Interview with Marius Eschweiler, Global Business Development at Leica Camera AG
BY NADINE PELZER
(Published in The Produktkulturmagazin issue 4 2017)
The small red logo makes the hearts of people across the globe beat that little bit faster. Although very discreet, admirers can always spot it from afar. Leica has been all about German engineering artistry, superlative quality and unbeatable products for more than 100 years now. They have been shaping and revolutionising the history of photography since the beginning of the 20th Century. You are now entering an entirely new market with Leica Eyecare. Marius Eschweiler, Global Director Business Development at Leica Camera AG, spoke to us about this major development.
Mr Eschweiler, high-end cameras, lenses and binoculars immediately come to mind when we think about Leica. You are now further expanding your business activities with Leica Eyecare. Please explain this new product to us.
The product range comprises a comprehensive selection of high-end ophthalmic lenses, with the portfolio encompassing single-vision, multifocal, workplace and varifocal lenses. We are also planning to develop products aimed at the ophthalmic requirements of special target groups – for example drivers and, of course, photographers.
When was the decision made to launch this new project?
We have been monitoring the optometry market with great interest for quite some time now. This is part of our growth strategy to tap into new business fields with our core competencies, technological skills and capabilities. In particular, our strengths include our lens development expertise acquired over decades and our production and coating technology know-how. We will now be deploying these assets in the area of ophthalmic lenses with the aim of offering customers exceptional quality and an outstanding visual experience.
Developing a new product and entering a new market require careful planning and implementation. What were the greatest challenges here?
One of the main challenges was to find a partner with the technology, production and service expertise to fulfil the extremely high expectations that customers place on Leica. With Novacel, we have found an experienced and superbly established partner who fulfils these prerequisites and is simultaneously willing to commit to us in the long term. Our objective is to sustainably establish Leica Eyecare on the market.
What do you hope to achieve with Leica Eyecare? What are your expectations and objectives?
Initially, we are of course hoping to provide customers, along with sales and distribution partners – in other words, opticians – with attractive offerings. In the medium to long term, we are planning to expand Leica Eyecare into a substantive and sustainable part of our business model. To achieve this objective, we are already working intensively on our regional expansion programme as well as on broadening our product range.
You capture a moment with a camera. But you capture everything with glasses. What do you demand from your lenses?
As in the case of our cameras and binoculars, our maxim is always to offer top-quality products supported by extraordinary services. Furthermore, we are very much focussed on ensuring that 100 percent of our products are manufactured in Europe. This is the only way that we are able to maintain total control over consistently high quality standards and also ensure extremely fast service and delivery times both for customers and opticians.
How are you now planning to transfer your product culture to the new lenses?
The primary focus of our ophthalmic lenses is on quality, optical precision and innovation. To achieve this, we have installed a separate production line at the Château-Thierry facility especially for the Leica Eyecare range and – with the combined know-how of Leica and Novacel – established one of Europe’s most modern production sites. By adhering to the smallest manufacturing tolerances, we are for the first time able to offer lenses with a hitherto unachievable degree of precision.
Why do customers choose Leica lenses?
They opt for Leica Eyecare because they want a superlative visual experience. Furthermore, they are able to enjoy extraordinary customer service.
As in the case of your binoculars, the ophthalmic lenses are also coated with AquaDura. What is AquaDura, and what benefits does this coating offer?
The AquaDura coating was developed for Leica binoculars – on the one hand, to protect sensitive optical surfaces against extreme environmental influences and, on the other hand, to also improve optical properties such as light transmission, for example. This coating has been deployed in sport optics, protecting optics against dirt, damage and water. By using AquaDura, we are able to offer our customers above-average warranty coverage with regards to surface damage such as scratches, for instance.
The innovative lenses are developed in collaboration with Novacel. How did this partnership come about?
We started to analyse the optical market more than two years ago. Initially, it was hugely important for us to understand the market mechanisms, the technological challenges and, above all, customer requirements, of course. Subsequently, we identified potential partners and carefully evaluated them in accordance with previously defined criteria. It was of extreme importance to us to find a partner with the same high standards regarding the product, production quality and customer orientation as we have. But the partner’s strategic orientation and the companies’ cultural ‘fit’ were equally important to us. As the cooperation is long-term in character, these soft factors are also very significant if partners are to be jointly successful in the long term.
So, what does this collaboration look like?
At the beginning of our partnership, we both agreed that our considerations would primarily focus on customers and their requirements. Within the context of the operational collaboration, we have set up a cross-venture team comprising optical experts and process engineers, which first set about defining the demanding quality standards that are so elementary to customer requirements. In addition to this, we are also working closely together in R&D with the aim of developing and marketing future innovations.
Moving forward, you are also planning to develop products that are oriented towards the visual requirements of special target groups such as photographers and drivers, for example. What specific requirements do these target groups have?
Photographers have to be close to the viewfinder to take the best possible photo. Furthermore, it is important to clearly show various distances – for example when switching between viewfinder and unassisted vision. For this reason, we are developing a glass with expanded depth of focus specially for this target group. Drivers require panoramic vision to optimally cover various visual requirements such as distances, peripherals, the dashboard and displays and also to avoid blind spots. These lenses therefore have an expanded field of vision and feature anti-glare coatings. In the case of golf players, marksmen and water sports athletes, the special requirements during lens development focus on anti-reflection, extreme brightness, UV and infrared radiation.
After completing his engineering and MBA studies, Marius Eschweiler was active in leading product management and marketing positions at various brand product suppliers. He has been Global Director Business Development at Leica Camera AG since 2013, responsible for tapping into and developing new business fields. In this function, he has initiated the collaboration with Huawei and Leica’s entry into the spectacles market, among other things.
Picture credit © Leica Camera AG