Stephane Barraque was influenced by his father’s love of watches when he was growing up. “When I was about 16 years old, I started looking at my father’s watches—he had an Omega Speedmaster, a mechanical extra thin platinum Patek Philippe and a Jaeger-LeCoultre,” he remembers. “He eventually let me take his Speedmaster, and I found the case back so cool that I started looking at air and space related watches. I became a very serious collector of Swatches in 1991.
“I started my career in the watch industry as an intern at Cartier when I was a student in New York,” he continues. “My mission was to identify unauthorized dealers in the U.S. Once I graduated, Cartier offered me my first job as a sales associate for the southeast region of France. After one year, I went to the watch department at their Paris headquarters as a product manager for Santos, Tank Must and Pasha.”
Barraque has been in the watch industry ever since, and he is now working to develop the luxury Swiss-made brands in the Fossil Group. “The re-launching of Zodiac is what every brand builder dreams about in a career,” he emphasizes. “Zodiac is a brand that has a tremendously interesting history and enormous goodwill and support from the watch community, but unfortunately is relatively unknown. Because Fossil Group owns this brand and it is a genuine Swiss brand, we have decided to re-launch “the legend” as the spearhead of our Swiss-made strategy. It is a rare opportunity to dig deep into the DNA and history of Zodiac, build a new way to interact with our customers and establish a disruptive new business model with our partners.”
Barraque loves working in the Fossil Group because it is different from the brands he has worked with in the past. “Being a rather young organization, we like to think differently, and relentlessly look for ways to improve our business,” he explains. “There is an extremely dynamic and collaborative spirit in this group that allows us to never accept the status quo.”
Barraque has remained a watch lover and continues to add to his collection. “My favorite brand outside of the Fossil Group is Audemars Piguet,” he admits. “AP has a great horological history and never compromises on anything, yet remains traditional and modern—I love the Royal Oak. I also have a sweet spot for A. Lange & Söhne and I eventually succumbed to the legendary Rolex with the Milgauss. I love the audacity of Richard Mille, and I’m a big fan of ArtyA and Giuliano Mazzuoli, who totally embody the idea of independent watchmaking.”
Barraque is focused on developing Michele, Zodiac and Burberry. “I love the intellectual challenge of building brands, of putting together global strategies and local tactics, and defending projects and funding them,” he details. “The biggest challenge for me is to be patient,” he adds.
—Keith W. Strandberg