A little more than a year ago, Catherine Renier left her job as president of the Asia and Pacific division of Richemont’s jewelry luminary Van Cleef & Arpels to assume the role as CEO of Richemont’s watch titan Jaeger-LeCoultre. The move made her the first female CEO of a major haute horlogerie watch brand. The transition, she claims, was easy. “Both maisons have similar values and quality craftsmanship and a search for excellence,” says Renier. Her first job was working in sales at the Cartier boutique in New York City. That experience cemented her business philosophy that “connecting with customers” is the foundation of success. It’s a notion she’s already putting into action at the watchmaker: Under her direction, clients now receive an eight-year warranty, besting the standard two to five years. She also plans to have more in-store demonstrations of JLC’s watchmakers’ skills. Here she reveals the inner workings of her approach to keeping the business ahead of its time.
What is the one thing you have to do every day to stay sane?
In my car driving to and from work, I listen to music and sing. My three kids, ages 8, 11 and 13, make suggestions.
What is your biggest annoyance at work?
People who hide things. If you have an issue, bring it to the forefront. I like to be straightforward.
What do you look for in an employee?
Someone who will enjoy where they are and what they’re doing because they believe in it and understand the values.
How long should a meeting last?
An hour and a half. That gives enough time for discussion, and it’s long enough to make decisions.
Do you prefer email, phone or text?
Text. It’s quick and short. And then, if necessary, I can set up a meeting if there’s a need to go deeper.
What’s the one adjustment everyone can make in their lives to be more successful?
To celebrate every success, even if it’s small. Enjoy the small steps as much as the big ones. Keep a vision in your life, whether personal or professional, of what you want to accomplish.
What’s the best advice you were given?
Have an objective and realize it takes time to achieve it. But know that life is long, you have time, so enjoy every day. I hope that’s right!
What’s one thing you want to improve in your work life?
My phone is no longer my best friend. It shouldn’t be the first thing and the last thing I attend to every day.
What’s your favorite app?
I’m always on airline apps. But I like Flipboard, which aggregates articles, for the news.
What was your first job, and what did you learn from it that impacted your later career?
I worked in the retail department of Cartier in New York City. I learned how important every detail is. It’s all about the feeling you want to achieve in the store—the flowers, the smile of the salesperson. There should be coherence, consistency. Everything counts. You can’t compromise when you want to reach that big picture.
What is your daily driver?
A Mini Cooper.