A few weeks ago, I shared my concerns here on how I see Girard-Perregaux has lost its track and voiced a number of concerns. Of course it is easy to comment from the sideline and criticise. However, you should know that I have a deep passion for GP watches and I want to follow-up with some constructive ideas, how I see GP can get back on track and pick up speed to renewed success.
As per my previous report, I highlighted how much history and heritage is within the brand of Girard-Perregaux and that this becomes an obligation to carry that heritage into the future. So here is my take on what should be the focus.
The future of the Laureato
I think everyone would agree that steel sports watches are en vogue right now. However, there is a big difference. While Rolex and Patek are getting ever more popular, there is an abundance of old and new contenders in that segment. The Laureato surely is a strong contender, however, the collection needs urgent consolidation. Focus on the steel sports segment, consolidate the 42mm and 38mm models into a single 40 or 41mm model. Focus on a few models only, like time-only and chronograph which are classic sports complications, rather than tourbillons or perpetual calendars. And reduce the number of materials, I think focus on steel only is a good approach. To further reduce the number of different models, supply every Laureato with a steel bracelet and provide leather and rubber straps in the package with a quick change mechanism, similar to the VC Overseas.
And the Ladies Laureato? I really like that as a Ladies watch, but why use a quartz movement? Add an automatic movement and keep the 34mm diameter while using a similar consolidation strategy as for the men’s Laureato. All this will also help with Retail. Today, a retailer will maybe get max. 4-5 different Laureato’s into the shop window and with that would only cover a small fraction of the diverse collection. That can leave customers quite frustrated. A smaller collection will have a more representative and complete display in the shops.
Develop a new workhorse automatic movement
When Luigi Macaluso took over GP in the early 90s, one of his very first decisions was to develop an inhouse automatic movement, the Caliber 3000/3100. And since the early 90s, this caliber is more or less the automatic workhorse caliber in all GP watches. It is however showing its age and if GP wants to play in the top league, it needs to refresh its automatic caliber with a more modern look, a larger size and some technical advancements. I appreciate that there is GP Caliber 01800 which is larger, but frankly that movement never appealed to me visually. It is in the end an old Jean Richard JR1000 and nothing special.
And GP needs an inhouse integrated Chronograph with automatic winding. With two new calibers for the majority of the collection, GP could modernise its appeal and get the attention it deserves. And why not bring some new technologies on the table, like silicon or other innovations. I also argue that automatic rotors should always be in solid gold for a house like GP, whether it is a steel case watch or a gold case.
Entry level Diver watch
This in my view is a big gap in the collection. In order to attract new and young customers, an entry level Diver watch needs to be in the collection. A Diver watch is a versatile and popular design, in my view very different than a sports chic watch like the Laureato, something closer to a tool watch. GP has some great designs in its historic line up, such as the Sea Hawk or the Deep Diver and could easily bring a modern version of a great Diver watch to the market.
Bringing out a new Diver watch would also allow GP to attack the competition with some aggressive pricing without cannibalising its other offerings. It would on the one hand make it a true entry level GP and on the other hand could also help reducing the massive discounts on list prices we see on the grey market.
Be true to your heritage, put focus on the 1966 and Vintage 1945 collections
An entry level Diver watch and a sports chic steel watch like the Laureato are important cornerstones of a modern collection, however, GP wants to be in a different league than say Omega and for that needs to revive its heritage within the 1966 and the Vintage 1945 collections. Both collections have been badly neglected or gone off track with black-coated cases and fantasy themes.
The 1966 and Vintage 1945 need to play in the top league of dress watches with complications like perpetual calendars, chronographs or full/annual calendars. In addition being modernised with a new movement, offering more precious metal (where for example is white gold and platinum gone?) and more classic size and designs, the focus should be on quality dials and excellent finishing. There is a lot of potential still in those T.W.O collections but they need the deserved focus.
When I speak of heritage, GP also needs to be very careful to remain clearly separated from Ulysse Nardin. I can understand the need to consolidate manufacturing and maybe after-sales service, but nothing closer.
A new approach to market the brand and bring more price stability
In my first Quo Vadis article, I clearly pointed out that Girard-Perregaux as a brand is not present in the minds of watch enthusiasts and that it needs a push in Marketing. Of course, Marketing is expensive, esp. when we talk about classic advertisements. Regardless, it does need a push for sure and why not take new roads with social media or other innovative marketing ideas. Those are not free either but your Swiss Franc can go more miles if done right.
Surely, every brand is now active on Instagram or Facebook and the like, but just doing what everyone else does, will not get you attention. I don’t have a silver bullet, but I’m convinced there are possibilities not yet explored.
And increasing price stability is even more difficult to get to. This is a long road to go, but it has to be a key objective and included in the company’s strategy, like in its retail and pricing strategy. It is time to be brave and disruptive and why GP could not be that player?
Retail, Distribution and After Sales Service
This for me is the hardest to bring in ideas. I’m not an expert in the retail business. However, all I can say is that GP needs to put focus on it. I’m sure that my above points if executed well, will automatically result in a better presence in Retail, but it also requires a distinct effort and strategy to go along. I don’t know if the future of luxury watches is in online retail or if the classic High Street watch shops will prevail. What seems to be difficult is running a mix of both. What I don’t want to see is that GP watches are popping up in the Hodinkee Shop or other dubious online retailers.
As I said, this is on the one hand, the most difficult to tackle but on the other hand I’m convinced that it will see a natural improvement if the other points are well executed. In the end, a Retailer wants to put watches in its window that customers want to buy, and having the right products, a high brand awareness and attractive prices are the foundation for that.
Finally, GP could also be disruptive by revamping after sales service and warranty. While brands actually make good money with after sales service, offering a long warranty period or innovative service pricing models could be a great disruptor in a competitive market.
No, I don’t own a crystal ball nor do I believe this is the only truth. What I’m convinced of however, is that doing nothing or continuing on the current path, will put Girard-Perregaux at risk, something not only me would object to. It is my personal view of the world, it would take quite some investment to make this happen, but without it, there is no change and no change means becoming irrelevant. Let’s hope that will never be the case.