lysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux seem to be taking full advantage of their newfound independence. At the Watches and Wonders exhibition, Ulysse Nardin presented the Freak One, devoid of dial, hands and crown, returning to the essence of this model which, at the turn of the millennium, made a major contribution to the transformation of watchmaking. It adopted a totally new mechanical and aesthetic approach, paving the way for the “display revolution” that has swept through the industry in the last twenty years.
Meanwhile, although it was not exhibiting, Girard-Perregaux took advantage of the world watchmaking summit to inaugurate its new boutique in the heart of Geneva, opened in collaboration with Bucherer. In fact, Patrick Pruniaux has announced the opening of multiple spaces dedicated to his brands, in partnership with some of the world’s top retailers. Interestingly, the Laureato, the brand’s flagship model, has seen its value soar on the secondary market.
- Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Girard-Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin
Europa Star: The brands you manage have been through an intense period – not just the euphoria we’ve seen in the watch market since last year, but also the return to independence with a network of shareholders you brought together.
Patrick Pruniaux: Yes, we’re following a rather unique agenda, with a very strong dynamic characterised by the management of rapid growth. The overall context in 2023 will, I think, be one of market normalisation. We’re continuing to work on improving the quality of the customer experience through our distribution network. In recent years we’ve halved the number of our retailers, in order to deepen our relationships with the best national and international players. We’re focusing on opening shop-in-shops and franchise boutiques. We have around fifteen new openings planned for this year, like the new Girard-Perregaux boutique in Geneva, in partnership with Bucherer. Another boutique will soon be opening in Covent Garden in London. Our vision is centred on long-term partnerships with multi-brand retailers.
- The new Girard-Perregaux Laureato Green Ceramic Aston Martin Edition preserves the codes of the first Laureato launched in 1975, while using an ultra-modern green ceramic for the bracelet and case (42 mm and 38 mm).
What about your product strategy?
It’s now very clear, for both brands. For Girard-Perregaux, the Laureato is central. Demand for Haute Horlogerie is also very strong, particularly for the Bridges models. At Ulysse Nardin, the launch of the Freak One this year is a major event, certainly one of the most exciting we’ve seen for a long time in this line.
The Laureato in particular has seen a strong increase in value in the secondary market. More and more brands are looking to get directly involved in this segment through a CPO system. What is your strategy?
We have not structured our presence in the secondary market, it’s not a priority at this stage of our development, although we don’t rule out doing so at a later stage. What we have seen since last year is that, although the speculative bubble has burst, the Laureato has continued to grow strongly, as have the Ulysse Nardin models. The Laureato has been around for almost fifty years, and the market trend goes beyond sport-chic: it extends to all our fine watchmaking, particularly the manufacture calibres. Today, independence and manufacture calibres are a winning combination. We have almost 100% manufacture movements across both brands.
“Independence and manufacture are a winning combination in the watch market today.”
Has your price positioning evolved?
We’re not pursuing a deliberate strategy of moving upmarket, and we haven’t really increased our prices, but due to the strength of demand we are seeing an increase in the average price of our brands. There is naturally an appetite for complications, because of the high level of understanding today of what a manufacture is.
- Inspired by the first Freak, the 44 mm Freak One with black DLC-coated titanium case and rose gold bezel embodies the iconic Ulysse Nardin watch and the centre of gravity of the Manufacture, now asserting its newfound independence.
Where do you think this strategy will take you?
We’re regaining the standing we should always have had. We’re putting our brands’ fascinating history out there and achieving stability in our product offering. Our houses are still maturing, but our most important accomplishment to date has been to improve the confidence level of watch buyers. This is related not just to our independence, but to several other very positive factors that naturally came together after a phase of reorganisation. Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux are by nature “entrepreneurial” brands; it’s in their DNA. The excitement for their products has always been there, and today customers’ confidence has been fully restored.