Stefano Macaluso, son of Luigi Macaluso, is the Product Development Director of Girard-Perregaux. Stefano trained as an architect but worked his way through design, marketing, sales and management positions at Girard-Perregaux. He has a broad understanding of the watch industry and Girard-Perregaux’s place within it, and is always interesting to speak with. I hope you enjoy these insights.
PuristS: Watchmakers, particularly the older companies like Girard-Perregaux (GP), often play on their history and tradition, but the new Hawk design is very modern.
The Hawk is an interesting project because GP is strong in classic timepieces. The 1966 and 1945 collections are still doing very well. The Hawk is a modern, contemporary sporty design and I'm very happy with the design of both the Seahawk and the Chrono Hawk because it is very cutting edge, very intense, much like a stealth plane or current hypercar design from the likes of Lamborghini. The watch case is made of many facets and even though it looks edgy it is well adapted to the wrist.
I particularly like the Sea Hawk because the crown protection looks like a stealth plane design. We kept some of the design elements from our historical collections like the octagon design of the Laureato and the position of the date like the old Sea Hawk. The hexagon designs on the dial are inspired by our 3 bridges. The rotor is also inspired by the arrow shape of our bridges. The design is targeted to the western market. The original Sea Hawk was the US navy officers’ watch of the 1940's and evolved into the 1970's and onwards. They were also quite edgy for their time and we are happy to continue to use the name in these latest versions.
PuristS: What was the development time for this watch?
Actually relatively quick. We started with the first sketches in December 2011 and the presentation was December 2012. We had a very strong idea and it came together quickly. For the next BaselWorld we are going to introduce other new watches. 2012 was, in terms of design and development and movement design, very productive.
PuristS: You are an architect, did you have any influence over this design?
The Hawk range has a very architectural approach. The major focus of GP is always with structures. When we approach a new design we think of the whole piece as a structure. You can see the influence of aircraft, cars and military vehicles. There is even a little of the Millennium Falcon in there! This extends to the movement design as well.
PuristS: The current GP catalogue is actually very streamlined.
The idea was to reduce the number of references and then to come in with some new ones and I believe customers will be very impressed with our new offerings.
PuristS: Has this been in response to the global economic situation over the last few years?
We are constantly looking for efficiency – both in terms of development and production, but also to improve quality. The global financial situation has impacted us but in the way that we had to be flexible and have a strategy to improve efficiency in order to limit the impact. Much of the market has been due to demand in Asia. We will continue our push into China, but balance this with the western markets which have been more affected by the economic crisis. But this will not last; USA, Latin America, and Europe will all strengthen and the Middle East remains important.
PuristS: The constant force escapement is all the buzz for BaselWorld this year.
At BaselWorld we will show the very first watch equipped with our new constant force escapement. We keep the architectural design even for this piece. The constant force escapement has evolved and the final watch is different to our early designs. It is a very contemporary piece, in a large case (49mm diameter), with a long power reserve because it is an efficient movement. It includes modern materials like silicium. The manual wind really showcases the constant force concept – the watch remains very accurate from full wind to discharge. An automatic will likely follow later on. Although the whole watch is very contemporary, there are some classic GP design elements including the three bridges.
PuristS: Apart from constant force, are there any other chronometric advantages?
Already we have a five to ten year plan for the development of this escapement. This is just the beginning, the first baby of a new family of calibres. We can bring the size down in the future as well.
PuristS: I asked about the collaboration with Dominique Loiseau …
Dominique has provided his insights into global watchmaking and influenced watch design in many areas.
The super complication, the Manifesto of Time, has been a long development and it may be out by the end of 2013. It is an integration of several different complications. Maybe in the future we will even include the GP constant force escapement, but not in the first watch.
The idea behind the Dominique’s watch is to start with a super complication and then bring these ideas into other watches; a V12 engine moving into a V8.
PuristS: Tell us about the relationship with PPR (now known as “Kering”) and Michel Sofisti and the strengths and weaknesses it brings to GP.
PPR is a big group, but allows us autonomy. Most of their brands are fashion related, but GP and Jean Richard is the main watchmaker, although Gucci and Boucheron also produce some watches. It is a good fit for us and works very well. We are still a family run company, but with the strength and support of PPR behind us.
PuristS: My impression when visiting the Manufacture was that GP was working under a rather traditional model in that there were many parts suppliers that GP had long and stable relationships with. How does this compare with the modern approach of vertical integration and bringing all manufacturing in-house?
We approach manufacturing in an integrated way. Our people in R&D are the same for base movements and high complications, although they have different specialities: chronographs, automatic winding, tourbillon, etc.
In our tourbillon workshop we have a very traditional way to work, but we look for improved efficiency. At our size we don’t require huge machines to do this. We need to maintain the human contribution and it is this that makes the difference between a mass producer and an artisanal company.
We are integrating more and more skills in-house. For us it is most important to maintain a very high standard in terms of manufacturing. The main challenge with the external suppliers is actually that there are fewer and fewer truly independent external suppliers. So for our strategic interests in the future we want to integrate more. The concern is that, for example, a dial manufacture owned by another company may stop supply. So we have to avoid this situation.
PuristS: A common point of discussion when I was in Switzerland last year, particularly amongst the smaller Manufactures, was the future availability of Nivarox hairsprings. Is this an issue for GP?
For us Nivarox are a traditional and long standing partner. The escapement designs are made by us but manufacturing is performed by them. We have no supply concerns at the moment.
PuristS: A criticism that is sometimes leveled at GP, as well as other companies, is the size of the movements compared with the case diameter. Movement size has not kept up with the increases in case size over the last few years. What is your perspective on that?
Even for our 1966 collection the Calibre 4500 this is more than 13 lignes. When it comes to movement design I don’t want to just produce larger movements because it is easier. For many years watchmakers made movements as small as they could and they developed high skill in producing small components. I don’t want to lose these skills. But of course we need to adapt to trends in case sizes. Our larger movements are designed for the tourbillons and of course the new constant force escapement.
PuristS: What is the annual production target at GP?
GP is producing around 11,000 watches per year, and perhaps around 12,000 for 2013/14.
PuristS: What is the business strategy for GP? Do you want to increase production, increase quality or is there another approach?
The quality must be the same across the entire range. Of course a tourbillon requires a level of finishing that is over the top, but the manufacturing of the movements at the base level is consistent.
Our quartz production is very small these days (a few hundred only) because of the demand for automatic mechanical watches, but in fact the level of finishing is the same for both types of movement. Our quartz movements are very nicely done. This is all related to demand. Even 95% of our ladies watches are equipped with automatic calibres.
PuristS: Do you have a current favourite watch in the collection?
Enzo Ferrari’s answer was always “the next one”. This is a good way to say that we are constantly striving to improve the next watch. But today I am very proud of the Sea Hawk.
PuristS: What are your plans for the next five years?
Globally we have a massive plan for development and we are very focused on the future. Already this year we will introduce a totally new collection and plan to renovate all the models in the current collection. There are also plans for new movements, including chronographs, and there will be something to show at BaselWorld 2013. We will keep moving the development of the constant force escapement forward. We may develop some complex chronograph models with Dominique. So we are working on new models, new designs across sport, ladies, classic and high complications; a very exciting and busy time for GP.
PuristS: Just to finish off, how would you describe the core values of GP to a new customer to the brand?
The core values are definitely the traditional watchmaking processes brought into the modern world. Of course there is also a very strong tradition, centuries of experience, a recognizable design ‘DNA’. We would also like to be known for strong innovation as you will see at the next BaselWorld with the constant force escapement. So there is a good balance between heritage, new development and modern design.
My thanks to Avstev, the Australian Girard-Perregaux importer, for making this interview possible.