Frédéric Arnault: The Newest Power Player in Luxury’s First Family


PARIS — Frédéric Arnault, the 26-year-old chief govt of TAG Heuer, stands out as the youngest C.E.O. of a luxurious watch model in the world. He stands out as the fourth baby of Bernard Arnault, the third richest man in the world and the chairman of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the most important luxurious conglomerate in the world (proprietor of TAG Heuer in addition to Dior, Givenchy, Bulgari and greater than 70 different manufacturers).

He can also be the fourth baby to affix that household enterprise. He could have very grand concepts about how huge his explicit watch model can turn out to be. And his father, 72, who is understood for his aggressive acquisition ways, could have famously dynastic intentions in relation to the group he has constructed.

But don’t point out the phrase “Succession” inside anybody’s earshot. (Well, not until you wish to invite a whole lot of eye rolls and annoyance.)

As Frédéric turns into the most recent Arnault to enter the highlight, due to a really public partnership with the actor Ryan Gosling that was launched earlier this month at a celebrity-packed celebration in Beverly Hills — Mr. Arnault’s first huge in-person occasion since taking command of TAG Heuer final 12 months — 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. No matter how a lot the surface 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.

Sort of.

Sitting in a convention room at 22 Avenue Montaigne, the art-filled headquarters of LVMH, Mr. Arnault is carrying a navy swimsuit and a white shirt, collar unbuttoned, and a redesigned TAG Heuer Aquaracer Night Diver, his thick brown hair standing roughly on finish. (He has the hair of a piano maestro, which he’s.). He is 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 concerning the watch manufacturing facility in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland and the 150 steps it takes to construct one dial; debate the virtues of mechanical versus related (good) watches; and enthuse over the five hundred,000 members of the TAG Heuer golf app linked to the corporate’s golf smartwatch with nice enthusiasm.

In reality, he’s a lot happier speaking about his enterprise than himself or his household. Though the 2 are fairly inextricable.

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 Techniques d’Avant-Garde), and it’s the largest watch model in 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 12 months.

Like his half-siblings from his father’s first marriage, Antoine (chief govt of Berluti, head of picture and atmosphere for the group, member of the LVMH board) and Delphine (govt vice chairman at Louis Vuitton, member of the LVMH board) and his older brother, Alexandre (govt vice chairman for product and communications at Tiffany) and youthful brother, Jean (working in Louis Vuitton watches), Frédéric grew up with the corporate.

Still, when he was a toddler, he needed to be an architect; at round 15, he settled on entrepreneur. When requested why, he seemed startled and stated, “That’s a very personal question.”

After faculty — Frédéric attended the École Polytechnique, France’s main science and expertise college (as did his father) — and following a stint operating a cellular cost start-up with a good friend (bought after 18 months to the French funding agency BNP) whereas additionally moonlighting at TAG Heuer on the related watch, he joined the model full-time because the technique and digital director.

Though he stated he felt no parental strain, the extent of his rebellious section appears to have been opting to begin in watches relatively 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 turn out to be the TAG Heuer C.E.O. His father “said report back when you think he’s ready,” stated Stéphane Bianchi, who was introduced in as TAG Heuer chief govt and head of the watch enterprise not lengthy after — in half to groom his successor. “And if you think he’ll never be ready, come back to me as well.” It was not, Mr. Bianchi acknowledged, the best transition.

“We clashed everywhere,” he stated. “You can have a big brain and not be a leader. Now we laugh about it.” 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 turn out to be a C.E.O., following Alexandre, who took over Rimowa at 24 when it was purchased by LVMH.

“Frédéric changed a lot when he became C.E.O.,” Mr. Bianchi stated. “In the beginning he never felt any doubts. But he listens. Now he can admit when he is wrong.”

Beyond specializing in the related watch, which now constitutes round 15 % of all watch gross sales, Mr. Arnault has modified the retail-wholesale steadiness of TAG Heuer, shifting it towards the previous and doubling down on e-commerce, which grew 329 % in 2020 and is forecast to develop an extra 87 % 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 virtually no precise shoppers considered TAG Heuer in reference to soccer; they considered it in reference to Formula One. Mr. Arnault stated he was going after a partnership with Porsche.

“He writes a letter to the chairman and gets no answer,” Mr. Bianchi stated. “He writes to the VP for marketing: no answer. He invites them to see the company. He had three or four refusals before they even agreed to come and listen.” Last April, the deal was introduced.

“He’s very resilient,” Mr. Bianchi stated. (Mr. Arnault himself shouldn’t be into racecars. He has a BMW Series 1.)

Mr. Arnault took the identical method to Mr. Gosling, whom he needed partly due to the film “Drive,” regardless that the actor was not an apparent celeb ambassador: At age 40, he had by no means endorsed a product and had no social media presence.

“It’s unusual,” Mr. Arnault stated, “but it means there’s a mystique around him.”

The cope with Mr. Gosling took a few 12 months 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 stated.

“He told me he was not looking for a new ‘influencer,’” he stated. Though it’s a two-year deal, each males stated they had been considering long-term.

Mr. Arnault describes his model like this: “It is the watch for people who will reach success. Not people who have reached success. People always looking for the next achievement.”

Which sounds type of like the best way individuals describe him.

Like many of the Arnault kids and like their father, Frédéric is a tennis participant. He additionally likes golf, operating and kite-surfing. He and considered one of his brothers typically play doubles in opposition to their father and a professional. Though Mr. Arnault Sr. used to win, his son stated, it typically goes the opposite approach now. Mr. Bianchi favors squash, although, so the 2 had a match.

“Every point he was killing himself,” Mr. Bianchi stated, although he wouldn’t say on the document who gained. He did acknowledge that Mr. Arnault stated that the subsequent time they performed, it must be tennis.

“Competitive” is a phrase that comes up loads in regard to Frédéric. So is “calm” and “reserved.” “He’s like his father in that way,” Mr. Bianchi stated. Alex and Antoine are typically categorized because the outgoing ones.

“He hates losing,” stated Gregoire Genest, the good friend from faculty with whom he based his start-up. “We usually bet on a match, like the loser has to do 50 push-ups. But he is generous when he wins about not making you do the push-ups, especially if we have been out late the night before. It makes him very good at negotiating. He knows just how far he can push people.”

Ask Mr. Arnault what he does for enjoyable and he says, “Business is fun!” although he laughs as he says it. He likes to play chess and backgammon. He loves math.

Also piano, which runs in the household. His mom, Hélène Mercier, is a live performance pianist; his father and most of his siblings play. (Word is Frédéric could also be the very best, although he’ll solely admit that he performs probably the most.) He is a fan of Russian composers and Liszt. Before changing into C.E.O. of TAG Heuer, he used to present concert events every year and has performed with the Moscow Philharmonic. Now, he stated, “It’s hard to practice enough.”

Mr. Bianchi stated that after they had been nonetheless working collectively, they might 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 different world,” he stated of watching him play. “His face is different. He’s so inside the music.”

Mr. Arnault stated: “Music is like meditation. It allows me to focus on something else.”

Though 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 “very simple” residence in the Seventh Arrondissement), Mr. Arnault eats dinner together with his dad and mom about as soon as per week, and all the siblings meet up for large household occasions. At Alex’s current wedding ceremony in Venice to Géraldine Guyot, they had been all finest males (Beyoncé and Jay-Z got here; Kanye West did too, and in addition carried out.)

“Ninety-five percent of the time, we talk about business,” Mr. Arnault stated. “It was always like that. Growing up we talked about studies a lot, sport, music, politics, but business was still the main topic of discussion.”

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 not often wears ties. Kim Jones, the inventive director of Dior Men, is considered one of his nearer pals in the group. Often, Mr. Jones stated, Mr. Arnault and his sons come en masse to see the gathering and place their orders.

Every 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.

Unlike his dad and mom and older siblings, Mr. Arnault shouldn’t be but amassing artwork — “I’m too young,” he stated — although he does accumulate mentors. Mr. Bianchi was one; Thierry Breton, the previous chief govt of France Télécom and the present European Union commissioner for the inner market, is one other; and so is Tony Fadell, the principal on the funding agency Future Shape and a co-founder and former chief govt of Nest Labs (and inventor of the iPod and co-inventor of the iPhone).

Mr. Fadell and Mr. Arnault met when Frédéric was a youngster on a tour of Silicon Valley together with his father. They stayed in contact and, stated Mr. Fadell, who moved to Paris a couple of years in the past, nonetheless speak frequently.

“I’ve seen my share of people trying to prove how great they are,” Mr. Fadell stated. “He has the opposite problem: He has to prove he can be humble.”

This is one thing maybe nobody understands higher than his siblings; it’s a part of their connective tissue as they make their approach by way of the group. No one expects TAG Heuer to be Frédéric’s last outpost in the LVMH kingdom.

Sometimes, when he desires to decompress, he stated, 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. Recently, although, he noticed a docudrama he favored. What was it?

“The Roman Empire,” he stated.