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Grand Seiko - “Grand Seiko is a brand set apart”

Grand Seiko “Grand Seiko is a brand set apart”

Frédéric Bondoux, President Europe Grand Seiko, has just taken the helm over at Grand Seiko Europe. He gives WorldTempus his very first interview in his new role.

His dynamism shook the walls of Baselworld. Frédéric Bondoux, 23 years at Swatch Group (18 years at Omega, five years at Longines) switched from chocolate to tempura, from the Matterhorn to Fuji. For the past month he has been the new President Europe Grand Seiko. A tailor-made position for this man who has decided to give the second part of his career a new tempo, from prestissimo to moderato.

“Grand Seiko is a brand set apart”

Frédéric Bondoux © Grand Seiko

Why Grand Seiko? 
A few years ago, one of my colleagues had taken over the US market for the brand. He often talked to me about it. I had noticed the quality of the watches and it stayed with me. Grand Seiko is not just a brand, it’s a universe. When Japan decided, eight months ago, to give the brand its independence in Europe (editor’s note: compared to Seiko), they called me and I seized the opportunity.

Why?
For several reasons. The first is this perfect fit with the Japanese management. I spent several days there, notably to visit the factory site in Morioka. There is a corporate culture that is based, above all, on the trust you are given from day one. I start from a blank sheet of paper and choose the content to achieve my objectives in my four markets: Germany, Benelux, France and Italy. We work with great complicity. 

Then, this opportunity came at the right time for me. At 30, you want to go fast, you want immediate results, you want to climb the ladder. Twenty years later, it’s not the same pattern. I want to build for the long term, with an adapted rhythm that respects the DNA of the brand. Grand Seiko is on the same tempo. We are building to last, on solid foundations, at a controlled rhythm that is almost, in short, that of nature which is so dear to Grand Seiko. We respect nature. 

Finally, there is the potential of Grand Seiko. The brand has a very particular positioning, it is extremely recognized by collectors for its quality, its spirit, its philosophy, its know-how but also because it is rare. We are the opposite of an ostentatious brand. Grand Seiko collectors appreciate its precision as much as its purity, its beauty as much as its durability. These are values that speak to me. As an appreciator of nature, I identify with these values. 

“Grand Seiko is a brand set apart”

SBGH281 © Grand Seiko

What are the first developments that you’re considering? 
As I was saying, we are on a long-term basis and I am continuing, in Europe, the work that I have been doing in Japan and the United States for the past 3 years. Therefore, I intend to strengthen what sets Grand Seiko apart. My objective is to increase the distribution network, but in a very selective way. For the moment, we are positioning ourselves in the four markets where we have subsidiaries, but the objective is of course to cover a wider continental European zone in the long term. 

“Grand Seiko is a brand set apart”

SBGK002 © Grand Seiko

Spring Drive technology has yet to be fully understood by the general public. Is that an issue for the Grand Seiko collections in question? 
Quite the contrary. The Spring Drive movement is not necessarily oriented towards the general public. It already requires a certain level of watchmaking expertise. Secondly, it is not a product that you buy in the shop window on a whim. It took more than 20 years to develop it. The perfectly fluid progression of the seconds hand, without the slightest jolt, is a unique experience, a beautiful emotion. And that takes time to appreciate and understand. It is something that is gradually appreciated, with a strong emotional value. You can’t popularize Spring Drive. This movement is unique, that’s what makes it so powerful.

“Grand Seiko is a brand set apart”

SBGK005 © Grand Seiko

What are your next steps?
The opening, in a few weeks, of the largest Grand Seiko Boutique in the world at Place Vendôme. It’s a place perfectly in tune with Grand Seiko’s DNA. It will transmit the values of the brand, its craftsmanship, its know-how, its intimate connection with nature. Grand Seiko is not an isolated brand, but it is a rare brand, distinct, and it is necessary today that it has its own showcase.

 

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