JEANRICHARD – It’s all in the case

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February 2014

Bruno Grande is proud of what he has achieved. Since JeanRichard came under the control of the Kering group (ex-PPR which includes Gucci and the Sowind Group, in other words Girard-Perregaux, its factory and the JeanRichard brand), whose horological guru is Michele Sofisti, he has, as COO of JeanRichard, overseen a radical overhaul of the brand, in a way bringing it back to its origins and the spirit of Daniel Jeanrichard.

Bruno Grande
Bruno Grande

But who was Daniel Jeanrichard? To be simple and direct, Daniel Jeanrichard, who was born in 1665 in La Sagne and died in 1741 in Le Locle (in the canton of Neuchâtel), is the man who laid the foundations for the “factory” that triggered the industrialisation of the Swiss watchmaking industry. He was the first to understand the logic of streamlining the organisation of all the different professions that were involved in the production of a watch. And by bringing them together in a single place he created the embryo of the first “manufacture”, this “meeting” in a single place of all the “hands” that work on the production of the object.
Many others added to these foundations, building up step-by-step the vast fabric of the Swiss watchmaking industry.

But going back to the origins of the brand also means going back to the idea behind the rebirth of the JeanRichard name, which was at the time under the control of Gino Macaluso and his sons: watches with unbeatable value for money and a strong heritage but aimed mainly at a younger, cultivated, urbane customer who appreciates design, architecture and mechanical art.
This positioning had been lost somewhat over the years and a progressive move up range had diluted the brand’s image. As Michele Sofisti explained to Europa Star last year, when the brand was relaunched at BaselWorld: “The price positioning was quite high, at 7,000 to 10,000 Swiss francs for a manufacture watch. It was difficult to achieve volume and build for the long term.”

With the arrival of Michele Sofisti and Bruno Grande, this entire strategy was revised in order to focus on a customer base that Bruno Grande considers “quite educated, looking for a high-quality Swiss watch with a striking design at the right price.”
“We do not claim to have revolutionised watchmaking,” he quickly adds. “But the product that we have designed is innovative, mainly because of the way the case is designed, since it has a strong identity and is easily recognisable, highly contemporary and offers unbeatable value for money.”

Working with the renowned watch designer Mijat (who was responsible for Hublot’s Big Bang), JeanRichard developed a “basic chassis” that is identical for the four different product lines in the collection. This “chassis”, or the case to be more precise, consists of a container that holds the movement, a central case middle, two lateral inserts and a screw-in case back.

JEANRICHARD – It's all in the case

It is a complex case that requires around 70 operations from stamping up to its final assembly, but it offers infinite possibilities for combining different materials, decoration, finishes and polishing. The result is a product with an astonishing versatility. Depending on the combination of materials and treatments used, the watch can be anything from very muscular and sporty to formal and elegant. Its shape, a harmonious mixture of a slightly convex cushion shape and a round bezel, gives it a noticeable identity.

These different facets of the same case are seen across four collections: Terrascope, which is robust and sporty; Aquascope, which as its name indicates is dedicated to the marine environment; Aeroscope, with a technical look and the 1681, which is urbane, elegant, classic and equipped with a manufacture movement. The minor “miracle” is that even with this DNA common to all the JeanRichard watches, each product has its own strong character but, when the watches are put side by side there is a clear coherence to the brand’s image. “This coherence was also one of our main objectives,” explains Bruno Grande, “because it allows us to increase our notoriety, to improve the visibility of the brand and increase global awareness of the brand but at the same time allows us to position very precisely and very subtly each of the 50 references that we find across the four lines. Beyond this key aspect, this fully modular base also offers us a high degree of industrial flexibility. Thanks to this flexibility we can constantly adjust our range to the specific demands of the market but still keep prices under control.”

Right: Terrascope bi-colour with black dial - Left: Terrascope with black DLC case - Bottom: 1681 with black DLC case - by JeanRichard
Right: Terrascope bi-colour with black dial - Left: Terrascope with black DLC case - Bottom: 1681 with black DLC case - by JeanRichard

With a steel case illuminated by case sides in pink gold and a black dial, the new Terrascope bi-colour re-interprets the night in a sportive yet elegant spirit. The sophisticated construction of the case in multiple parts alternates “vertical satin” surfaces with polished bevels to play with light. The matt black case-back makes the clean geometry of the dial stand out with its applied numerals and big hands covered with pink gold and a luminescent coating. The black alligator strap, with folding clasp, completes the harmony. The mechanical movement with automatic winding ensures that the night-time and day-time hours are told with unerring accuracy.

The Terrascope – JeanRichard’s flagship model – shares the most beautiful night-time hours for everyday explorers who wish to savour every moment of the day in a new edition finished with a sleek black DLC coating. The alternating “vertical satin” finish on the flat surfaces and sandblasted finish on the bevels subtly underline the watch’s original design, with its robust construction in several parts and its combination of a cushion case with a round glass. The indexes and hands are clearly distinguishable on a matt black dial, with cut-outs that make them stand out and a white luminescent coating. The sporty touch is completed by a black rubber strap with a folding clasp. The mechanical movement with automatic winding ensures accuracy and reliability twenty-four hours a day.

A homage to the very first watch created by Daniel Jeanrichard at the end of the 17th century, the 1681 reinvents tradition in a new, highly original colour of the night and a dynamic, refined and urban look. The steel cushion case is decorated with a black DLC coating with a matt, powder-coat surface. Its entirely micro beaded finish adds strength to the modern but discreet style. Only essential references, the leaf-shaped hour and minute hands and the date, stand out against the black dial, thanks to a luminescent beige coating. Within this case beats a JR1000 automatic winding movement, made in-house, with a black rotor which has an exclusive décor visible through the transparent case-back.

From an industrial point of view, this modular case system allows a very high degree of finishing on the watch for the lowest cost. Specifically, the different components can, for example, “easily” be polished in different ways, in order to create sophisticated interplays between light and different materials, which would be impossible if the same shape had been created from a single piece.
This approach to production also allows JeanRichard to offer watches with a price that seems to be below the level of the quality offered, in terms of both the case and the dials, which have a meticulous finish, or the remarkable comfort of the watch on the wrist, which is nevertheless 44mm in diameter but which, thanks to its small lugs, easily fits even the smallest wrists (all the straps in the collection are interchangeable!).

Thanks to this streamlining, the core collection falls in a price range between 2,500 and 4,000 Swiss francs. As just one example, an Aeroscope chronograph model with a Dubois-Dépraz movement, in polished grade 5 titanium, is offered at 4,200 francs! A steal at this level of quality and functionality.

New Aquascope timepiece by JeanRichard, to celebrate 150 years of Swiss-Japanese diplomatic relations
New Aquascope timepiece by JeanRichard, to celebrate 150 years of Swiss-Japanese diplomatic relations
This new timepiece was conceived to celebrate the 150 years of Swiss-Japanese relations in 2014. Its special dial design is derived from a well-known Japanese woodblock print by renowned artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849). “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” is amongst his best known works from “The Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji”. Polished and vertically satin-finished stainless steel 44.00 mm case. Circular satin-finished stainless steel unidirectional rotating bezel. Antireflective sapphire crystal. Case-back, screwed-down, engraved. Screwed-down crown. Water-resistant to 300 m. Movement JR60, self-winding. Frequency: 28,800 vibrations/hour (4 Hz). Power reserve: minimum 38 hours. White, grey, blue or black “Hokusai” style engraved dial. Applied rhodium-coated indexes and hands with luminescent material. Blue or black rubber strap or stainless steel bracelet. Stainless steel folding or butterfly buckle.

“The support of the Kering group has been instrumental in this reflection and this development,” Bruno Grande stresses. “All the different aspects of a brand have been reworked entirely, above and beyond the products themselves. The brand’s territory has been redefined, its communication has been completely rethought, as has its physical presence at the retailer, its corners, its presentation material, its boxes. For each line, an ambassador has been named, ‘Sailor of the Year 2012’, Franck Cammas for the Aquascope; Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger, famous as the man who landed his Airbus A320 on the river Hudson in 2009, for the Aeroscope collection, and the famous wildlife photographer Nick Brandt for the Terrascope collection. Recently an agreement was signed with the English Premier League football club Arsenal.”

“208 Seconds” Aeroscope by JeanRichard
“208 Seconds” Aeroscope by JeanRichard
208 seconds made Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger a hero, when on January 15, 2009, he “landed” his Airbus A320 on the Hudson river, saving 155 people. “In situations such as those on January 15, 2009, one can only rely upon your training, preparedness and the knowledge that you are serving a cause greater than yourself,” said Captain Sullenberger. “The “208 Seconds” Aeroscope I was able to design with JeanRichard also symbolizes the values of personal responsibility and I am grateful for their support of my philanthropic work.” Available on a black Barenia® calfskin strap, the JeanRichard “208 Seconds” Aeroscope, with its polished and vertically satin-finished titanium cushion-shaped case, is a re-interpretation of the old aviators’ watches. The 208 seconds are represented by a subtle marked white and red timeline on the timepiece’s black dial. Movement JR66, self-winding. Limited and numbered edition: 208 pieces.

Kering also played an essential role as a facilitator in the commercial redeployment that is under way at the brand. In one year, 150 points of sale have been opened, mainly in the USA – “a market that is developing very well,” says Bruno Grande – the UK and Mexico, with 25 points of sale, or Hong Kong, with 14 points of sale. “We can feel that the radical changes have considerably increased the brand’s potential,” adds Bruno Grande. “But we need to continue and strengthen these efforts, to make ourselves known and understood by retailers. JeanRichard is no longer the ‘little sister of Girard-Perregaux’. It is now an autonomous brand.” This autonomy is nevertheless based on a pooling of certain resources at Sowind, which comprises both brands, such as general services, human resources, information technology, accounting and production. The Sowind factory thus deals with the assembly, quality control and production of some of the cases, but for the remaining components (dials, hands and cases), JeanRichard works with various suppliers from the Jura region.
JeanRichard also developed its own in-house movement with the Sowind factory in 2004, the JR 1000 calibre. Having proven its reliability, this three-hand movement with date and small seconds is used exclusively in the classic 1681 collection. Because the price of a manufacture movement is necessarily higher, it is reserved for the more expensive pieces, which are nevertheless reasonably priced, like the 1681 watch in rose gold for 18,400 Swiss francs.

BaselWorld, this year, will bring further surprises that show off the exceptional “transformism” of the JeanRichard case. We saw a sneak peek of an astonishing watch that looks like it has been cast in bronze, as well as some other unusual materials, but we are also promised a “phenomenal talking piece”. Discover it at the show (or in one of our future issues).

Source: Europa Star February - March 2014 Magazine Issue