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Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève’s second innings in India

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Raymond Loretan, president of Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, on catering to all price tags, India’s emerging luxury market, why mechanical timepieces are here to stay and on his choice to not wear a watch

Raymond Loretan, president of Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, on catering to all price tags, India’s emerging luxury market, why mechanical timepieces are here to stay and on his choice to not wear a watch

“Compensation is driving the revenge shopping demand in the post-pandemic world”, says Raymond Loretan, president of the recently-concluded Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) exhibition in New Delhi.

Dubbed as the Oscars of the watch industry, the GPHG exhibition comprised 84 timepieces across 14 categories for the 2022 Awards, including some of the finest wristwatches from various categories from artistic and ladies’ complications to tourbillons. This is the second time the exhibition has travelled to India, presented yet again by watch retailer, Ethos Limited. Created in 2001 as a public interest organisation, GPHG’s goal has been to uphold the excellence of the watchmaking art by honouring and rewarding horological masterpieces that push the boundary of the industry every year.  

The Arnold & Son Luna Magna Platinum (left), and the HYT Moon Runner Supernova Blue
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A career diplomat, and student of Law from the University of Fribourg, Raymond joined the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs post his internships in Strasbourg, at the UN in New York and in La Hague. After serving as chief of cabinet of the Secretary of State in the Foreign Affairs, and several diplomatic positions later, Raymond left public service and took on the executive chairmanship of the Swiss Medical Network Group. He continues to be on the board of several companies, foundations and NGOs, among others the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, and the economic and financial newspaper L’AGEFI. Excerpts from an interview ahead of the awards ceremony in November:

Why was India selected as the destination for the exhibition this year?

After our last exhibition here in 2014, we have been wanting to come to India for a long time. The pandemic delayed our plans, but we were finally lucky to be invited by Ethos Watches and Yasho Saboo to exhibit the pre-selected watches of GPHG 2022 and to have meaningful interactions with India’s watch professionals and aficionados. India is poised to open up even more to the international watch industry, and our Minister of Economy visited India earlier this month to expedite the conclusion of the Free Trade Agreement which makes us optimistic about the market.

What are the key highlights and your favourites from this year’s line-up?

I respect strict neutrality and that’s the most important principle that drives the Grand Prix. I never mention a brand or a particular product; I don’t even wear a watch to maintain neutrality. If we have to increase the legitimacy and impact of the Grand Prix, we have to respect this aspect. In this direction, we took a big step in 2020 by creating the Academy of Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. We believe through the academy, we can reinforce and reaffirm this principle of impartiality.

A snapshot from the exhibition

A snapshot from the exhibition
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

How do you go about categorising the awards?

Every year, we rethink the categories and reaffirm or readjust them based on the evolution of the watch market around the world. To achieve this goal, we don’t decide ourselves, but consult various watchmaking experts. For example, we have introduced a new category this year: mechanical clocks (that didn’t come to India due to logistical difficulties), and reintroduced chronograph. We also emphasise in this year’s innovation prize, the dimension of sustainability without introducing any new category.

What is driving the sale of luxury watches globally?

The Grand Prix is not just about luxury watches. While we have 20 million swiss franc worth of watches competing in this year’s edition, the highest price of a single timepiece is 8 million swiss franc and the lowest is 1,700 swiss franc.

In terms of sales, the luxury segment survived the pandemic well because luxury watch buyers were less touched by the economic crisis and this category will always stay stable and probably grow in the future. India will perform well if the market conditions open up even more. It’s still difficult to import watches into the country.

The Astronomia Metaverso NFT Venus watch by Jacob & Co

The Astronomia Metaverso NFT Venus watch by Jacob & Co
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

What’s the impact of crypto currency on the watch industry?

Though I am not an expert, from what I hear from friends in the banking industry, I don’t think crypto currencies have a huge future. I wouldn’t bet too much on it.

Any trends that you can crystal gaze for 2023 in terms of design, technology, colour, functionality?

The digital category is progressing slower than expected, and a majority of participating watches are still mechanical. We are open for digital watches, but I still don’t see fast progress. This is still a nice balance, and that is not a source of concern. Mechanical watches are here to stay.

The Bovet Récital 20 Astérium watch

The Bovet Récital 20 Astérium watch
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

What’s the role of GPHG in promoting fine watchmaking?

Our mission is to promote the watch industry as a whole. One of the three principles I try to implement at GPHG includes being absolutely impartial and neutral. I think we have achieved this with the academy, now we have 650 members up from 300 two years ago and I am targeting 1,000 members by 2025. Second, to achieve universality of the Grand Prix. We are open to watches from anywhere in the world. Often, we are perceived as a Swiss Grand Prix, but we are not. We have watches from Japan, Russia, China and others. I hope Indian watches would be on this list sometime soon. Third, is the aspect of solidarity. I expect all brands to participate as a sign of solidarity towards the cause of the watchmaking industry.

The Awards Ceremony will be held in Geneva on November 10, 2022.The writer is founder and president, The Horologists.



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