Girard-Perregaux Baselworld 2014: Michele Sofisti juggling with three brands
Piloting the turnaround of Girard-Perregaux is just one of the many challenges taken on by Michele Sofisti, who also oversees the JeanRichard and Gucci brands in the Kering group’s watchmaking portfolio.
This is only the second year at Baselworld for Girard-Perregaux. How has it been?
It has been a very important fair for us because we had to prove the viability of the Constant Escapement model that we presented last year. In a certain sense we were the surprise of the show last year and this model has since gone on to win numerous international awards, including of course the Aiguille d’Or at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix. The challenge was to make this kind of “deep” innovation but also to do it quickly. So we are launching a tri-axial tourbillon this year, which is very impressive in its execution and the technical challenge it represents. Another project that we started a few years ago was to make a more modern Three Bridges model. This has been an icon of the brand for nearly two hundred years and we felt that we had to do something more modern and more captivating in terms of design.
How long did it take to develop the Tri-Axial Tourbillon?
It was more or less one and a half years, so very rapid. But to be completely transparent we did benefit from the experience of an external watchmaker who worked together with our engineers.
Was the Neo-Tourbillon an initiative from the brand or a response to customer demand?
We felt that after so many years with the classical tourbillon with gold bridges, we needed some new variation that represented a technical challenge. We have achieved this with the use of titanium and a brushed finish, as well as changes to the case, making it thicker at 12 o’clock and thinner at 6 o’clock to allow the light to highlight the construction. Furthermore, we have managed to make it 45,000 Swiss francs cheaper than our other tourbillon models.
You have two very distinctive promotional activities, with the Young Watchmakers project and a partnership with the Motion Picture Archive. As an amateur photographer yourself, what is your vision for this partnership?
The Academy cooperation is something that is very important for us because it is the very first time that they have a partner. It also gives us the opportunity to delve into an archive of 12 million photos covering the film industry since its beginnings. This has allowed us to use famous photos for our advertising campaign, such as the one with Alfred Hitchcock last year.
What feedback have you got from your partners and customers on the Young Watchmakers project?
Lots of people are asking us to bring the project to their country, so we have to be very careful in planning the schedule, otherwise we will not have any watchmakers left to assemble the watches! It has been a great success and I’m very happy about this for many reasons. Firstly, because I wanted transparency in the company. Secondly, it’s a great motivation for the watchmakers and their colleagues because they see that we believe in our own people and we put the focus on them. Thirdly, because by taking them around the world and showing people how a watch is put together we are also acting in the service of the industry in general.
You are in a quite unique position with the brands that you oversee, since it gives you an overview of different price segments. Is the outlook the same for all three of the brands that you are in charge of?
I think the statistics speak for themselves. At the super high-end things stay more or less the same. There is, however, a major battle in the middle segment, from around 1,500 to 4,000 Swiss francs, where the only chance you have is to be very authentic, very different and to tell a story.
Ever since 1791, Girard-Perregaux has been pursuing its course in the best tradition of Fine Watchmaking. The Maison’s history has been characterised by legendary timepieces that combine cutting-edge design with innovative technology.Find out more
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