TimeZone Interview with Girard-Perregaux’s
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Conducted at the SIHH on April 3, 2006
MD: Stefano, can you describe your role at Girard-Perregaux and tell us what areas you oversee?
SM: That is the one billion-dollar question! (laughing) I have three main roles inside Girard-Perregaux. First, I’m involved in product design. Second, I am responsible for the global Girard-Perregaux corporate image including our retail concept. And third, I am in charge of the BMW-Oracle Racing partnership. From the relationship with the Challenge to the design of limited editions dedicated to our
MD: Do you work at a computer doing design yourself, or do you work over the shoulder of a designer and make suggestions?
SM: Personally, I prefer to draw sketches on paper. Then, we have a design department with people working on computers. Some people work more particularly on case design, others on dials designs. In a rather different way, movement design is not only a matter of mechanics. I work with all these people to oversee the progress and make sure every project is consistent.
MD: Is design one of your favorite aspects of the wristwatch business?
SM: I am very passionate about design. I’m passionate about cars, furniture, interior design. Actually I graduated in Architecture. I first wanted to be a car designer. I’m from
MD: Of the products that you have been involved with, in terms of the design, is there one that you’re especially proud of?
SM: It depends on my degree of involvement with a specific product design. I am proud of the Flying Tourbillon
MD: You mentioned that you are responsible for the BMW-Oracle Racing relationship. Do you enjoy sailing?
SM: Yes, very much, but I have never been involved in sailing competitions personally but in car racing competition. I was a rally driver. This is not that popular in the
MD: As a second generation member of the family business, do you bring a new or different perspective from that of your father?
SM: I believe I have to be consistent with what has made Girard-Perregaux what it is over decades. Since my father took over the brand he has invested tremendous energy in promoting the Manufacture spirit and in designing unique products. Then, he has taught me that you have to innovate. This is part of the brand DNA as well as part of our family values. We are entrepreneur. This leaves room to bringing fresh blood every day in the brand. If Girard-Perregaux tradition goes back as far as 1791, we have a modern vision of watchmaking.
MD: In your experience, do younger people, say under 25 years old, have an interest in haute horology and fine watchmaking?
SM: I believe that more and more young people are interested in fine watches. But that’s not usually the period in life when one can afford high complications. I do have many friends who are interested in watches. I went recently to a party in Gstaad, which is one of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world, and there were at least 50 teenagers wearing limited editions from AP, Girard-Perregaux, Vacheron. But that is a very unusual situation.
MD: Earlier you mentioned the importance of research and development. I know that Girard-Perregaux is involved with developing new materials for use in mechanical watch movements. Is there any news or new information in that area that you can share with us today?
SM: Well, we are working on it. We are involved in several projects linked to the application of innovating materials in the field of watchmaking but that’s a little too early and delicate to speak about now. We were precursors lately in the introduction of ceramic ball bearings and we have also introduced sapphire bridges for the tourbillon. This was perhaps not the first time worldwide, but for us it was interesting to present a new design.
MD: I heard someone in the hall say that perhaps something new is coming for 2008?
SM: Yes, we will present a new escapement in 2008 or maybe 09. I think it will be a real breakthrough. This escapement will be used for high-end watches. It is totally different from the Swiss lever escapement system. This will be totally different from traditional production and current watchmaking techniques.
MD: Do you collect watches?
SM: Yes. But as you can imagine I am in a strange situation. I think I have never bought a watch. A lot of the watches I have are presents exchanged with other brands. Apart from the GPs I have, there are several models from other brands I really like, but it is difficult for me to wear them, except in private situations.
MD: Among watches in your collection do you have any favorites?
SM: For several years, I have worn the Laureato Evo II Chrono called "Olympico." Currently I wear a Sea Hawk.
MD: If there is someone in our audience who has heard of Girard-Perregaux but who does not know very much about the company, what would you like to say to them about Girard-Perregaux?
SM: Girard-Perregaux is a one of the few true Swiss manufacture. Our movements are designed, developed and produced in-house. Our design approach is unique. We always focus on maintaining a proper balance between the design on the outside and the design on the inside. I believe that only passion and emotion can produce fine watches. Then one has to know about our long tradition, and about specific watches like the 3 gold bridges tourbillon. This is a true icon for the brand. It represents our tradition, skill and our savoir-faire as they say in French. Then we are today one of the few independent Haute Horlogerie watchmakers in
It is not easy today to explain this. The word Manufacture is used by every brand but it has for us a very specific meaning. A lot of people believe that most brands design movements and I think this is an issue we have to face as a true movement maker.
The Girard-Perregaux Manufacture
MD: Perhaps at this point you can show me the new models for 2006.
SM: Certainly. I think we have something interesting here… this is the new ww.tc Perpetual Calendar. It is quite unique as a mix of complications in the market. The only watch to propose world time and perpetual calendar indications. The shape of the case is at the same time classic and dynamic. A watch that is already a GP classic!
MD: I agree – it is very nice looking.
SM: The Vintage 1945 is one of GP’s most popular collections. This new model features a very classic complication, a triple calendar (indication of the day, date and month). This is also the first time we have designed a square case for the Vintage 1945 collection. Because there is a round indication for the date, we decided to have a double symmetry for the case.
MD: When will this be available in the stores?
SM: In October.
MD: How about the ww.tc Perpetual Calendar?
SM: The same date.
We are a partner for the Monte Carlo Historic Rally, and we have dedicated a special limited edition for the Rally. As I told you before, we are very involved with car competitions. The dial colors are inspired from the Italian flag because Alitalia, the Italian airline company, sponsored at that time a very special car, the Lancia Stratos It was a very extreme car, it looks like a star ship, from the 1970s. It was a winning car, and so we designed this watch as a tribute to this unique car and to is victory in the 1976 edition. This is a limited edition, 1000 pieces total.
Next, for the ladies, you know that a clear trend is ladies models with high-grade mechanical movements. We have always designed ladies watches, but what has changed lately is that the ladies are much more interested in a fine and sophisticated mechanism. We introduced the Cat’s Eye, and over 3 years we have doubled the percentage of ladies watches we produce. This one, called Cat’s Eye bi-retro, has a manufacture movement with retrograde seconds and day of the week indications. It has a black MOP dial. The Cat’s Eye was awarded the Grand Prix de Geneve for ladies watches, prizes in
Next, I think one of the most striking novelties for us for 2006 is the new Laureato Evo3. Alongside the well-established chronographs, we have designed this model featuring our patented large date, a moon phase and a power reserve. This is a new complication with several sophistications in its construction. We have also redesigned a thinner case and the bracelet as well.
MD: On the big date, are the disks on the same level?
SM:This is a Girard-Perregaux patent. It features 2 overlapping disks, and one is a transparent.
MD: And when will this be available at the retailers?
SM: Also in October.
This next piece is a classic Girard-Perregaux watch called Girard-Perregaux 1966. It is very simple and elegant. I think that for a watch with these aesthetics, the automatic system is very important. Normally with an extra flat watch manual winding is used, but we decided to make it an automatic because we believe this is a modern approach with a much more comfortable use.
It looks very simple but I can assure you that a lot of design thought went into it, to get the proportions just right.
MD: What is the diameter of the case?
SM: It is 38mm.
MD: Which metals is this available in?
White and pink gold, and we also have a version with diamonds set in the bezel.
Now maybe we can look at the new calibres completing our portfolio, and then perhaps spend some time to look the Haute Horlogerie Collection.
This one is 8 ¾ ligne or
The next one is 13 1/4 lignes which is exactly 30mm. This is the GP4500. It will be dedicated to large gentlemen‘s watches, complications and modules. The large size will allow subdials to be spread out. That is important to a large size movement. It also has a large barrel, which is important so it has enough power to drive complications.
Then we have the talking piece for GP at SIHH. This is the Laureato Evo3 sapphire bridge tourbillon...
Our idea was to keep perfect the classical three gold bridges tourbillon. We do not want to give in to fashion. Back in 1860, before he designed the classical and iconic 3 arrow-shaped gold bridges tourbillon, Constant Girard designed another tourbillon with 3 parallel nickel-plated bridges. It was a very modern design. So we decided to use this very same design for a modern watch, just to confirm the modernity of our 3 bridges tourbillon, and we have done it in sapphire. So, we have a very modern watch with modern production techniques, inspired by a 19th century timepiece. A really exciting product I believe.
MD: I agree – I like this piece very much. Will it be produced as a limited edition?
SM: It will not be limited.
MD: What is the metal?
SM: It is titanium with a platinum bezel. In the future, there might be special versions in gold or platinum, but for now the standard version, if you can call this a standard version (laughing) is titanium.
MD: How many do you think will be produced per year?
SM: A very small number. Crafting sapphire bridges is a complex and time consuming process. The matte finish of the plate is also really special. Only can the hands of the most talented watchmakers work on this type of finish. And it takes time…
MD: What will the pricing be?
SM: In Swiss Francs, it is 170,000.
Are you familiar with the automatic winding system for the 3 golden bridges?
MD: No, can you show me?
SM: We have patented a few years ago a system featuring a small rotor placed just below the barrel. We had to work on this technical solution, because we wanted to keep the geometry and the architectural elements of the 3 bridges Tourbillon very pure. So we designed this system, without the large rotor, and it looks right.
MD: It seems that this small rotor would not have sufficient mass
SM: That is why it is platinum.
Here is the Evo 3 Tourbillon on a strap. For a tourbillon it is incredibly light.
Here is the Sea Hawk
OK – I think I have shown you all the main novelties for SIHH. We are also working on some interesting projects for the future, but this will have to be presented later…
MD: How far out do you plan? Do you know what watches you will offer 3 years from now? 5 years? 7 years?
SM: It depends. In terms of the design, we are now planning watches for 2008. For the movements, we are thinking 2010, 2012.
MD: Stefano, thank you so much for spending this time with us.
SM: Thank you very much Mike. I enjoyed meeting you, and I would like to say hello to the TimeZone community!
For more information on the Evo 3 Tourbillon, please click here
© TimeZone.com 2006
Official images © Girard-Perregaux, used with permission