This year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) saw the release of Officine Panerai‘s Luminor 1950 Tourbillon GMT Ceramica, a model truly to be reckoned with. The brand’s newest creation combines Panerai’s trademark tourbillon mechanism with a dual time display, a mix of unrivaled sophistication and innovation.
The tourbillon is a part of a watch escapement that counteracts the effects of gravity, invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1795. Watches with this feature mount the escapement in a “carriage” or rotating frame that turns 360 degrees at regular intervals, reducing gravitational error. At the time that Breguet finalized his invention, most watches were pocket watches and thus were almost always in one position. The effect of gravity on these timepieces was especially conspicuous, so to offset adverse changes Breguet provided the perfect solution.
The Luminor 1950 has a personalized Panerai leather strap and an adjustable buckle made of steel. The 48 mm diameter case is made of synthetic ceramic with a zirconium powder base, showcasing the adept skill of Panerai’s manufacturing. The processes undergone to achieve the final model’s matte black color are particularly complex and thoroughly ensure resistance to corrosive agents, high temperatures and scratches.
The Luminor 1950 functions by the Panerai P.2005 movement, which produces 28,000 vph and exhibits a six day power reserve, thanks to a three series-connected spring barrels. The 12-sided titanium back displays a centered window of sapphire crystal so that one can glimpse at the P.2005 mechanism in action. This is the first time a Panerai model has had the P.2005 B version built in, which is essentially a blackened version of the traditional movement. Panerai’s patented tourbillon mechanism has the balance rotate on its axis every 30 seconds.
The black dial lends more to the Luminor 1950’s theme of graphic simplicity, with Panerai’s original sandwich structure to help provide for maximum visibility even under very dim lighting conditions. At 3 o’clock, the small dial indicates the time over 24 hours as well as am or pm. The dial at 9 o’clock connects to the tourbillon and moves twice as fast as the second hand, thus deemed the small seconds dial. It consists of multiple dot markers and completes one revolution in half a minute. This dual time concept is a Panerai method implemented in many models. Combined with the tourbillon, the Luminor 1950 reinforces at once both tradition and modernism.
The Sowind Group has named a new president of its American operations. Sowind, which owns Swiss luxury watch brandsGirard-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.”
Despite international austerity and the depressing economic outlook of many countries, luxury retailers had a banner year in 2011, posting significant gains where other retailers are still seeing losses. The Swiss watch industry, the heart of haute horology, has been at the forefront of the recent boon and has been a huge factor in driving industry growth over the last few years; in fact, 2011 was a record-breaking year for many Swiss watch and jewelry brands. The Swatch Group, LVMH, and Richemont have all seen sales growth of 15 percent of more, crediting their fine jewelry and watch brands for generating much of that burgeoning bottom line. Much of this success can be attributed to opening markets on continents other than North America and Europe, as well as enhanced marketing practices.
The Swatch Group, home to such esteemed brands as Breguet, Blancpain, Tissot, Omega and Tourbillon, had a record year in 2011, posting a sales increase of 21.7 percent and an operating profit of 12.4 percent over the pervious year. Even while European economic turmoil and exchange rates had negative effects on the ultimate bottom line, the watches and jewelry sector still showed a gain of approximately $1.5 billion. According to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, “The group’s leading brands recorded very impressive rates of growth not only in the enlarged China, but also in all other regions and in all price segments. Despite the unfavourable economic situation, the Swatch Group maintained its consistent policy of renouncing short-term price increases, preferring to focus on gains in market share.” Stepping up marketing efforts within the watches and jewelry sector, instead of raising prices, the Swatch Group saw its operating profit grow by 8.4 percent.
LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA reported sales growth of 16 percent last year, with an operating profit increase of 22 percent and a net profit of $4.12 billion. The watches and jewelry group within LVMH recorded astounding increases of 98 percent in sales and 107 percent in operating profits. (Equating to +23 percent and 41 percent based on comparable structures.) Dedicated consumers in the Western Hemisphere responded well to marketing and innovative additions, while growth in Asian markets added to the LVMH global marketplace. Tag Heuer successfully launched the Mikrograph and Mikrotimer; Hublot introduced a popular new Masterpieces collection; Zenith and Bulgari brought back some well-loved classics.
Richemont, the Swiss luxury holding company that boasts subsidiaries such as Baume et Mercier, Cartier, Piaget and Montblanc, increased its sales by 33 percent and gross profit by 38 percent – a gain of approximately $1.6 billion. Operating profit grew by nearly double that amount – 63 percent. The highest sales growth occurred in the Asia-Pacific region, at 48 percent (or, by $3.67 billion) and sales in Japan were up by 18 percent. “We will continue to invest in their organic growth through higher levels of capital spending in manufacturing capacity and in the further development of the group’s own retail network,” said Richemont CEO, Johann Rupert. “Particularly in growth markets.” To that end, the company grew its freestanding boutique stores to a total of 876 last year – primarily in growing Asian markets.
While the Asian continent currently represents the largest growth market for the industry, Australia, South America and Africa have also been the focus of luxury brand marketing efforts. Tag Heuer, an LVMH brand that began opening North American retail boutiques only last year, has established stores in Australia, South Africa as well as across the Middle East and India. They have a retail location in Argentina and a customer service location in Chile also, catering to a small but dedicated (and growing) clientele in those regions.
It would certainly seem that a truly global reach is the safest buffer against increasingly unpredictable western markets. But it probably doesn’t hurt to be well known and widely respected for beautiful and high quality products either.
Invicta Watch Group reached a landmark in its watchmaking history in December 2011 with the launch of the Reserve Specialty Limited Edition Mechanical Tourbillon Watches. This line signified Invicta’s foray into their first mechanical models in combination with the tourbillon movement. Consisting of three timepieces of different colors, this collection is truly limited edition as each color comes in only 200 pieces.
This limited edition line is part of the Reserve collection, a completely hand-made series that tends to exhibit a pattern of round and chunky steel watches with the chronograph feature. The Reserve collection also tends to include bigger watches, and takes the title of the Invicta collection with most watches measuring 50 mm or larger in diameter. The Specialty Mechanical Tourbillon Watch follows this formula quite faithfully, with a casing of 52 mm diameter and 21 mm thickness. These types of large watches tend to aim towards the male audience, although the Reserve collection also has oversized watches for women.
The Seagull TY800 is a mechanical, Chinese-made automatic movement that powers the tourbillon, set in the case of the watch with 27 jewels. With a power reserve of about 40 hours, the mechanisms gleams with 27 jewels as it runs on 21,600 vibrations per hour. A Cote de Genève motif peeks out through the case back to adorn the Seagull TY800. These “Geneva Stripes” or Fausses Côtes are created by a special type of geometric lathe to achieve a result similar to a spirograph engraving.
Sophistication and innovation come together in the design of the Specialty Mechanical Tourbillon Watch, with a beautiful case made up of more than 48 parts. A screw-down crown and a fixed bezel emphasize the hard work put into the model’s construction, and the trademark Invicta flame-fusion crystal grips the dial of the piece. A spider-shaped decoration lies in the background, with the tourbillon cage representing its body and the metal detailing depicting its legs. The tourbillon mechanism rotates once a minute and functions as a display of seconds.
Sold at $2,715 for each lustrously colored model, the only difference between the pieces lie within the dial hue. The 1574 model shines with red gold, as does gun metal for model 1573, and blue achieves a cooler effect in model 1684. The tips of the hands for both hours and minutes gleam to ensure maximum legibility. The carefully built watch can withstand up to 500 meters of water pressure and is enclosed in a stainless steel, 31 mm wide bracelet.
An Irish Company seems to have set its sights on Russian domain names that have been trademarked by makers of luxury Swiss watches who are members of The Swatch Group.
Holmbrook Limited, a company based in Dublin, has found itself in legal battles brought by the brands Longines Watch Co., Rado Uhren and now Tissot AG for hijacking Russian (.ru) domain names that the watchmakers believe are rightfully theirs.
In earlier proceedings, the Moscow Commerical Court sided with Longines and Rado, prohibiting Holmrook from using the domain names and awarding the claimants modest monetary damages, but Tissot has not been as successful. On December 6, 2011, the court ruled against the company, stating that Holmrook was neither the owner of the tissot.ru domain name, nor its administrator. Apparently, Holmrook had given the name and well as administration rights to an individual named Nikolai Mikhailyukov free of charge. Mikhailyukov has been using the site to post information about the French painter, James Jacques Joseph Tissot.
Tissot AG claims that the site was not dedicated to the painter until after charges had already been filed.
Why Holmrook is targeting Swiss watchmakers is unclear; what the company even does is hard to pin down with a simple Google search. Holmrook Limited has no website, no Wikipedia page and no presence within social media. In fact, the bulk of its public activity seems to be defending itself in court against angry Swiss watchmakers.
Steve Levy, a writer for The Fair Winds Blog: DomainStrategy.com, has a theory. “It would seem Holmrook’s main function is investing in domain names (some may call it cybersquatting instead of investing), and I view the use of content relating to the artist James Tissot to be a clever ruse which was specifically intended to avoid enforcement. It would be like someone registering apple.ru and posting pictures of fruit but with the real intention of waiting for the famous computer/mobile device company to seek out the owner and offer them a huge sum to buy the domain.”
On his website, Levy makes the comment that these problems tend to abound in Russian web spaces, due to “lax copyright enforcement and a rampant counterfeiting industry.” His suggestion to businesses is to register any important trademarks in the .ru domain quickly, before cybersquatters do.
An appeal by Tissot was scheduled for Feb. 8, 2012 before the Russian Ninth Commercial Court of Appeals. And it’s a good bet that Omega, Union Glashütte, Breguet, Tourbillon, Calvin Klein and other Swatch Group companies are registering .ru domain names as quickly as possible.