The Sowind Group has named a new president of its American operations. Sowind, which owns Swiss luxury watch brands Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard, is planning a US expansion strategy for the Girard-Perregaux brand and the new president will be working closely with Sowind CEO, Michele Sofisti, and Girard-Perregaux managing director, Stefano Macaluso, to oversee this process.
“I am very excited and honored to join an iconic brand like Girard-Perregaux,” said Michael Margolis, the man who has been chosen to do the job. “I have admired the brand and its heritage from afar for many years.”
Girard-Perregaux does have an impressive and illustrious heritage. Although the Girard-Perregaux name was not established until the year 1856, the brand is generally considered to have been founded in 1791, by an orphan named Jean-François Bautte, when he signed his first watches at the age of 19. Bautte, an industrious youth, learned the various trades associated with watchmaking and became popular for the extra-thin models that he made. When he set up a manufacturing company in Geneva, Bautte decided to keep all of the various watchmaking trades under the one roof, and idea that was quite innovative at the time. In his lifetime, Bautte went on the trade with all the European courts and was even visited by the future Queen Victoria. Since that time, the company that would eventually become Girard-Perregaux has been renowned for innovation, style and prestige.
Some historical highlights:
• 1867 – Girard-Perregaux won a prize at the Paris Universal Exhibition for a new tourbillon design. (The tourbillon was developed around 1795 by Abraham-Louis Breguet as a way to counteract the negative effects that gravity has on the more sensitive pieces of the watch escapement. By placing the escapement in a rotating cage, the pallet fork, balance wheel and hairspring were more insulated against shocks, gravity, magnetism and imbalance within the watch itself. Many variations on the tourbillon have been developed since.)
• 1880 – Constant Girard-Perregaux developed a wristwatch concept for German naval officers. Although Kaiser Wilhelm I ordered the watches and 2,000 were made, wristwatches did not gain in cultural popularity until the following century.
• 1889 – Constant Girard-Perregaux’s masterpiece, the famed Three Gold Bridges Tourbillon won a gold medal at the Exposition Paris Universal Exhibition; this piece so dominated the industry that it was disallowed from further competition in 1900.
• 1930 – Predicted by Girard-Perregaux some fifty years earlier, the wristwatch exceeded the pocket watch in popularity.
• 1945 – The rectangular, art deco inspired model was created. Fifty years later, it was revived and called the Vintage 1945.
• 1966 – Girard-Perregaux’s in-house R&D team developed the first high-frequency movement, at 36,000 vibrations per hour. These chronometers performed so well that, in 1967, a full 70 percent of certificates issued by the Neuchatel Observatory were awarded to Girard-Perregaux High Frequency Chronometers.
• 1970 – One of the first Swiss watch companies to get on board with the production of quartz wristwatches, Girard-Perregaux set the universal standard frequency at 32,768 Hz.
• 1981 – Girard-Perregaux was also one of the first to return to traditional mechanical timepieces after quartz had turned the Swiss watchmaking industry upside-down. Girard-Perregaux released a pocket watch containing the three gold bridges Tourbillon.
• 1992-1993 – Italian entrepreneur, architect and former racecar driver, Luigi Macaluso took over Girard-Perregaux and signed a “co-branding” agreement with Ferrari.
• 1997 – Villa Marguerite, the building that would house the new Girard-Perregaux museum was purchased.
• 2004 – The first Girard-Perregaux boutique opened in Gstaad.
Margolis, the man who will now bring Girard-Perregaux into the US in the 21st century, was born in the States. He graduated from the University of Connecticut with a double major in Latin American Studies and Foreign Languages; he is fluent in English, Spanish, Portuguese and German. Margolis has held positions at Crest Reprographics and at Nikon. It was while working for TimeZone.com, however, that he developed a passion for luxury watches. He moderated that site for almost 11 years before taking a job with Hublot as US sales director. Now he will be overseeing Girard-Perregaux’s advance into that same marketplace.
“Mike is a remarkable individual, with true passion for the craft,” said Sofisti. “We are glad to have him on board to lead the US team into this new phase of the brand.”
Margolis will assume office on Thursday, March 1.