PARIS — Frédéric Arnault, the 26-year-old chief government of TAG Heuer, will be the youngest C.E.O. of a luxurious watch model on this planet. He will be the fourth little one of Bernard Arnault, the third-richest man on this planet and the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the biggest luxurious conglomerate on this planet (proprietor of TAG Heuer in addition to Dior, Givenchy, Bulgari and greater than 70 different manufacturers).
He may be the fourth little one to hitch that household enterprise. He might have very grand concepts about how huge his specific watch model can develop into. And his father, 72, who is understood for his aggressive acquisition techniques, might have famously dynastic intentions with regards to the group he has constructed.
However don’t point out the phrase “Succession” inside anybody’s earshot. (Nicely, not until you wish to invite loads of eye rolls and annoyance.)
As Frédéric turns into the newest Arnault to enter the highlight, due to a really public partnership with the actor Ryan Gosling that was launched this month at a celebrity-packed occasion in Beverly Hills — Mr. Arnault’s first huge in-person occasion since taking command of TAG Heuer final yr — the household desires to be very clear that this isn’t a narrative of Kendall Roy or Roman Roy or anybody remotely Roy-like.
No approach. Uh-uh. Regardless of how a lot the skin world desires that to be the case. Which is why the most recent energy participant in luxurious’s first household is lastly able to open up.
Sitting in a convention room at 22 Avenue Montaigne, the art-filled headquarters of LVMH, Mr. Arnault is sporting a navy swimsuit and a white shirt, collar unbuttoned, and a redesigned TAG Heuer Aquaracer Evening Diver, his thick brown hair standing roughly on finish. (He has the hair of a piano maestro, which he’s.) He’s assuredly animated discussing how he ended up at TAG Heuer and the way he’s altering the model.
He can reel off statistics and fashions as fluently as he speaks English, Italian and German; wax lyrical in regards to the watch manufacturing unit in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland and the 150 steps it takes to construct one dial; debate the virtues of mechanical versus linked (sensible) watches; and enthuse over the five hundred,000 members of the TAG Heuer golf app linked to the firm’s golf smartwatch with nice enthusiasm.
In reality, he’s a lot happier speaking about his enterprise than himself or his household. Although the 2 are fairly inextricable.
Becoming a member of Up
Frédéric Arnault’s first watch was a TAG Heuer Aquaracer, given to him on his eleventh birthday by his father. The elder Mr. Arnault purchased TAG Heuer in 1999 (the initials stand for Methods d’Avant-Garde), and it’s the largest watch model within the LVMH portfolio. LVMH doesn’t escape income by model, however in its current third quarter outcomes, the watch and jewellery sector reported revenues of 6.16 billion euros ($7.1 billion) for the primary 9 months of the yr.
Like his half-siblings from his father’s first marriage, Antoine (chief government of Berluti, head of picture and atmosphere for the group, member of the LVMH board) and Delphine (government vice chairman at Louis Vuitton, member of the LVMH board) and his older brother, Alexandre (government vice chairman for product and communications at Tiffany) and youthful brother, Jean (working in Louis Vuitton watches), Frédéric grew up with the corporate.
Nonetheless, when he was a toddler, he wished to be an architect; at round 15, he settled on entrepreneur. When requested why, he regarded startled and mentioned, “That’s a really private query.”
After faculty — Frédéric attended the École Polytechnique, France’s main science and know-how college (as did his father) — and following a stint working a cellular fee start-up with a pal (bought after 18 months to the French funding agency BNP) whereas additionally moonlighting at TAG Heuer on the linked watch, he joined the model full-time because the technique and digital director.
Although he mentioned he felt no parental stress, the extent of his rebellious part appears to have been opting to start out in watches moderately than style and leather-based items. He did seek the advice of together with his siblings about what to anticipate.
From the beginning, Frédéric was being groomed to develop into the TAG Heuer C.E.O. His father “mentioned report again if you assume he’s prepared,” mentioned Stéphane Bianchi, who was introduced in as TAG Heuer chief government and head of the watch enterprise not lengthy after — partly to groom his successor. “And for those who assume he’ll by no means be prepared, come again to me as effectively.” It was not, Mr. Bianchi acknowledged, the simplest transition.
“We clashed in all places to start with, however now we snicker about it,” he mentioned. “You possibly can have an enormous mind and never be a frontrunner. He has each.”
In June 2020, he handed over the reins to the then 25-year-old. (Mr. Bianchi moved as much as head the watch and jewellery division.) Frédéric was the second-youngest Arnault to develop into a C.E.O., following Alexandre, who took over Rimowa at 24 when it was purchased by LVMH.
“Frédéric modified quite a bit when he turned C.E.O.,” Mr. Bianchi mentioned. “At first he by no means felt any doubts. However he listens. Now he can admit when he’s fallacious.”
Getting Ryan Gosling
Past specializing in the linked watch, which now constitutes round 15 p.c of all watch gross sales, Mr. Arnault has modified the retail-wholesale stability of TAG Heuer, shifting it towards the previous and doubling down on e-commerce, which grew 329 p.c in 2020 and is forecast to develop an extra 87 p.c in 2021.
He additionally modified the place the corporate put its cash. When Mr. Arnault arrived, TAG Heuer’s largest promotional funding was in soccer, but it surely turned out nearly no precise customers considered TAG Heuer in reference to soccer; they considered it in reference to Components One. Mr. Arnault mentioned he was going after a partnership with Porsche.
“He writes a letter to the chairman and will get no reply,” Mr. Bianchi mentioned. “He writes to the VP for advertising and marketing: no reply. He invitations them to see the corporate. He had three or 4 refusals earlier than they even agreed to come back and pay attention.” Final April, the deal was introduced.
“He’s very resilient,” Mr. Bianchi mentioned. (Mr. Arnault himself shouldn’t be into racecars. He has a BMW Sequence 1.)
Mr. Arnault took the identical strategy to Mr. Gosling, whom he wished partly due to the film “Drive,” despite the fact that the actor was not an apparent superstar ambassador: At age 40, he had by no means endorsed a product and had no social media presence.
“It’s uncommon,” Mr. Arnault mentioned, “but it surely means there’s a mystique round him.”
The take care of Mr. Gosling took a few yr and half to barter and concerned not simply an endorsement however an settlement that Mr. Gosling would assist artwork direct the campaigns and design his personal watch (not on the market, however for himself). That was what swayed him, Mr. Gosling mentioned.
“He advised me he was not on the lookout for a brand new ‘influencer,’” he mentioned. Although it’s a two-year deal, each males mentioned they had been considering long-term.
Mr. Arnault describes his model like this: “It’s the look ahead to individuals who will attain success. Not individuals who have reached success. Folks at all times on the lookout for the following achievement.”
Which sounds form of like the best way folks describe him.
Enjoying to Win
Like a lot of the Arnault kids and like their father, Frédéric is a tennis participant. He additionally likes golf, working and kite-surfing. He and certainly one of his brothers usually play doubles towards their father and a professional. Although Mr. Arnault Sr. used to win, his son mentioned, it usually goes the opposite approach now. Mr. Bianchi favors squash, although, so the 2 had a match.
“Each level he was killing himself,” Mr. Bianchi mentioned, although he wouldn’t say on the report who received. He did acknowledge that Mr. Arnault mentioned that the following time they performed, it must be tennis.
“Aggressive” is a phrase that comes up quite a bit in regard to Frédéric. So is “calm” and “reserved.” “He’s like his father in that approach,” Mr. Bianchi mentioned. Alex and Antoine are usually categorized because the outgoing ones.
“He hates dropping,” mentioned Gregoire Genest, the pal from faculty with whom he based his start-up. “We often guess on a match, just like the loser has to do 50 push-ups. However he’s beneficiant when he wins about not making you do the push-ups, particularly if we have now been out late the night time earlier than. It makes him excellent at negotiating. He is aware of simply how far he can push folks.”
Ask Mr. Arnault what he does for enjoyable and he says, “Enterprise is enjoyable!” although he laughs as he says it. He likes to play chess and backgammon. He loves math.
Additionally piano, which runs within the household. His mom, Hélène Mercier, is a live performance pianist; his father and most of his siblings play. (Phrase is Frédéric could also be one of the best, although he’ll solely admit that he performs probably the most.) He’s keen on Russian composers and Liszt. Earlier than turning into C.E.O. of TAG Heuer, he used to provide concert events annually and has performed with the Moscow Philharmonic. Now, he mentioned, “It’s laborious to apply sufficient.”
Mr. Bianchi mentioned that once they had been nonetheless working collectively, they’d be at conferences all day at La Chaux-de-Fonds, after which, at 9 or 10 p.m., everybody would go off to their households, and Mr. Arnault would go to apply. “It’s like he’s in a unique world,” he mentioned of watching him play. “His face is completely different. He’s so contained in the music.”
Mr. Arnault mentioned: “Music is like meditation. It permits me to deal with one thing else.”
Although he spends 4 days of the week in Geneva (the place he lives in a resort) and three in Paris (the place he has a “quite simple” condominium within the Seventh Arrondissement), Mr. Arnault eats dinner together with his dad and mom about as soon as every week, and all the siblings meet up for giant household occasions. At Alex’s current marriage ceremony in Venice to Géraldine Guyot, they had been all finest males (Beyoncé and Jay-Z got here; Kanye West did too, and likewise carried out).
“Ninety-five p.c of the time, we speak about enterprise,” Mr. Arnault mentioned. “It was at all times like that. Rising up we talked about research quite a bit, sport, music, politics, however enterprise was nonetheless the primary matter of dialogue.”
Like his brothers and his father, he favors darkish fits by Dior and infrequently a turtleneck or open-neck shirt and sneakers. Plus a TAG Heuer. He hardly ever wears ties. Kim Jones, the inventive director of Dior Males, is certainly one of his nearer mates within the group. Typically, Mr. Jones mentioned, Mr. Arnault and his sons come en masse to see the gathering and place their orders.
Each month or month and a half, all 5 kids have official enterprise lunches with their father. They restrict the conferences to 2 hours as a result of in any other case they might go on all day.
Not like his dad and mom and older siblings, Mr. Arnault shouldn’t be but amassing artwork — “I’m too younger,” he mentioned — although he does acquire mentors. Mr. Bianchi was one; Thierry Breton, the previous chief government of France Télécom and the present European Union commissioner for the interior market, is one other; and so is Tony Fadell, the principal on the funding agency Future Form and a co-founder and former chief government of Nest Labs (and inventor of the iPod and co-inventor of the iPhone).
Mr. Fadell and Mr. Arnault met when Frédéric was a teen on a tour of Silicon Valley together with his father. They stayed in contact and, mentioned Mr. Fadell, who moved to Paris just a few years in the past, nonetheless discuss often.
“I’ve seen my share of individuals making an attempt to show how nice they’re,” Mr. Fadell mentioned. “He has the alternative drawback: He has to show he could be humble.”
That is one thing maybe nobody understands higher than his siblings; it’s a part of their connective tissue as they make their approach via the group. Nobody expects TAG Heuer to be Frédéric’s closing outpost within the LVMH kingdom.
Generally, when he desires to decompress, he mentioned, he watches Netflix. He favored “The Queen’s Gambit,” which occurred to function a TAG Heuer chess clock the corporate is considering of bringing again. Not too long ago, although, he noticed a docudrama he favored. What was it?
“The Roman Empire,” he mentioned.