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Patrick Pruniaux arrives at Girard-Perregaux

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September 2018

Patrick Pruniaux arrives at Girard-Perregaux

The former Apple senior manager is now the new strong man in Kering’s traditional watchmaking business. The dynamic CEO of Ulysse Nardin is now also taking over the reins of Girard-Perregaux, following the departure of Antonio Calce. What are his ambitions for these two historic brands?

At Ulysse Nardin, he has already injected a spirit of renewal and dynamism. And he’s also clearly got the memo that 21st century bosses must be both approachable and uncompromising, scrutinised as they are by both social and professional networks. At our first meeting, we suspected we were dealing with a rising star of the watch industry (see here our extensive interview, conducted earlier this year at the Arcade Europa Star). He appears to be proving us right.

This seasoned sportsman is preparing to conquer a new summit. His style and results have convinced the Kering group: Patrick Pruniaux has just been appointed head of Girard-Perregaux, the most prestigious brand in the group’s watch portfolio.

Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph 42mm
Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph 42mm

It’s a brand which, in this digital age and in the face of the commercial success of other houses that share its prestige and heritage, such as Audemars Piguet or Patek Philippe, has been trying for some years now to find its rightful place among the suite of brands acclaimed worldwide by ultra-connected watch lovers.

This return to the upper echelons, involving the transfer of Girard-Perregaux’s entire historical pedigree to the new networks of watch distribution and visibility, was kick-started by former boss Antonio Calce, who made the strategic decision to relaunch the 1975 Laureato model. While the Daytona, Royal Oak and Nautilus retain a unique aura, Girard-Perregaux hopes to claim its share of the cake with a flagship model from the 1960s-1970s, a period mythologised as never before in the digital age.

The difference is that none of these prestigious cousins really had to be “relaunched”. That’s the challenge: no one ever mentions the need to “relaunch” the brand when Rolex or Audemars Piguet changes directors. Patrick Pruniaux will have to ensure that, from now on, the watchword is “continuity”!

The new director’s CV is unprecedented. He has spent almost as much time studying Silicon Valley, during his time in Cupertino to help launch the Apple Watch, as he has in Watch Valley, where he first worked with TAG Heuer.

And that is the paradox of the moment: while many people prophesied the demise of the “outdated” mechanical watch as a result of the digital transition, the opposite has happened. In terms of visibility, Instagram is even better for vintage watches than it is for last month’s latest arrival. The “slow time” of watchmaking blends perfectly with the “quick time” of social networks, as we underlined in a recent column.

Girard-Perregaux Classic Bridges 45mm
Girard-Perregaux Classic Bridges 45mm

At Ulysse Nardin, Patrick Pruniaux started by refreshing the brand’s image, with the largely well received Freak me out! campaign (read here). He embraced an “organic” approach to watchmaking, with the ambition of anchoring the brand in contemporary art, with inspiration from nature (going beyond Ulysse Nardin’s original nautical horizon), using the unmistakable time display of the Freak, which was placed back in the centre of the game as the brand’s signature timepiece.

Girard-Perregaux will certainly be less able than Ulysse Nardin to play the ultra-contemporary card. One can imagine Patrick Pruniaux focusing on the vintage, solid, sporty and reassuring Laureato – a less “niche” terrain, with great potential to attract a wider public, although there’s already plenty of strong competition. How will the new manager use Girard-Perregaux’s production capacity? Will he give it a boost? We’ll come back to this shortly.