MW caught up with Raymond Loretan during his recent visit to India for the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) exhibition, often referred to as the ‘Oscars’ of the watch industry. In a free-wheeling chat he spoke about the future of fine watchmaking, India as a promising market for luxury timepieces, vision for a home-grown brand to participate in the future editions of GPHG, and more
I think we took a huge step in 2020 when we set up the GPHG Academy with 300 members and that has changed the paradigm of selection. This year’s committee has 650 members, and we hope to be able to increase it to 1,000 members till 2025.
However, with this expansion, management is a huge challenge. We have three principles: neutrality, universality, and solidarity—and with the expansion of the GPHG Academy, we are proud that we have been able to continue holding up these ideals when it comes to this event. We would also like to expand on the educational aspect with the GPHG in order to motivate young people to get into watchmaking and also cultivate an interest in buying new timepieces. Maybe also create a junior Academy… but that’s in the future.
We have to consider the markets, not just the emerging ones but also the ones that are strong to reinforce them with renewed zeal. We also need to go into countries where we see the potential of developing the watch market—just like India where there is huge potential with a growing number of people becoming aware about watches, thanks to the economic development, trade policies, and increasing global outlook.
One has to be invited and have the right retail partner to be able to hold such an event in any country. This is also imperative to create a win-win approach and we found that with Ethos. We have a long-standing association with Mr Yasho Saboo, and we are glad for this opportunity, where it has worked out so beautifully for us. We hope to be able to do this more frequently in the future.
This year, we created a new category, ‘Mechanical Clocks’ and re-introduced the ‘Chronograph’ category. But the idea is not to increase the number of categories and keep it around to the existing number.
This year we had around 5,000 entries; a lot of the watches being entered under multiple categories. So the first task was to shortlist those and bring them down to 250. It is then that the Academy selects 90 timepieces that make it to the list of final nominees. This pre-selection process is not that complicated, the challenge is just to motivate people to cast their vote. We have an independent auditor who decides the categories for these watches, in accordance with the brands.
We cannot accept any watch that the brand might not be okay with because we need the timepiece for a long duration so that it can be displayed in different countries during the international roadshow. Then there is 30-member jury that’s recruited out of the Academy, which selects the winners under notary supervision through a process of secret ballot. It’s also important to note that the members of the Academy can vote as well; the weight of their vote stands at 30 per cent. Confidentiality is key over here.
Even I don’t know the results till the day of the presentation ceremony. Post November 10, we will make two more exhibitions but only with the winners at Zurich and New York.
It’s all in the hands of the Academy. I think it’s fair but it is something that we are looking into… we’ll see how it evolves. But it’s fair from our end because the selection is totally democratic.
We are not a commercial organisation. Of course our goal is to promote awareness around new watches and the industry with our exhibitions, but selling is not part of the agenda since we are a completely independent and neutral body. But that doesn’t stop brands from using our logo or platform to talk about their watches when they are nominated or end up winning. And that’s fine but as a principle, we cannot give preferential treatment to any brand.
I cannot comment on their behalf but our goal will be to keep convincing as many brands, each year to participate. Because that is an act of solidarity when you are part of this industry.
The future is extremely promising including the landscape in India. It is an emerging market with favourable policies, and I think there is immense possibility for the industry to experience growth here… especially in the men’s category because watches are among the essential accessories for them. Also, it shows that one has an eye for the finer details in life and many are embracing or want to be a part of this aspirational lifestyle. I would also definitely want to see Indian home-grown brands participate in the GPHG someday.