In the run-up to Dubai Watch Week, news that Albert Bensoussan, Chief Executive Officer of Kering’s Watches and Jewelry Division since 2014, was to leave with immediate effect took everyone by surprise. Speaking in Dubai, Patrick Pruniaux, Chief Executive Officer of Girard-Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin, the group’s two watch brands, declined to comment on what he described as “a change in hierarchical organisation, nothing more. What’s important is the continuity of the two brands.” Interview below.
Patrick Pruniaux: Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux are two fabulous Manufactures. Both come from the same valley and have vast heritage, history and expertise as common denominators. It’s then up to us to explain the individuality of each one, and why they can’t be summed up just by their iconic products, namely the Freak for Ulysse Nardin and the Three Bridges for Girard-Perregaux. We need to draw out their authenticity which means stepping up marketing. There’s a “secret” side to Ulysse Nardin, for example, that we still have to work on. Look at the Hourstriker Phantom, which we unveiled a few weeks ago. This watch has an incredibly powerful chime, is produced as a limited edition and was created in conjunction with Devialet, a French company and leader in high-fidelity sound, yet it went virtually unnoticed, despite all the development behind it.
I’m not a fan of the word “synergy”. Most of the time it implies job cuts or reductions in production capacity. Not for us. Each brand has its own excellent industrial capacity, hence independence. At most we might have this or that atelier at one brand work for the other, should the need arise. Also, the two brands are managed totally separately one from the other. I’m the only “schizophrenic”, sharing my time between the two.
We always look to work with strong partners who are prepared to invest in our brands, because we have a rather atypical business model for the industry. While we do have some of our own stores or franchises as a means to convey the brand message and identity in a few key locations, we want to work only with multi-brand retailers. I believe in this business model. At a time when distribution is undergoing major transformations and the industry itself is adopting new paradigms, the fact remains that, regardless of size, some brands are exciting and some aren’t. The exciting brands such as Ulysse Nardin definitely have a life in the boutique. As regards e-commerce, which currently doesn’t even account for 5% of watch sales in general, it’s something to consider but as part of a multi-channel strategy. An online presence is mainly about keeping a conversation going with the end customer, and not leaving the field wide open for illegitimate players.
Our three pillars do address different audiences but these audiences share the same values. The Marine represents the brand’s heritage and strong personality. The Diver positions us in the sports watch segment but has a distinctive “Manufacture” feel. As for the Freak, which already has 19 years of history to its name, and the Executive, they bring Ulysse Nardin into the contemporary world. I think we have succeeded in striking the right balance between the three and attaining good complementarity.