Tuesday, September 8, 2020


News emerged yesterday that the "twin-tower" concept of bundling Girard-Perregaux and Ulysse Nardin has worked about as much magic as the same idea with Eterna and Corum, or the original "value pack" of Ralph Sampson and Akeem (now Hakeem) Olajuwon with the Houston Rockets. In fairness to the shot callers, COVID-19 was not exactly something that anyone could forecast during the budgeting process, but I also think it is fair to say that the leadership team must surely be aware that neither brand has been exactly "robust" over recent years, and if they were being honest with themselves (and their bosses - i.e. Kering brass) they would have reached this conclusion early last year and started making more gentle adjustments to address the already increasingly stark realities.  

This is really a shame, and with some creative thinking a few years ago, alternative revenue streams could have been explored. Remember back when ETA was hamstrung?  Movements were hard to come by?  Guess what both brands make?  On another topic, micro brands are actually not only surviving right now, they appear to be flourishing to some degree. Guess what both GP and UN could have capitalized on?  Upscale white label. Yes, that would have taken some alternative thinking, and it wouldn't have replaced the very real lost business that is currently being felt, but it could have lessened the sting.  

Now it is not lost on this guy that these are two of the brands who felt that throwing a lot of money at a somewhat star-crossed event at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was a good use of corporate monies. In fairness, we won't know how successful the Geneva circle-jerk was for a few more months at the earliest, but rest assured that event planners posing as media outlets will keep circling the carcasses of watch brands until they have picked the bones clean.

Girard-Perregaux continues to struggle with the same identity crisis it always has. If I am understanding their newest - newest - newest strategy, it's to go even further upmarket. So far (and I am not privy to GP's sales figures) I don't get the resounding impression that this strategy has finally discovered the elusive GP customer, but then again I could be wrong.

I also find it amusing that the only media that is currently covering the shedding of 100 staff members (reportedly 25% of the total workforce) are fashion and HR outlets -


I guess if my fellow scribes covering watches in the 4th and 5th Estates ignore this rather dramatic development, it didn't really happen, right? Needless to say, marketing and all that comes with it (media trips, nice hotels and tasty meals) will be one of the very last departments chopped, so I guess the never ending goody bag is hard to pass up, and something that some folks don't want to risk missing out on.  

To be clear, COVID-19 is nobody's fault and is certainly nothing they covered in most MBA courses. But there have been other shifts before this - anyone remember the Quartz Crisis?  How about 2008 - 2009/2010?  The brands that not only survive, but emerge from these unforeseen obstacles without too much damage always seem to be the same ones.  And not all of them are high priced or "haute".  

I can't really say much about Ulysse Nardin, because if I am completely honest, it is a brand that I have never really understood. Girard-Perregaux is one of those brands that I truly love, would love to own one of their watches, and am always curious what they are up to. But I have to accept certain realities - I am a social worker/teacher.  Yes, I could max out a credit card to own one of their pieces, but I have to punch my weight and live in the real world. I am, at the heart of it, not part of GP's decided demographic.  But like me, brands have to realize and appreciate when their own decided demographic has not fully jumped on board with them.

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