Sowind Group (Girard-Perregaux + JeanRichard)
Michele Sofisti is a very, very busy man. In addition to his current duties as CEO of the Sowind Group, the entity that presides over the Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard luxury watch brands, he also holds the same position for Gucci Group Watches and Jewelry. To those in luxury, few careers compare to that of Mr. Sofisti, whose resume includes Ferrari, Swatch Group (twice: once as President of Omega, the other as President of the eponymous Swatch brand), LVMH Moët Hennessy • Louis Vuitton (as the President of Fred Jewellers) and Omas fine pens (Board Member).
It was in Mr. Sofisti’s capacity as the head of Girard-Perregaux, one of the true grand Swiss watch manufacturers, tracing its origins back to 1791, that we spoke.
The Girard-Perregaux brand is marked by legendary timepieces that blend distinct design with technological innovations, such as the legendary Tourbillon with three gold bridges that was awarded a gold medal at the 1889 Paris Exposition Universelle (The World’s Fair, and the occasion for which the Eiffel Tower was built). Today, Girard-
Perregaux is known for its devotion to the creation of state-of-the-art haute horlogerie, a commitment reinforced by very recently bringing on Dominique Loiseau, a watchmaker whom Mr. Sofisti described as “a true visionary, a legend within our world.”
Girard-Perregaux is also a rare luxury brand. It is for those that don’t buy a name, but purchase artisanship. It is with that uniqueness in mind that PPR (née Pinault-Printemps-Redoute) the French multinational luxury and retail holding company (which own Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Brioni to name but a few of its assets) purchased a controlling interest in Sowind last year.
While Mr. Sofisti and I had met in person this past spring, it was over the course of an ongoing email exchange that the interview transpired.
How would you describe Girard-Perregaux style? The Girard-Perregaux style is a blend of classic watch making tradition with high mechanical and technological skills. This gives a birth to products which last long in the time and increase the history and legend of GP.
What’s your definition of luxury? Luxury to me means authenticity, values, craftsmanship, detailed design and finally, the correct price point. There is no more time for insincere luxury business, clients are aware and want “real” stuff.
What’s your assessment of the luxury market today? The luxury market is now global and we see new markets, younger consumers, new tastes that all get mixed in to create a new perception of the world luxury. Asian consumers are making the difference not only in Asia but everywhere, and Latin Americans are enjoying a better presence of Brands in their home markets. Middle East and Europe together with US stay as always as guardians of quality and values for all luxury Brands.
Is the US still a market driver for your business? US is and will always be a very important market for the luxury segment. Success in US means often success in the world. We have our own boutique in NY and we enjoy a lot of enthusiastic clients and collectors there.
What has been your most challenging project to date? We work as a tied Team and we try to let the Company grow evolving in parallel in the areas of product, marketing and distribution. We want to create a bridge between the rich history and heritage to the future and this is the main challenge on the side of some technological adventures.
Describe the ideal Girard-Perregaux client… I would say that the Girard-Perregaux client is someone who loves to discover luxury. Someone who has a passion for heritage and also has a sense of innovative classic style.
What’s the ‘next big thing’? I hope that the product great complication that Mr. Dominique Loiseau is developing for Girard-Perregaux will shake a bit the industry and show once more the incredible capacity of this fantastic inventor and of the passionate GP watchmakers.