june 2017
may 2017

Joëlle Esculier, Head of France, Perrelet.

Cut and Thrust

Laurent, you’re in the habit of saying that only around ten percent of the watches you’re shown are of real interest for Chronopassion. What was the decisive factor for Perrelet? 

 
Laurent Picciotto:
The erotic manga (laughter)!
 

Is that all?

 
Laurent Picciotto:
From the sole point of view of form, yes, but there’s much more to it than that. Perrelet is a brand that I’d had my eye on for a while, but it was some time before it really stirred my emotions. I found the Turbine interesting but I had the persistent feeling that it was an idea that hadn’t yet come to full fruition. When I saw the Manga, I felt that the brand was heading for a more fun approach, and I liked that. In addition to the design, it showed an unusual degree of daring – not least in that the watch is represented by a woman, Joëlle, which unfortunately is a pretty rare occurrence in and of itself. The Paranoia has further confirmed this daring streak.
 

Was that direction intentional right from the outset? 

 
Joëlle Esculier:
Yes, it was. Although it has a history, the brand is also young and dynamic. Our designers are constantly exploring new paths. When they came up with the mangas, everybody thought it was a bit of a risky direction to take, but it was a good fit with the brand’s positioning, as well as with the venerable tradition of erotic watches. In addition, while it wasn’t really in line with the usual angle of a store like Chronopassion, when I spoke to Laurent about it, I saw his eyes light up. I knew then that we were indeed on the right track.
 

Laurent, from the customer point of view, was it one step forward or two steps back? 

 
Laurent Picciotto:
At first, seeing as how I have an all-female team, it was two steps back (laughter)! With the customers it was a difficult exercise. You never know beforehand if you’re going to amuse or offend a customer. You can get it completely wrong. So the sales approach is something of a risky undertaking, although that’s something we’re used to.
 
Joëlle Esculier:
Less so for me, I must admit, because I know all my customers personally!
 

So what’s in it for the final customer? 

 
Laurent Picciotto:
As far as we can tell, most of them are collectors looking for something new, something that’s fun. People who already have some experience with watches and who are mainly interested in the Turbine.
 
Joëlle Esculier:
I’ve seen exactly the same thing as you. It’s absolutely clear at exhibitions. When someone stops to try on a model at our stand, they take off their own watch to put ours on. More often than not, we’ve noticed that the watch they put down on the table is not exactly a piece of junk…
 

Isn’t the brand in danger of locking itself into this rather naughty approach? 

 
Joëlle Esculier:
I don’t think so; as Laurent said, it should be seen above all as a daring brand – that’s really what our culture is. At the same time, there’s no point pretending that model didn’t help get the word out. We’ve gained a lot of people’s attention and got a lot of press coverage with this series. Even now, when customers pick up a Perrelet, they give it a shake no matter which particular watch it is!
 
Laurent Picciotto:
And in fact the best means of communication for you is video rather than text. I remember when we posted the Manga video on our YouTube channel, it was our biggest hit. We’ve reproduced the same approach in real life by having a dynamic showcase in the store that makes the watch ‘startle’ every 20 seconds, bringing the turbine to life. 99 percent of customers look up to see what’s going on!
 

Did this limited edition change the brand’s positioning? 

 
Joëlle Esculier:
Yes, in that it made a deep impression on those who saw it.
 
Laurent Picciotto:
Me first and foremost! We had said we would only take Turbines – but I changed my mind. Now we’re going to have skeleton chronographs, too. They’re right in keeping with the spirit of the brand. We began with a fun watch and now we’re moving onto a more technical timepiece.
 
Joëlle Esculier:
The brand is maturing now. We’re starting a more sporty trend in our collections, as well as going international.
 

Isn’t this development unsettling for a store like Chronopassion that’s positioned more on rare, exclusive brands? 

 
Laurent Picciotto:
Exclusiveness isn’t a quality in and of itself; it’s more an outcome of our choices. As it happens I like complicated, expensive watches. It’s not my fault if that ends up meaning we always have exclusive brands (laughter)! Joking apart, I choose my brands according a range of criteria – and exclusiveness isn’t one of them.
 

You’ve haven’t been working together for long yet – how do you see the future? 

 
Laurent Picciotto:
As far as I’m concerned, I’m really quite confident. The brand isn’t independent – it’s part of a large group, and that inspires trust. What’s more, I regularly see new items arrive that are very much in step with its positioning, and that’s an excellent sign.
 
Joëlle Esculier:
I see Laurent in much the same way. We have a very good relationship; we’re in for the long term. We started working together nearly fifteen years ago, when I was still at Leroy. When I became Perrelet Head of France, I took special care to stay attentive to people like him – they’re real partners for us. Every one of their comments is taken into account; every e-mail’s dealt with personally. When you reach that sort of level of familiarity and trust, you’ve got the right foundation for long-term ambitions.
 
Journalist : Olivier Müller ( 03/2013)