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Antonio Calce: “Reconnect Girard-Perregaux with its...

Antonio Calce: “Reconnect Girard-Perregaux with its heritage”

Tuesday, 26 September 2017
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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5 min read

After its 225th anniversary in 2016 and the Laureato’s big comeback this year, Girard-Perregaux is the brand to watch. Chief Executive Antonio Calce talks strategy.

Last year, all eyes were on the brand for its 225th anniversary. This year Girard-Perregaux returned to Geneva and Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, but not only. It also proved it is forever young with a full-scale reissue of the Laureato, an icon of the 1970s reinstated a year before. In an interview to WatchTime, Antonio Calce, CEO of the Sowind Group, goes into more detail. “We started to redefine the strategy of the brand three years ago. To me, what is important is a commitment to reconnect the brand with its heritage. We have more than 225 years of history, and my goal is to take good care of that heritage. Since 2015, we’ve taken significant steps to redefine the product strategy and, fortunately, this company has some very iconic products; we are not a mono-product brand. We have the 1966, the 1945, the Laureato… and we also produce every year a few hundred pieces at the real high horology level. It’s really two different business models. At one point, it was difficult to understand, “Who is Girard-Perregaux?” Now, the product strategy is very clear, with five pillars. We have the Heritage pillar; the Classic pillar, with the 1966 and the 1945; the Three Bridges pillar, also with Complications based on the Three Bridges; the Cat’s Eye pillar for the ladies, and finally, the Laureato pillar.”

Girard-Perregaux Cat's Eye Celestial
Girard-Perregaux Cat's Eye Celestial
The Three Bridges family

The next step was to build on these pillars and gain in substance. “In the past, the only model we had at the high horology level was a Three Bridges tourbillon. Today we’ve redefined the Three Bridges product strategy, with the goal of creating a real product family around this signature piece, in three different price segments, and with three different functions. The Neo-Bridges is the first one, and it’s meant to be classic and contemporary. Its case is always in titanium or in gold. The titanium Neo-Bridges debuted in 2017, and in 2018 we will have it in gold. We’ll also have a new, basic complication based on the Three Bridges collection. In 2019, we’ll have a “middle” complication. The reasoning is that even if you have one of the most iconic products, you can’t really capitalize on it if you’re only producing tourbillon pieces.”

Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon
Girard-Perregaux La Esmeralda Tourbillon

Antonio Calce goes on to explain how the collection grew around the Three Bridges concept, and what this overarching aesthetic might be. “Sometimes there will be three, sometimes two, sometimes only one bridge. We are already more or less ready with the middle-range model in this collection, and it will have only one bridge. It’s a very nice complication, one based on the Three Bridges signature, but we didn’t have enough space to include three or even two bridges. We’ll play with different numbers of bridges. The goal is to always have the same signature, the same code. What’s the code, what’s the DNA of the Bridges collection? It’s the symmetrical architecture, with the micro-rotor here and the barrel there, and the bridges always functional – one for the balance wheel and one for the barrel and the support.”

Girard-Perregaux Three Bridges tourbillon
Spotlight on the Laureato

Even so, the focus of attention for the past year has clearly been the Laureato. “We had, in our history, an iconic product called the Laureato and we had never focused on the development of this product, which has always had a strong personality, a strong identity. Between 1970 and 1975, the Golden Age of the luxury sports watch, it was one of three iconic products, with the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus. In 2017 we have finally built a real family around it. The design of the new Laureato collection evokes the original model from the 1970s, considered a classic among luxury sports watches. We are only at the beginning of the development of the Laureato, and it’s a little bit early for me to talk about strategy, but I can tell you that the goal is to create different levels in Laureato, not just to play with different dial colours and straps. In 2018, the brand strategy will be focused mainly on the Laureato and the high horology pieces. The Laureato strategy specifically will concentrate on establishing three different levels — core collection, middle range collection, and high-end complications, all based on the Laureato design. We are hoping to both enrich the collection and to create a lot of value.”

Girard-Perregaux Laureato 34 mm
Girard-Perregaux Laureato 34 mm

Given the focus on Girard-Perregaux, where does this leave JeanRichard? “The Sowind Group is actually made up of four entities: the Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard brands, the Girard-Perregaux museum, and the factory that produces both brands. JeanRichard would never be put on hold, but today, it is not possible to focus on two brands, and attempting to do so would be a mistake because of their totally different positioning. We will take care of JeanRichard in the near future, but for now we have to refocus on the big sister in the group. Girard-Perregaux has amazing potential, and we achieved incredible goals in 2016 and 2015. Let’s now take the next few steps and then revisit JeanRichard.”

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