Antonio Calce, CEO of Girard-Perregaux talks about the brand’s new offering, preference among men for below 42mm watches, the upswing of the Chinese market in a chat with Mitrajit Bhattacharya
What are the key priorities of the brand’s product strategy?
GP is one of the oldest brands in the watch industry and we had always, in the past, very iconic products in our collection but probably didn’t have a real product strategy. This year, we have taken the big step with our Laureato collection. For the first time, we have a real family around Laureato. Four sizes, lots of functions, skeleton, skeleton flying tourbillon, ceramic, black and white, chronograph, quartz movement, etc. I think for the first time we also have a real commercial product at GP. And I think we will capitalise on this in the long term because with Laureato we have a strong product and a strong identity. Our biggest launch this year for sure is the Laureato Chronograph in 42mm and 38mm. We complete the Laureato family with this offering.
Of course, not to forget our Haute Horlogerie collection! For the first time, we at GP have the most complicated watch ever made. With the Tri-axial minute repeater, the fine watchmaking positioning for GP makes a very important statement. Two years ago at the GPHG, we won two prizes for Haute Horlogerie ladies and one for men. We have a lot of credibility and legitimacy with our Haute Horlogerie positioning.
Is 38mm pretty much the new love for the luxury watch industry in the men’s category?
Yes, you are absolutely right. The days of big watches are over. We need thin watches and a size between 36mm to 42mm today. We do have to adapt the product offerings for some markets, like in Japan where they prefer size of upto 40mm.
Would you be focussing on the feminine models like the Cat’s Eye and others?
This year for the first time, we have the full collection of the Cat’s Eye at different price points. Cat’s Eye will always be unique, thanks to its design and a strong product offer for the ladies. This year again with Cat’s Eye we have gone ahead one step further, with a very nice jewellery collection.
You are pretty conscious about your distribution and how it should be. Where is GP’s distribution today and how do you see that correcting over the years?
We are a niche brand and need a very selective distribution. I will give you an example. Today, for Laureato, we work with only a few hundreds, less than 200 retailers.
The industry has posted a positive growth for 9-10 months now. Most of the big markets have done well, which include Hong Kong, China, Japan, US and most of Europe. How do you see the watch industry reacting to this buoyant market?
Since the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, the watch industry had seen a very difficult period. We all know China is booming now, really booming, and it’s a big help because when the market in China is growing, the impact is more widespread. This is why I am very confident for 2018. I think the positive trend will continue.
How do you see GP playing its role in this enhanced Chinese market? Are you a major player in China now which you were not traditionally?
We were not really a big player in China, but today we are really strong in Hong Kong. You need to be in China. We have just signed an agreement with big partners because it’s crucial for the brand to be present and visible in China. Then there is the travel business not only in Europe but in the US, in Australia, where you have a lot of Chinese tourists.
So you are saying Chinese tourists visiting Europe are buying a lot…
Of course! Some countries like Germany do have the local market. For Italy and France without the Chinese guests around, the business would be really dull.
How do you see yourself in India now, because you have had a couple of, I would say, misadventures in the past? Are you really serious about taking the market on?
I really believe in the potential of India, but India is not like China. The mentality is totally different, the culture is different too but the potential is there too, but of course, we are facing a lot of headwinds currently. It remains a priority market for us because if I were not convinced, I wouldn’t have touched India for now, I have enough work in the USA, in China, in Europe, in the Middle East. We will see in the future, what happens with India.
Can you describe a typical GP customer?
We have to touch the younger generation because the customers of GP more or less, are the matured ones. We have to be more modern, we need to refresh our product range and also to energize the brand image. We presently target those between 35 and 40 or until 50 years old depending on the kind of product. We need to enlarge our consumer base. We have 227 years of history but we have to capitalise on that legacy and to push the brand in the future. We work on our brand image and the product line. We are also working on design, size, finishing etc. The introduction of ceramic has given our products afresh and modern touch.