Girard-Perregaux Interview with Michele Sofisti
The CEO of Girard-Perregaux evokes the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève, the brand investment and the sponsorship.
What did the “Aiguille d’Or” award at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix bring to GP?
A lot of recognition and visibility. This award indicates great recognition for the technological advance that Girard-Perregaux’s constant escapement* represents, as well as for the work done to reposition the brand over the past two and a half years, along with the investment made in achieving optimal integration of our Manufacture. Being in the spotlight came at the best possible moment for the brand, because we were busy changing a large part of our distribution network. The resulting visibility promises to have a very positive effect on our business partners all over the world, who talk a lot about it with our teams and with those around them. This is really about the Oscars of watchmaking and it was no accident that we won it.
Can your investment in R&D already be measured in terms of sales returns?
Above all, we are very proud to have been able to design, produce and sell the first timepieces equipped with the constant escapement. As there is not yet any literature or reference on this subject, we are in virgin territory and we have both the responsibility and the honor of writing this new chapter in watchmaking. But we are only at the start of the process of testing the reliability of the mechanism for more wide-scale production, which will take time. We also want to develop it further and are going to start by adding a complication, while in the long term targeting a reduction in the dimension of the system which today is housed in a 48mm case. We are therefore not yet at a point at which the constant escapement will equip all our collections!
GP is counting on Fine Watchmaking for its image, but how is the sales volume generated?
Fine Watchmaking is important not just when it comes to image, but also in terms of turnover because it constitutes 30% of sales! We have made a big effort in this regard by integrating all the skills required to produce Grande Complication in-house, which has made it possible for us to present half a dozen innovations for men and women in less than three years, including the Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges and the Tourbillon Tri-Axial. Not many Manufactures can claim results like these in such a short time. As regards the volume, our bestseller remains the 1966 line, of which four models were ranked in the top ten of sales across the board. It is successful in America as well as Asia and Europe. The Vintage collection follows directly behind but our other sports, lifestyle and feminine collections are also doing well.
"We have just completed a 30-month 'building' project"
Will ladies’ watches be your next important project?
First things first, because we have just completed 30 months of work on products and complications and are still working on distribution. Half the network has been renewed and we are now working with new distributors in Germany, England, China, Mexico and South East Asia with the Hour Glass. In the end, there will undoubtedly be around 600 and ensuring that we keep our 450 retailers better informed is still a priority because most have no knowledge of the route taken by Girard-Perregaux and the current situation. It is doubly important to explain to them what the brand represents today, because they are also the suppliers when it comes to the end clients. We haven’t forgotten women given that the flagship Cat’s Eye collection saw the number of its references expand at Baselworld, and we are also offering them a 1966 Ladies and a Vintage with a Manufacture-made movement that is one of the smallest on the market. Their segment constitutes more than a quarter of our turnover.
Sponsoring no longer appears to be part of your communication strategy?
Effectively, we have dropped sponsoring for the moment because we needed to define our commercial strategy first and focus the message on our vocation as a Manufacture. Girard-Perregaux is an old company with young teams that we have tried to promote. Our watchmakers are the face of the brand and we have taken them all over the planet and devoted a book to their talent. This is both an internal and external message. In addition, we have partnered with interesting personalities or projects enabling us to drive our values and ideas. What we call our “iconic partnerships” thus concern the protection of the oceans with the Rockefeller family, or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles that we are helping to build a museum and which places 12 million movie shots at our disposal. We are finding a lot of material and we are organizing events around these themes, such as at the Shanghai film festival in June.
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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