Following his appointment early last year, Alessandro Michele, the new creative director for Gucci, has translated his love of antiques and vintage motifs across the brand generating great media buzz.
The first watch and jewelry collection designed by Michele was shown at Baselworld this year.
President and CEO of Gucci Timepieces and Jewelry Stéphane Linder also joined Gucci in 2015 after working 21 years at TAG Heuer, where he played a key role in the brand’s growth.
According to Linder, the Gucci timepieces combine the quality of traditional Swiss watchmaking with a touch of Gucci’s avant-garde design.
At Baselworld in Switzerland earlier this year, Pamela Tsai of the Epoch Times spoke with Linder. He talked about finding the right balance between the timelessness of a watch and incorporating elements that carry the brand’s DNA, as well as his goals for Gucci Timepieces and Jewelry.
Ingredients of Success
Epoch Times: How do you leverage Gucci’s heritage and make the Gucci timepieces unique for watch lovers?
Stéphane Linder: Gucci has been in the watch business since the 1970s. There are different fashion designers who had an immense influence on the brand’s destiny and image.
First, it’s one of the very few watch brands that is really successful. We had many years of success, not only in the Gucci boutiques but also in the watch and jewelry stores where we sell the most. This is achieved because we have always stayed at the price point that is legitimate to the brand.
As soon as you go too high in pricing, you start to hit your head against others like Longines, Omega, Tag Heuer, and maybe even Rolex. We have always stayed in the price point from 500 euros to 1,200 euros, and this is our strength. When you have a strong name like Gucci, you need to have products that fit the image of the brand.
A watch is a timeless purchase, so it’s not a seasonal purchase as in fashion. So the big compromise and difficulty is to find this timelessness and take the little ingredients of Gucci to translate them into successful watches. So this is a fine balance between traditional Swiss watchmaking and finding the elements that make it a Gucci watch.
In addition to pricing, another ingredient for success is design. It is crafted with Swiss quality, the attention to detail, with a little twist of Gucci. It has always been like this.
You may remember the huge success of the G watch. It was an immense success because it was a real watch with a touch of Gucci, thanks to the G.
Epoch Times: Can you please tell more about the new designer, the creative director?
Mr. Linder: Yes, we have a new designer, Alessandro Michele since the beginning of last year. In just one year, we have seen an immense revamping and repositioning of the brand.
He is the fashion designer for the whole Gucci brand. He’s based in Rome. He revamped the whole brand, from the advertising to the shop to the product to the fashion show.
He started to work on watches in June last year. He really enjoys designing watches. So you see his designs this year.
The Buzz Around Gucci’s Bee
Epoch Times: Can you show us an example of combining the fine balance of Swiss watchmaking and Gucci’s tweaks in fashion?
Mr. Linder: The fashion show is the ultimate creativity. It’s like going as far as you can in terms of creativity with a Gucci image. So one thing we thought would be interesting is to make products for the fashion show. But not only taking an existing product from the collection, but also making a completely new design.
One of the symbols used a lot is the bee. We used the bee symbol in the shoes and bags, and also integrated it with the watch. So it is not printed, it is embroidery on the dial with famous Toscana leather.
There are many people watching, commenting as well as bloggers, social media, and so on in every fashion show.
For example, one of the products arrived in the boutiques, last November. It was sold out in two months. We don’t make in big quantities. We really want to make sure that people see they are sold out and wait for the next fashion show. This creates a buzz—a desire.
This is different and unique. This is the tip of an iceberg where we present things, which are really daring. You see bees everywhere but then you have the classical Swiss watchmaking with a little touch of Gucci craziness.
Epoch Times: How do you describe the customers who appreciate the fine balance between Swiss watchmaking and Gucci creativity?
Mr. Linder: Well I think it’s consumers who like luxury in general, who want a good watch, but also something a bit different and unique, with more emotional content.
It gives you a feeling of being trendy, avant-garde. And Gucci stands so much as a reputable brand for women. It’s a touch of refinement. And it makes you say, “I am proud to wear a Gucci because I’m part of the spirit of Gucci, this amazing Italian brand, which has a fantastic history. When I wear a Gucci, I have a little touch of Gucci sophistication.”
In the United States, we sell in high-end department stores like Saks, Macy’s, and jewelers like Hamilton Jewelers, Chong Hing Jewelers, and Carat & Co in Flushing. We are well distributed in the United States.
Epoch Times: Which market demonstrates the highest potential for growth?
Mr. Linder: We had a very good year in the U.K. We did well in the Unites States as well. China is a bit more difficult market despite the fact that we did well in jewelry. Watches were a bit more challenging in China. We’re lucky because in our price point we’re less sensitive toward the anti-corruption campaign.
In terms of potential, our biggest market is the Unites States, the U.K. is second, China is third, Japan is fourth, Korea is fifth, and Italy is sixth. So we are diversified. In terms of potential, we can do a lot better in China.
Epoch Times: What is your goal for 2016 and beyond?
Mr. Linder: I think one of my main goals is to develop more jewelry for the wholesale market. We started distributing jewelry wholesale. As you know, people won’t buy gold jewelry in a Gucci fashion store, but they will buy from jewelers, so we need to develop in that area.
In terms of product awareness, not so many people know that we do jewelry. There is a lot of work to do.
The name is strong, but we need to improve category awareness. If I tell you the name Gucci, the first thing you will say bag. Very rarely will you say watches and jewelry. This is probably one of the key challenges.
Epoch Times: What do you enjoy most about working on Gucci timepieces?
Mr. Linder: For me, what’s interesting is that there is this image of Gucci, the brand power, which is huge, and incredible creativity. The mix fascinates me. Because designers have the capability of seeing and mixing the colors. They come up with things we are not used to in a traditional world of watches, so I think it’s fascinating—there is an unlimited possibility of creativity.
Epoch Times staff Pamela Tsai contributed to this article.