Eden Park unveils first watches; bullish for 2023 with Rugby World Cup in France
“2023 is looking like being a very good year. Our product mix is fresh and appealing, France will be packed with fans this autumn, and we could not be happier with the new watch collection,” explained Franck Mesnel - founder, majority shareholder and famed French rugby great.
Created under license by Herbelin, a family owned watchmaker dating back three quarters of a century, the watch line manages to capture the spirit of Eden Park, without ever being clichéd. Hence its curvy rectangular shape references Eden Park, the mythical national stadium in New Zealand, and the toughest ground in rugby for a visiting team. Like rugby fans the watches look sturdy, reliable, tough and smart.
Each watch also incorporates Eden Park’s pink bow-tie logo; each watchband is trimmed with red-white-and-blue thread; each carries the brand’s motto – French Flair. The collection is divided into two groups: French Flair Sport and French Flair Club. All watches carry Roman numerals on the top, Arabic below the half-way line, like competing teams in rugby.
“Sport is for guys who play rugby, Club is for those who watch matches in the stand,” explained Benjamin Theurillat, partner and sales manager in Herbelin.
Looking ahead, Theurillat expects the Eden Park watches to retail in some 300 points of sale by the end of this year, and some 1,000 internationally within three years. Priced competitively at between €400 and €600, the watches seem a savvy edition to the Eden Park product range.
“Herbelin understood our concept perfectly, plus it’s nice to work with an established French producer,” smiled Mesnel, who founded the Eden Park brand after playing in the first ever Rugby World Cup final in the stadium of the same name back in 1987. France lost to hosts New Zealand that day, but five young French rugby men fortunately launched a winning streak with the brand. Its famed pink bow tie logo stemming from a well-lubricated dinner after a French championship final, with the color referencing Pink Panther, the mascot of Mesnel’s Paris team Racing.
A trim, no-nonsense figure, Mesnel is honest enough to admit that five years ago Eden Park was in serious difficulty, running up huge bills with a new IT system, and a less than focused offer. But the brand has bounced back post pandemic, helped by smart new stores, which eschew the previous paneled club look of clean white lines and shelving.
“Our DNA is always based on rugby, and its values - quality at a honest price. We are a refuge brand. When times are complicated people feel at home in Eden Park,” explains Mesnel, who despite salt and pepper hair is a remarkably youthful 60-year-old, almost uncannily not that changed from his glory days on the field.
Key elements in the brand DNA are its understated signifiers, like the pink bow tie, seen even within flower prints; embroidered bow ties in machine washable cotton blazers; sporting tone-on-tone stripes in jacket linings and contrast trimmed soft-collar shirts. All Eden Park polo shirts are made in Peru of the finest Pima cotton, manufactured in local plants first developed by Lacoste, ensuring first-rate finishes.
Eden Park today retails in 39 countries, boasting over 550 points of sale. Buoyed by the World Cup, Mesnel is targeting €75 million for 2023 revenues, a strong double-digit growth on last year.
In an impressive career Mesnel played 58 times for France, participating in three World Cups. In a decade-long run, he also won the Five Nations – or European championship – five times, completing his first Grand Slam in Dublin. Fleet-footed and elegant, attacking center, three years later Mesnel scored twice against Ireland in one match in Paris. That successful rapport with Ireland has continued to today, with several stockists in the Republic, and even a fully-fledged Eden Park boutique in Belfast.
Hundreds of thousands of rugby fans are expected in France for the World Cup, scheduled to run from September 8 until October 28. How does Mesnel, an expert commentator of rugby, view France’s chances in the upcoming World Cup? Like Ireland, France has never won the ultimate prize, albeit coming second three times.
“Well, I was with Romain Ntamack (France’s playmaker out-half) recently, and he seemed pretty serene. In a funny way it is harder to play at home than away in the World Cup. When you play abroad, it forces a certain collective unity. But this team has already won a world cup (2018 World Rugby Under 20 Championship), so maybe they now have what it takes to win a full World Cup,” concludes Mesnel.
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