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Girard-Perregaux, changes for the better

Girard-Perregaux, changes for the better

Thursday, 02 May 2013
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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4 min read

Taken over by Kering (ex-PPR) a year and a half ago, Sowind Group, which owns Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard, has sharpened the focus of its collections and honed production. Michele Sofisti, Chief Executive of Sowind, discusses the new strategy.

There was more than usual riding on this year’s Baselworld for Girard-Perregaux. This latest edition of the World Watch and Jewellery Show is where the brand can “finally” exhibit the first results of developments under way since Sowind Group, which owns the brand and JeanRichard, was acquired by Kering (ex-PPR). And this first taste was particularly sweet, with the unveiling of the Constant Escapement, a major innovation stabilised after years of development that centres on the physical phenomenon of buckling. The brand has put its invention to work in a timepiece of the same name.”

Even before the Show, we had lifted the veil on this new escapement which combines traditional watchmaking with the very latest technology, in particular silicon without which such a project could never have seen daylight,” comments Michele Sofisti, CEO Sowind Group and, incidentally, CEO Gucci Group Watches and Jewelry. “The feedback has been extremely positive so far. I’m delighted, given that a good proportion of the investments made these past months went into research and development to bring this to fruition. At the same time, we are working with Dominique Loiseau on a new calibre that will accommodate grandes complications and which we can introduce across several of our collections.”

The need for clarity

Which brings us to the new challenge facing Girard-Perregaux, namely a clear segmentation of its collections which in the past were dogged by a lack of coherence, meaning they regularly missed their target. Michele Sofisti has focused his efforts on precisely this point. “It has to be clear for the customer, hence why our strategy revolves around simplicity. We have cut the number of references from 700 to 100 so that our offer is immediately clear to a customer browsing a window. At the top of the pyramid we have the Constant Escapement and Tourbillon with three gold bridges, truly a symbol of the brand and now with a range especially for women. They are followed by our traditional collections, that is Vintage 1945, 1966 and Cat’s Eye, now joined by the Hawk collection which includes a diver’s watch and by the Traveller collection.”

1966 column-wheel chronograph © Girard-Perregaux

This streamlining has inevitably spilled over into manufacturing. “The fact of always wanting to make more products means that sooner or later production can’t keep pace, which is detrimental to quality and efficiency,” Michele Sofisti continues. “By reorganising flow and focusing on the new product segmentation, we have boosted manufacturing capacity by 40%, the objective being greater reliability. These have been our two priorities over the past sixteen months: restore a certain aura to our watches in retailer displays and take command of the production process.”

Into the future

There is still work to be done, beginning with distribution. The brand has reviewed its image and has yet to determine which distributors are in a position to convey its values. Another long-term project, it will go hand-in-hand with efforts the brand is making in communication. These have produced new initiatives that reflect the Girard-Perregaux image, such as partnerships with Susan Rockefeller for ocean preservation, or with the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. This second collaboration is the basis for the new advertising campaign which features cinema icons such as Alfred Hitchcock. Then there is The New Face of Tradition, which trains the spotlight on the brand’s young watchmakers around the globe. Says Michele Sofisti, “transparency and authenticity are the words we wish to associate most closely with Girard-Perregaux, and we want to convey this message in all that we undertake.”

The late Luigi Macaluso never lost faith in Girard-Perregaux, a reference in traditional watchmaking. He worked tirelessly to establish the fine watch company across all five continents. His friendship with the Pinault family, at the head of Kering, gave a new lease on life to what perhaps began as a dream and could end in reality. The final word goes to Michele Sofisti: “the stability and financial security which a group such as Kering provides are already being felt across the chain. Now everyone understands that Girard-Perregaux is here to stay!”

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