he family firm founded in 1960 is known for its stunning gemstone jewellery. In 2009 it decided to add bejewelled timewear to its sumptuous suites. For this it called on Michel Pitteloud, a leading light in watchmaking, to be CEO of Graff Luxury Watches.
How is business these days?
2014 was a good year but 2015 is looking to be tougher given the state of the world. Nonetheless, we're continuing to develop lovely new products that were extremely well received at Baselworld by press and clients alike. I think we should do pretty well.
What's your background?
I started at the Swiss Fédération de l'Industrie Horlogère then in the 80s set up Bulgari Time and acted as its CEO;
I went on to work for Harry Winston and Corum.
When you arrived at Graff, what was your brief?
To draw up an "haute couture" project retaining the diamond inspiration that is the company's signature. A challenge that has turned out very well. Since 2010 we've been designing watches that fit with our jewellery collections
so as to complete suites. The Butterfly watches, for example, are hugely successful.
Do you find this exciting?
Getting a project off the ground is stimulating, a bit like watching a baby grow up! We have some phenomenal timepieces: Hallucination in 2014, Fascination this year. They're jewellery first and watches second, and they command unheard-of prices.
At Baselworld your watches shone. Is showcasing Graff's jewellery expertise essential?
It's very important! Our classic timepieces are inspired by the shape of the diamond and our bestsellers are the watches developed out of our jewellery collections. This year the Floral Tourbillon superbly illustrates the connection between the jewellery workshops in London and the watchmaking ones in Geneva. Fascination took us a year to develop; the watch part was done in three months.
What about your other new watches?
We've developed an automatic movement to make the Disco Butterfly's butterflies dance, and the Halo is a watch with a secret, to wear on the wrist or as a ring.
The men's watches are very assertive in their design. Is that deliberate?
We need to be identifiable without going to extremes; the idea is to retain a certain classicism. However, the women's watches account for 60-65% of our sales; consequently we're developing our men's models so a man who comes to buy jewellery for his wife can also treat himself to a watch.
You're based in Switzerland, how are your watches made?
We work with the most prestigious suppliers. First we design, then we order our components; assembly and quality control are carried out in-house. On occasion we develop our own calibres; we supervise the manufacturing, making comments and improvements.
Do you have collectors among your clients?
Of course! We also receive commissions for one-off pieces that we create to order, in line with our aesthetic principles.
Might Graff Luxury Watches split off from Graff Diamonds? No, we want to stay connected to our jewellery roots – our watches complement our jewellery. They in fact account for less than 10% of our sales. But obviously we want to grow this division, along with the whole group.