on 121-year heritage

  • Published : Apr 19, 2016 - 15:33
  • Updated : Apr 20, 2016 - 16:28

Earlier this month, the crystal brand Swarovski launched a wearable activity-tracking device that women might actually consider wearing.

The device had a sparkling faceted crystal the size of a coin, which can be inserted into a crystal-studded bracelet, sport band or necklace. Embedded within the crystal is software that monitors your activities during the day and tracks your sleep pattern at night.

“Our mission has been to beautify smart devices,” said Robert Buchbauer, CEO of Consumer Goods Business, and the great-great-grandson of Daniel Swarovski, founder of the crystal brand, in an interview Tuesday in Seoul.

Once placed on a smartphone screen with the matching application on, the crystal automatically synchronizes with the phone and sends records of your daily activities. It is a product of collaboration with the wearable device company Misfit. 

Robert Buchbauer, CEO of Consumer Goods Business of Swarovski, poses in front of the brand’s iconic swan logo at a Swarovski store in Garosugil, Seoul, on Tuesday.(Jang Jong-hoon)

“Our crystals have always added uniqueness to products and made them special. With the smart device, we try to keep our design simple,” said Buchbauer, who is in Seoul to attend the Conde Nast International Luxury Conference this week.

While it boasts the latest fitness and motion-tracking technology, the design of the crystal is still in line with the unique design principle that Swarovski has kept for centuries. There are more than 80,000 different cuts of stones for the diverse product range from jewelry accessories and watches to sculptures.

The brand’s design team of 30-40 designers combine their creativity with crystal technology to release new designs each season.

While striving to keep the heritage of crystal craftsmanship for 121 years, Swarovski has pushed for improvements and continues to offer a diverse range of products and designs for customers, Buchbauer said.

“I think my family -- over five generations -- has stuck to the mantra of improving what we have. This leads to innovation in new ideas, new cuts and varieties,” he said.

A major advance in design was the updating of its watch line from 2006 to 2009. 

Robert Buchbauer, CEO of Consumer Goods Business of Swarovski, poses in front of the brand’s iconic swan logo at a Swarovski store in Garosugil, Seoul, on Tuesday.(Jang Jong-hoon)

“In the beginning, we were faced with huge challenges in making our crystals more precise to place them around the watch bezel, the ring that goes around the watches. Our engineers who already had the precision required for crystal jewelries had a challenge to be more precise with the watches,” he said.

After trial and error, the company succeeded in coming up with advanced watch designs such as cutting trapezoid-shaped crystals for men’s watches and making micro crystals for women’s watches with automatic movements.

Watches are some of the brand’s most popular products for Korean customers. Watch sales make up 10 percent of its entire sales in the Korean market, higher than the global average of 8 to 9 percent.

“Korea is a very important market for us. The country ranks eighth among some 170 countries where Swarovski products are represented,” he said. The U.S. tops the market share and China ranks second. The Korean office saw its sales go up by 12 percent in the first quarter of this year.

Chinese consumers are crucial to the company, including Chinese travelers to Korea as a growing portion of its sales are boosted by Chinese travelers overseas.

“Chinese tourism is also important because a lot of our sales are induced by Chinese travelers,” he said. 

By Lee Woo-young (