You took the reins of GP a year ago ; how is the brand doing ?
First of all, it had good foundations that I inherited from my predecessors, especially in terms of products. While we began by strengthening the management, Girard-Perregaux can rely on passionate personnel at all levels and there is a powerful team spirit. We have done a lot of work on the brand over the past six months, of which only part is as yet visible. We had to conduct an analysis of the brand and then ensure it was expressing itself in the right way. For example, the logo has evolved and is now simplified and modernized with the bridge summing up 225 years of history, expertise in chronometry, as well as its exclusive nature that we must perpetuate, rather than seeking to make it universal. Moreover, the vast majority of our sales occur in high-quality points of sale run by major retailers such as Bucherer, Wempe and The Hour Glass. We are committed to maintaining and strengthening our status as a loyal and stable partner and do not intend to open any own-name stores.
Which are GP’s strongest assets in appealing to today’s customers ?
We are very confident that the products are all in place. You may recall our Laureato Carbon Glass concept presented at SIHH 2019 ? We are pleased to state that we have sufficiently mastered it to launch a limited series of 100 chronographs with a very good price-quality ratio : the Laureato Absolute Rock. This is a new type of ultra-resistant and lightweight carbon that no longer requires a container to ensure its water resistance. Its spectacular blue and black veins make it truly unique. We are going to release some very exciting products. The brand values are well perceived by connoisseurs, but end customers in general probably need more explanations in this respect. Girard-Perregaux stands out for the harmony it achieves between watchmaking content and design, which remains at the heart of its DNA, as well as for its relaxed Italian elegance. Today it is interesting to belong to a club of brands that are exclusive in terms of production, doubtless more so than those that sell a million units. When I see someone wearing a Girard-Perregaux, I see a connoisseur’s choice. Not producing too much is an asset and it is up to us to explain this brand strength.
“We are increasing the consistency of Girard-Perregaux and strengthening its message.”
What will GP look like in 2020 and will that be a turning point for the brand ?
Girard-Perregaux will assert itself. As I said earlier, the products are good and there is no need for a new collection ; all we have to do is develop those that already exist by building on our strengths : consolidate our pillars through certain variations ; enhance stability ; and tell our story. We can actually choose to focus on two geometrically spectacular elements : the bridges, particularly in the actual Bridge collection, and the octagon of the Laureato collection. In my opinion, these two collections represent the brand on a very powerful level, which needs to be worked on even more, in a traditional yet also contemporary way. The Quasar model from the Bridge collection presented at Miami Watches & Wonders with its sapphire case illustrates this desire ; it was initiated by the previous team but I find it very interesting. In fact, Stefano Macaluso*, who has become a friend, continues to cooperate closely with Girard-Perregaux and we are working on some projects together aimed at renewing ties with the brand’s roots. In parallel, we have invested massively in the manufacture, as well as in the Villa Girard-Perregaux in order to transform it into a museum. We are doing a huge amount of fundamental work on our identity.
*former Product Development Director and a trained architect
“Ulysse Nardin innovates a lot in terms of communication as well as products, with five new calibers this year.”
In regards to Ulysse Nardin, to which you have devoted a lot of energy over the past two years, are the results in line with your expectations ?
As it so happens, they most definitely are ! Ulysse Nardin has achieved a very good level of coherence and alignment between history, brand, product and distribution, which must continue to be fostered. In addition, it is a brand that innovates a lot in terms of communication as well as products, with five new calibers this year. These can be found in watches as different as the Mega Yacht Navy, the Freak X which appeals to the Asian market, the Skeleton X which is much loved by Americans, and the Freak NeXt with its giant pivot-free oscillator. Our authentic, distinctive and modern message is very well received by end customers, retailers and the media, which are reflecting this image of a new dynamic. In order to reinforce the relevance of our communication in key markets, we have opened two stores in China and one in Geneva, making a total of 20, but Ulysse Nardin does not aim to multiply them, as we are maintaining our distribution network of retailers. There are real opportunities and we have strong growth potential. Given that we only talk about half of what we do, we have a plenty of scope for expansion ! Moreover, I am fortunate to be able to count on a team of talents who have great ambitions for the brand.
Your site provides a chance to “Find your Ulysse Nardin” using a configurator ; does this also provide you with useful information ?
Absolutely. We have accelerated our digital transformation in order to achieve the right level of conversation with the consumer. For me, this is the crux of the issue. The consumer experience now begins online, it must be facilitated and this must be done without any taboos. Benchmarks exist both inside and beyond the watch industry. We are all consumers and have no reason to act differently when buying a watch, a car, or other luxury goods and services. We must inspire but also deliver top-rate practicality and then roll out this approach in stores so as to attract end consumers to see and touch the product. When the customer sees the watch, or visits the manufacture, all questions are answered.
Did the launch this year of your X factor shared by the Freak and Skeleton collections stimulate interest or blur the message ?
This is a facet that strengthens the brand’s message. The X factor expresses technical sophistication in a more modern way, it symbolizes the existing brand values in a single letter. For some people it rapidly enables a clear grasp of the brand’s technology and design. This is particularly the case for our Freak X Only Watch.
The maritime universe is part of Ulysse Nardin’s DNA ; does this source of inspiration help guide creativity as much as innovation ?
Above all, it is a demanding and very often authentic universe. It nurtures reflection and can be both technical and poetic. We saw this once again this year with our Classico Manara featuring artistic crafts, but also prior to that with the Divers chronographs of the Artemis Racing challenger created for the America’s Cup. We use their discoveries, for example in the foil, to achieve enhanced comfort, lightness and resistance, all of which are key parameters in yachting.