uring the last Baselworld exhibition, the bold new Grip collection was the focus of attention at a dedicated Gucci booth in the centre of Hall 1.0. Designed by creative director Alessandro Michele, this unisex watch, available in multiple 35 mm and 38 mm variants, leaves no one indifferent.
Its dial may remind us of a counter, a scale, a ruler or any other interpretation that comes to mind. The watch is intriguing. Gucci continues its exploration of a certain vision of watches, a journey initiated in 1972 – read more about it in our retrospective on Severin Wunderman, the man who persuaded Aldo Gucci to launch the brand’s designer watches.
Piero Braga is in charge of Gucci’s watch division, but also of distribution of the Italian company’s entire production in multi-brand points of sale and the travel retail sector. We met him.
What inspired the new Grip collection?
The inspiration clearly comes from the late 1970s, especially from the world of skateboarding. It is accompanied by a visual campaign symbolising an electoral victory, the rise of freedom of expression and new rights for minorities. This campaign dedicated exclusively to watchmaking highlights this year’s three main new collections at Gucci.
What is the place of watchmaking today at Gucci? The brand has evolved a lot on the fashion side in recent years, under the influence of Alessandro Michele.
The watch collections have undergone rapid changes over the past three years to align them with the rest of Gucci’s creations. In 2019, beyond the new Grip, we are focusing on the bestsellers G-Timeless and Dive, and eliminating references. We want to create fewer, but more identifiable pillars.
“The watch collections have undergone rapid changes over the past three years to align them with the rest of Gucci’s creations.”
The fashion watch segment is undergoing very significant changes, and today it seems to be somewhat “stuck” between the success of the Apple Watch at the bottom and the luxury mechanical watch at the top...
As far as Gucci is concerned, I believe that our creations do not compete directly with other brands, because we are targeting an audience that is a little different from the traditional customers in the industry. This sometimes gives our multi-brand partners a hard time when they see our colourful displays... We have two assets in watchmaking. On the one hand, we have been in the industry for almost 50 years. On the other hand, we have a particular point of view on the watch, which is reflected in our creations.
What is your distribution strategy?
We want to work better with fewer partners, on higher-end products, while also increasing our presence, visibility and impact in Gucci stores. We have reduced our distribution over the past three years, but we still have a significant number of high quality points of sale.
“Gucci.com has been our largest storefront worldwide for a long time.”
Where are your main markets today?
The markets are fairly well balanced. The United States, China, the United Kingdom, South Korea and the travel retail segment perform very well. The presence of Gucci stores also allows us to access a new generation of customers. Another strategic point is finding the right balance between the virtual and the physical worlds. Gucci.com has been our largest storefront worldwide for a long time. We also work with e-commerce partners such as Net-A-Porter and Farfetch.
What is your vision of e-commerce?
In my opinion, the industry should gather around serious e-commerce platforms such as Net-A-Porter and Farfetch, to prevent the parallel market. A convergence between the watch brands and these platforms could meet the expectations of both parties. It would strengthen the status of watchmaking among other luxury categories that are already very successful online. We are ready to participate in this move, but first the traditional brands have to get started.
“The industry should gather around serious e-commerce platforms such as Net-A-Porter and Farfetch, to prevent the parallel market.”
Are you also present on the major Chinese e-commerce platforms?
No. This segment is evolving rapidly, with the alliance between JD.com and Farfetch on the one hand, and Alibaba and Net-A-Porter on the other. There is still a lot of uncertainty, so we are waiting to see how the situation will evolve. JD.com and Alibaba are two e-commerce giants but there are still many parallel actors and counterfeits on these platforms. They try to separate luxury on different platforms but the traffic is disappointing. The right balance between quality and traffic remains to be found. For the moment, we have made the choice to grow in China through our own platform.