Every year is important for a brand, and this is a particularly hard task for watch brands, considering that a new watch has the same complexity as a new car. When it has a new movement – analogous to a car’s engine – they have to start thinking about it about three years in advance. So for Girard-Perregaux, celebrating its 225th anniversary this year, the extraordinary range of new products that it presented at Baselworld in March 2016 represents the result of a massive commitment. We spoke to Antonio Calce (in the photo below), appointed as CEO of Girard-Perregaux in January 2015, about some of this year’s highlights.
It seemed logical to start from the Laureato, a true icon of watch design with its octagonal bezel and clou de Paris dial. This year it has been issued in two limited editions in steel, one for each dial colour, 225 pieces each. Could there be a chance of a future unlimited edition?
Antonio Calce: “The Laureato was introduced in 1975, it is part of Girard-Perregaux’s history, and it is a perfect example of the brand’s rich heritage, offering a wealth of possible reinterpretations. Like any iconic product, the Laureato has all that it takes for a glittering future.”
One of the most extraordinary watches released this year is the Place Girardet, an intriguing design with the balance in full view at 6 o’clock along with the brand’s trademark golden bridge. 225 pieces will be made, and each has an event, associated with the respective year, mentioned on the dial. What’s more, the watches will differ in other details as well, such as dial colour and pattern, minutes scale, hour numerals and markers. Perhaps it reflects the current trend towards unique products?
Antonio Calce: “What customers like about the Place Girardet watch is the idea of owning a piece linked to history, and its exclusive characteristics. Exclusive products are part of our brand’s mission. Every watch in this series is dedicated to a year from 1791, when our Maison was founded, up until 2016. A fitting tribute to our 225 years of history.”
Place Girardet’s GP1800 movement was developed very quickly, in ten months, sharing just 20% of the components of the GP01800 calibre. How important is the capability to build movements in-house?
Antonio Calce: “I think that it is fundamental to have our own movements. It is one of the brand’s distinctive characteristics. An haute horlogerie maison with a reputation such as ours has to build its own movements, in the same way as a high fashion brand makes its own textiles.”
The same sort of technology is used for developing totally new watch concepts, such as the Girard-Perregaux Constant Escapement L.M. presented in 2013, with an escapement based on the oscillation of a silicon blade just 14 microns thick, six times thinner than a human hair. In today’s climate, is this sort of investment into research still viable?
Antonio Calce: “The R&D department has always played a key role at Girard-Perregaux, where the product is always at the centre of our strategy. Over the course of our history, we have registered over 80 patents.“
Today’s world is very different with respect to even just ten years ago, let alone two centuries, and Girard-Perregaux is embracing the new challenges.
Antonio Calce: “Girard-Perregaux was one of the first watch brands to understand the importance of the internet and new media. We are currently renewing the website, and I will ensure that our presence in social media is enhanced. Direct contact with Girard-Perregaux enthusiasts online is very important for us.” New marketing techniques are becoming increasingly important today, with the industry having to come to terms with a very difficult moment in terms of global economics. “It’s true, we are working in a problematic climate, but it offers new horizons. Girard-Perregaux is capitalizing on its positioning as a prestige, historic brand, and it is developing its own solutions to the situation, such as a new range of products in a very interesting price range. For example, the 1966 is now available in steel, with a range of functions and sizes, at more aggressive prices. It was important to develop the collection in this direction.”
At the same time, the Girard-Perregaux range has become more logically-structured.
Antonio Calce: “It was essential to give our range a more comprehensible organisation, particularly in the range from 5,000 to 10,000 Swiss francs. This was made possible by our very high level of integration, with complete control over all areas of production, giving us the flexibility that is necessary to develop our collections in these new directions.” The same sort of restructuring has also been performed on the retail network. “Our intention is to attain a closely-targeted distribution network, rather than aiming at more and more points of sale. The exclusive nature of our distribution helps us increase customer fidelity.”
Girard-Perregaux’s collection is now a fascinating journey of exploration: the vintage-inspired 1966 family; the Trois Ponts series with its classic tourbillons; Cat’s Eye, enduringly successful women’s watches; and the exciting new Competizione collection. Find out more at http://www.girard-perregaux.com/