Perhaps it was written in the stars. In any case, two of the founding fathers of modern watchmaking share the name “Abraham-Louis”: Breguet and Perrelet. Two centuries after the deaths of these illustrious watchmakers, their names continue to grace watch dials. But let’s not dwell on the well-known fate of Breguet within the Swatch Group; today, we’re interested in Perrelet’s story, as the brand is rumored to be taking a new direction. In any case, Tristan Boyer de Bouillane, who has been at the helm of the brand since December, says that he has the necessary resources to deploy a clear strategy that he intends to implement over the long term. The general manager isn’t new to the industry; he has been working in watchmaking for around twenty years, during which he moved successively from Charriol to Roth and Genta, and then to Breitling before being entrusted with this task by Gérald Roden, General Manager of the Swiss Festina Group.
Before going into battle, you must first develop a plan of attack by analyzing not only the strengths and weaknesses of your adversaries, but also your own. What are they in Perrelet’s case? Among the Maison’s strengths, Tristan Boyer de Bouillane mentions its industrial equipment and, of course, the brand’s ability to produce its own movements. “In this respect, we are already independent. In 2015, all the watches we sell on the market will be equipped with in-house calibers. To do this, we rely on Soprod for basic movements and on MHVJ (editor’s note: Manufacture Horlogère Vallée de Joux) for exceptional pieces. We have absolutely everything we need to work well,” he explains.
Reviving the double rotor
As Perrelet intends to develop its middle range situated between 2,500 to 8,000 Swiss francs, the brand will be working mainly with Soprod. With this in mind, is the brand considering introducing quartz movements into its collections? “Not for the time being. But why not in the future?” asks the CEO. “If need be, so-called ‘intelligent’ movements could really be of interest to us.” In other words, smart watches? “Yes, if you like. The Group is quite advanced in this area and, personally, I believe in the concept. In any case, I believe in original smart watches that aren’t dependent on smartphones,” he explains.
For Perrelet’s new general manager, the brand’s other strength is its products. However, its ranges must be clarified, diversified and showcased differently, as it is currently difficult to navigate among its various models. For instance, it is not always easy to distinguish between watches equipped with a double rotor movement and its famous Turbines. Remember that while the latter’s turning helix is spectacular, it is not functional. “The developments I’m mentioning won’t be visible this year. And for good reason—I’ve only been managing Perrelet for three months,” continues Tristan Boyer de Bouillane. “Things will become a lot clearer in 2016, when the collections are better segmented. We are going to restore the double rotor to its former glory. In addition, we have a whole series of small yet extremely interesting complications up our sleeves, which have been put aside over the years for some unknown reason. We are going to revive them.”
A lot of work remains to be done and perhaps the most important task, which will require significant time and investment from the brand, is the reorganization and development of its distribution channels. “Truth be told, there’s a lot to do in that respect. Uncertainty has reigned for several years, and all the markets have basically been doing as they wished. In short, we haven’t supported our partners enough, coached our retailers sufficiently or trained our after-sales service managers adequately. I’m going to take advantage of Baselworld to reassure all the partners in question. We’re back with a clear doctrine,” assures Tristan Boyer de Bouillane.
Ultimately, the head of Perrelet—a brand that is currently selling some 10,000 watches per year—claims to be confident, despite the economic climate and the strengthened Swiss franc. “We are one of those brands that have a certain charm. We are capable of offering original, distinctive products that are perfectly suited to a more mainstream clientele made up of people who already own an Omega or a Rolex. There’s enough room for everyone in watchmaking,” he concludes.