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04 january 2019

pavel_grankin_xx.pngPavel Grankin runs the Slava Group of companies and holds the Slava trademark (‘Slava’ means ‘Glory’ in Russian). He has graduated from the Mozhaisky Military Space Academy. He did his military service at the Plesetsk Сosmodrome from 1987 to 1995. He is a reserve major and a designer of the Russian Space Forces Emblem that is still used, as well as of many awards and space commemorative tokens, he is a watch designer and created many popular watch brands like Spetsnaz (Special Forces), Derzhava (Power), Petroff and Grandtime.

Pavel Grankin told the Rough&Polished how the company managed to survive in those tough years of economic changes and how the watchmaker is reviving – in a down economy and facing fierce competition from foreign brands.

How do things stand now with the Slava trademark – the most famous and popular brand in Russia?

In the days of the Soviet Union, the Slava watches – both wristwatches and interior watches – were produced both in Russia and also in the premises of the Soviet factory in Besancon, France. This brand proved the whole world that Russia was a watch country: huge output of the Slava wristwatches found a quick sale all over the globe and famous Swiss and French timepieces were assembled using the Slava watch movements. Quite soon – in six years – this brand will celebrate its 100-anniversary jubilee.

It has to be noted, that the oldest watchmaker was not immune to the economic and political realities in today’s Russia. Upon the decision of the Moscow government, the large-scale wristwatch production was repurposed to make the Slava Technopark where a successful up-to-date biopharmaceutical project is being implemented. The historical ground for the production of the Slava mechanical alarm clocks near the Belorussky Railway Station was demolished long ago, and almost for a decade, it has been waiting for an investor to start the construction of a modern multi-family residential house and a business centre.

For over 10 years, our company has been a legal successor of the legendary enterprise in the wristwatch production with the rights to the exclusive use of the Slava trademark. From last year, we continued to make the Slava timepieces as the owner of this trademark. Our watch collection comprises over 300 models including our traditional mechanic timepieces as well as self-winding ones and budget quarts watches.

What are the advantages of the watches made by your company?

One of our major advantages is the optimal cost/quality ratio: the Slava watches are affordable, their retail price starts from ₽1,500. For a relatively small value, the customer receives the quality, reliability and brand with a 100-year history. We have a Spetsnaz (Special Forces) trademark – it is a Slava’s sister brand. These military- and sport-style watches are rather popular among defense and law enforcement agencies but they are intended for a wide range of people, for example, those who go in for outdoor activities, for example, fishermen, hunters and sportsmen. This is a real watch for a real man.

What is the marketing policy of your company?

We arrived at the conclusion that today, various partnership programmes are required: we are ready to propose interesting terms for cooperation – both for small regional retail stores and for large trade chains and online-shops. We have a retail chain of six stores in Moscow and St. Petersburg. We develop several trademarks simultaneously – in addition to our Slava and Spetsnaz brands, we develop a Petroff jewellery watch and a Grandtime quartz watch movement, we fulfil the government orders and the corporations’ ones. Each of these directions sometimes turns out to become successful and on the whole, things go well, although we have the industry challenges as the other market players do. To create watches for a collection and on a special theme, we invite famous Russian designers and craftsmen. The glory of Russia in the world history is connected both with the outstanding military triumphs and with the achievements of the Russian scientists, musicians, writers and painters. In cooperation with Ivan Okhlobystin, a renowned actor, a number of his designer-made watches were made, and an interesting project – the Gallery of Slava - was launched. Every month, the Slava watches engraved with a person’s name will be made devoted to people who are in high favour with public: actors, sportsmen, musicians and writers. The collectible Cosmonavigator and Biorhythm watches were designed jointly with the legendary cosmonaut Vladimir Dzhanibekov and their population was stratospheric. Our aim is to make our Slava watches both reliable timepieces and a symbol of the today’s Russia achievements.


Did you succeed to keep high-qualified personnel at your company and solve the manpower issues?

The situation with the manpower is rather difficult: skilled workers leave the factory due to their advanced age, there are not enough young workers and it is difficult to find them – the colleges training them were shut down long ago and there are very few of those who want to assemble watches. Skilled service technicians are highly qualifies specialists and it is not economic to use them for assembling operations.

What is happening on the watch market, what is in demand? Can you compete with the foreign brands?

In recent years, the retail consumer demand shifts towards low-end goods: the buyers of Swiss watches prefer budget segment timepieces. Japanese Casio and Orient move best. In the Russian market, the watches at the price of ₽5,000 - ₽20,000 are most popular. The watches costing over ₽20,000 are sold less. The buyers come to our ‘Russian Watches’ store who are loyal to the domestic timepieces and believe that our watches are close to the world brands as for their craftsmanship and are of more outstanding and original designs and have a competitive price. The interest in the timepieces made in Russia increasingly grows with the sliding consumer disposable income.

As for the export prospects, certain conditions should be provided for that by the government: it is necessary to make zero duties for the components that make our products more expensive, and the export procedures should be improved. For example, the Chinese tourists visiting us show interest towards the Russian watches, it means that there is a demand for our goods in China, too. But so far, it is more difficult to send something abroad than to fulfil the customs clearance procedures for the imported goods. Still, we do our best to work in the current environment: we launched online sales to foreign customers – we cooperate with Amazon.com, set up our company in China and sell our goods in Harbin and Beijing. We keep on looking for new strategic partners all over the world.

Is the national watchmaking industry promising?

I think the prospects are good. The market stabilizes gradually. I think the demand for timepieces will grow. In our economy, much depends on the dollar exchange rate. Unfortunately, we have to purchase the components from abroad, and the product costs are pegged to foreign currency. It is difficult to use the import phaseout in the watchmaking industry, it requires the development of other allied and sophisticated industries, first of all, precise machine tool industry. I think much will depend on the watchmakers’ understanding of the market, on their flexibility and prompt response to the current requirements and changes and, certainly, on the successful marketing activity.

Over many years, Russia was a timepiece power and was the world leader in the watchmaking industry. The government of new Russia was unable to stop in time the destruction of the watchmaking industry and lost the strategically important direction – the production of the precision micromechanics. By the way, Chinese manufacturers filled practically all the market niches but there are no timepieces of Chinese trademarks because there Russian ones. The patriotically minded people buy them who want to support our national production. Very often, the watches made in Russia are purchased as a present to foreign friends and partners, and many foreign tourists buy them as a souvenir, like vodka, caviar, a Russian winter fur cap with ear-flaps or an amber item.


What is new in watch design, what trends appeal to you personally?

Our designers keep track of the world trends in the watchmaking art. In doing this, the historic generic features of the trademark are taken into account, as well as the watchcase and watch face designs with account of the demand on the Russian market. Our own trademarks – Slava, Spetsnaz, Romanoff, Poljot (Flight), Shturmanskiye (Navigator’s watch), Charm, Seconda, Russkoye Vremya (Russian Time) and others – have a 200-percent monthly turnover.

Do the watchmakers seek to unite to achieve common goals?

The National Watchmakers Association created on our initiative five years ago, coordinated the special format ‘Made in Russia’ with the organizers at the last watch exhibition and showed their new timepieces to its members. We also made our cooperation offer to the independent watchmakers to promote their goods in the ‘Russian Watches’ format.

All our watchmakers are wonderful persons. But there are decades of tough competition between them and not always it was fair, it should be noted. That is why it was not easy to unite them into the National Watchmakers Association, start the dialogue, find common goals and tasks. We have an ‘imperial’ approach to all this, while the whole world has been long developing the production as agile, flexible process – this is the case in Switzerland, and watchmaking in China goes similar way. The cooperation and collaboration are the development trend of today.

The Slava trademark – with the help of the federal government institution Russian Assay Chamber – became an organizer of the Watch for the President watch design contest held this autumn for the first time. Tell us about this project, please.

The watch design contest of such a scale was held in Russia for the first time. Its task was the development of one-of-a-kind designs of Russian wristwatches to symbolize out time. We decided to organize the contest in compliance with the SLAVA brand development strategy - time flies fast and soon, we will have a centenary celebration! We succeeded in involving famous and prominent celebrities to be the judges of the Contest. This idea resonated with the management of the Russian Assay Chamber, our peer watchmakers and watch designers – we evaluated and discussed over 70 timepieces! As it was expected, the contest stimulated many ambitious creative people. We hope to make this contest a traditional one in future.

I would like to mention that many works presented at the Contest were created at our own design studio and some of them were of my design. In the late 1990s, my watch business started with this: I designed the timepieces for the then existing factories – VOSTOK, POLJOT, and SLAVA. In twenty years, the circle has been closed.

Galina Semyonova, Rough&Polished