It seems like Gucci has been around forever, but Gucci watches have only been part of the brand since 1972. That year, the legendary Severin Wunderman introduced Gucci’s first collection of “fashion” watches, which was ground-breaking at the time.
For those of you who have been following this extraordinarily successful company, you know that the brand has been reborn under creative director Alessandro Michele. As a result, the watches have been inexorably linked to the brand’s overall aesthetic, just like it was under Wunderman.
More than ever before, Gucci is involved, whether that means with E-Commerce, social media or in partnerships with artists and influencers like GucciGhost, Coco Capitán and Dapper Dan.
Revolution visited with Piero Braga, president and CEO, Gucci Timepieces & Jewelry to find out what this means for Gucci watches moving forward.
The watches have gone through many changes over the past years, can you explain why?
Gucci is different from the brand it was five or ten years ago. Creativity has to be at the center of the stage, and creativity varies.
The origin of Gucci watches was in 1972, when Severin Wunderman was working with Gucci to produce in Switzerland, combining Swiss watchmaking with Italian fashion.
Gucci invented fashion watches. There is no need for a Gucci watch within watchmaking, there are plenty of other watches out there. The authenticity of a Gucci watch project must be related to fashion.
We are bringing forward our DNA and our fashion and legitimacy. Today, our ambition is to bring a different point of view to the watch industry. We have asked ourselves the question, “If people are different, why are watches all the same?”
We have to talk to the new generations, ones that are not attracted by watches as a category, because they have the habit of looking at the time on other devices. It’s important to touch the emotional side of consumers, and to offer them a chance to buy according to their emotions. That’s our mission and what our watches stand for.
We are the only brand that can do that today. The aesthetic we are able to embed into the collection is authentic because it comes directly from the brand. The symbols are not invented for the watches; they are embedded in our DNA. They are flying into the watches from the creative world of Gucci.
How important is it that there is authenticity to the Gucci timepieces offering?
All the icons of Gucci are still here, interpreted in a different way. There is something in the Gucci timepieces proposal that goes back to the concept of authenticity. The contamination of the traditional Gucci symbols with the new ones makes the maison really powerful.
The new symbols have been accepted because they are decorations that touch emotions. When we started, there was the GG pattern, which has been a symbol of the house for decades, but the minute creativity was put on that pattern, we started with the flowers and went to other symbols. The combination of a very powerful icon with the creativity that made it modern created a very desirable object. The fact that we have been able to have the icons combined with the new creativity, brought those icons back in fashion again and gave big power to the proposition. Around that, a community of artists and testimonials, developed spontaneously, which gave more strength to the proposal.
I’m excited about the fact that we have a unique and disruptive proposition and we really look different from anything else in the industry. The most beautiful thing I saw this year was customers in the meeting rooms having fun. They are really attracted by taking these objects, looking at them and seeing them in their stores.
Has it been difficult to explain this pivot to the watch industry?
It wasn’t difficult to do from a creativity standpoint, it was more difficult from a mindset standpoint. Breaking the traditional codes and rules was not easy. Last year, we had to explain to people where all this was coming from. What Gucci did was not known by the watch industry. We had to do a very intense educational activity, and this year the message has gone through. They might like it or not like it, but they come to see what the next crazy thing is.
We created a proposal unique to the market. We are always alone with all the segments we hit. This is an opportunity but also a challenge. It’s a project that is not super easy, because it’s harder to position in the retail market. The reaction has varied. The Gucci boutiques were very welcome and they became a point of strength because the designs are completely aligned. The portion of business that this represents has been growing.
Gucci Timepieces has been very active in online retail. How important is it?
E-commerce has been very strong, not just our own E-Commerce, but also the big e-tailers. Our proposal has a much quicker acceptance. Gucci jewelry and watches are doing very well in E-Commerce, just like all other Gucci product categories.
We improved the quality of our shop in shops, dedicated to watches and jewelry. The bottom line is that whenever we have the possibility to express the brand, the project had a different impact. If we are in a counter amongst many others, the proposition loses traction. We have a complete package meant to enhance the offering in stores.
What is nice is that retailers are starting to understand the uniqueness of this proposal. At the end of the day, there are no brands in the watch industry that have the same position as Gucci timepieces. We have the name, we have the unique proposition that has no competition, and we appeal to a very young clientele that they might want back in their stores.
Is independent retail still important for Gucci Timepieces?
30% of our business is independent retail, so it is very important for us. I am curious about how this channel will evolve. I am a bit obsessed trying to figure out what the future of watch retail is. No one has really found the right path, but there are a lot of thoughts about the future of fashion and the watch industry. We embraced E-Commerce much earlier than most, so we learned the power of it. The watch industry is too conservative in many ways.
The impact of E-Commerce still needs to come. It’s quite extraordinary that there are no serious E-Commerce players dedicated to watches and jewelry.
The minute E-Commerce comes out, you can’t compete on assortment or price. People used to be forced to go into a store to buy, but today we only go if it’s enjoyable.
Should Gucci watches be considered watches or accessories?
I pay respect for the product category and I think it’s wise to treat them as watches, but the creativity that is spreading out from the brand is flying onto the different product categories. For us, it’s important to produce watches with creative content for our clients. We put a lot of efforts into improving the details of the product.
We are also improving the quality and the details of the watchmaking. There is still room for high watchmaking. The core of our products, as it has always been the case, has been quartz. But we want to build the credibility in automatic movements, especially for men. We think there is room for reasonably priced automatics with fashion content. This is a starting point of a path that we want to pursue. We are a Swiss Made brand and it’s important to offer to our clients a suite of Swiss Made watches. We have two factories in Switzerland and we have been making watches in Switzerland for 46 years. We are producing dials in Switzerland and we express a lot of our creativity through our dials. For a fashion brand, this is an accomplishment.
We want to build credibility with an automatic offer, which we are beginning. This is part of the evolution of the product range.