Let’s face it, Girard-Perregaux possesses a lot of history and potential, but hasn’t capitalized on the possibilities. While the brand certainly has its fans, within the price points they have a lot of competition for sales. Additionally, in the pre-owned markets such as auctions, they don’t hold up enough in value. CEO Michele Sofisti candidly addresses this tough issue in our interview with him at TimeCrafters, which we’ll publish this week. Knowing that Girard-Perregaux needed a new direction, Sofisti sought the help of a friend. Enter Dominque Loiseau.
Loiseau is no amateur. He’s been in the watch game for over 30 years and can compete with the best in class. Remember the Blancpain 1735? It contains over 740 parts that include a minute repeater, quarter repeater, tourbillon, perpetual calendar and split-seconds chronograph—yes, that’s all in one watch. But that’s not all. There’s the Montres de Sables for Omega, six complicated pocket watches with floating, mobile tourbillon cages in the center and decorated with a sand dune theme, and the Rose des Temps clock, a table clock also for Omega in 1984 that was the most complicated of its time. His most recent achievement is the 1f4, a complicated automatic watch that claims 8 patents. It’s safe to say Loiseau digs complexity.
Loiseau has worked independently at his own company, which he established four years ago, so why publicly associate with Girard-Perregaux to direct new movement development? Loiseaux explained to us at our meeting at TimeCrafters that he was still going to work independently while also developing with Girard-Perregaux. The idea to bring Loiseau aboard the brand came out of a simple meeting between three friends, Sofisti, Stefano Macaluso, whose family owned the brand, and himself. (PPR, which also owns Christies, now holds a majority stake.) What attracted Loiseau to the opportunity was the history and creativity Girard-Perregaux offered. Back in 1889 at the Universal Exhibition in Paris the now iconic Tourbillon with three Gold Bridges” was first introduced to the public and awarded a gold medal. At Girard-Perregaux they are still willing to explore new concepts and Loiseau finds the openness quite attractive.
So what’s up with Loiseau’s “Manifesto of Time”? It could sound just like a marketing tool to bring attention to a brand that needs some excitement and sparkle. Not so, Loiseau says. He feels that in the recent era brands have been obeying logical conventions, rigid technical and moral codes that impede true expansion in the horology world. And he’s right; not much has changed for a couple hundred years. Sure, we’ve got some new materials but basically watchmakers are working from the same model.
Loiseau contends the “Manifesto of Time” is a way to break this deadlock by looking to the surrealists who used their imagination to associate ideas with no connection. Using this philosophy as a genesis for a grand complication, he will marry sonic and visual effect in expressing time, as well as include some sort of surprise. The grand complication will start from the middle of the calibre and feed complications from top to bottom. While most grand complications build upon a base calibre, Loiseau’s new movement will deconstruct into a lot of different calibres in a type of reverse engineering with the displays evolving over time.
We asked Loiseau how his strategy is better. In other words, why do it? Loiseau answered that it would be arrogant to assert that Girard-Perregaux is superior to any other brand. All they’re asking is to be allowed to be different and to put in practice their intentions. They’re also willing to share the “Manifesto of Time” and invite others to share their approach.
It sounds like in experimenting Girard-Perregaux is allowing for misfires. However, creativity only truly thrives when you let loose of control and go down different paths. Through missteps come exciting discoveries. Think about the discovery of Penicillin; it was a complete accident.
Swiss watchmaking tends to hold tight reigns on development and perhaps this does limit the art. If Girard-Perregaux is really willing to open up to the messy but fruitful business of creativity then we could get some thought-provoking watches. We will wait to see what comes from the collaboration between Loiseau and Girard-Perregaux. Then we can decide if “The Manifesto of Time” lives up to its billing.