Ulysse Nardin is the “watch industry’s best kept secret”, according to its 46-year-old CEO, Patrick Pruniaux. It’s one hell of a secret. A brand with a rich, long and colourful sporting heritage, Ulysse Nardin’s watches have come to be adored by aficionados as much for their beautiful styling as their functional pragmatism. They are both striking and useful; exciting and yet down to earth.
In fact, that surprising blend might also sum up Patrick Pruniaux’s own business philosophy. And it’s one that’s seen him shuttle from the world of luxury drinks to the unlikely sphere of Silicon Valley and finally to the helm of this storied Swiss watch brand. Here are his five rules for business — though they apply pretty well to life, too.
Look outside your own sector
“My Previous experience [at Apple and at Moet Hennessy] has taught me to look outside my own sector,” Pruniaux says. “It’s important to learn from other brands — not just your direct competitors. My diverse experience within different industries has really helped inform my decision making, and taught me to think outside the box.
“I don’t see the launch of the Apple as a threat to the Swiss Industry and would almost go so far as to say that it has benefitted us by creating a halo effect. The Apple watch has introduced watches to non-watch wearers, who will in turn out grow Apple products and look for something more timeless. The Apple Watch will never replace a Swiss watch. An Apple Watch is a piece of technology, whereas our watches are timeless investments — items that will be passed down through generations.”
Have wide ranging interests
“If I wasn’t in the watch industry, I would probably be a journalist, a war correspondent or a ski instructor,” Pruniaux tells us. “I am also great at polishing shoes.
“I’m at my happiest early in the morning — being in the Alps when the sun rises… or free-diving in Port-Cros in the South of France.
“And my most treasured possessions are actually a pair of running shoes (I probably own at least 15 pairs at the same time), a Saint-Benoit medal offered by my Mum when I started my adult life, and a small plastic panda figurine given by my wife.”
Get out of your comfort zone
“I like to challenge and scare myself Through both sport and business,” Patrick says. “It’s about leaving my comfort zone, assessing risks, taking decisions and following my instinct.
“I love that moment when there is a massive sense of loneliness when faced with a decision. Those are defining moments and are highly fulfilling.
“A piece of business advice I have received from my friend Quentin has really stuck with me. He said: ‘Take risks. At some point it is like swallowing an oyster: it is weird but you have to go for it’”
Never stop learning
“I try to permanently learn and most of all be a catalyst for other to grow” says Patrick.
“I had several amazing mentors. I was fortunate enough to meet several senior leaders that have both inspired me and taught me a lot. General Soubirou, commanding the French Airborne Division in the 90’s was one of them.”
“My advice to any young entrepreneurs would be to dare, to try. It’s a game. It’s worth playing it with dedication and commitment — but it’s a game.
“My personal motto comes from Kipling. ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same…’”
Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur
Ulysse Nardin Diver Chronometer
Ulysse Nardin Marine Torpilleur
Now discover what we learned when we sat down with Richard Branson…