Haute Time UK recently had the chance to speak with Michel Pitteloud, CEO of Graff Luxury Watches. Here is our exclusive interview:
After working for various companies in the jewelry and watch trade, you met up with Laurence Graff in 2008 and decided to undertake a comprehensive watch project together. What did you set out to achieve?
At the time, Graff didn’t have a comprehensive watch line. I knew they made watches here and there, but I proposed a global watch concept. He said: “How long do you need?” I said three months. In the meantime, we had two meetings in Geneva about this and I asked if he could give me some sort of inspiration to develop the watches. He said: “If I were to summarize my company in one word I would say: diamond.” So I decided to take inspiration from the jewelry line to develop a corresponding watch. Everything that is behind the watch is inspired by the shape of a diamond.
Today, Graff’s Luxury Watch collection stands out on its own, while also featuring Graff’s icon pattern and expertise in gem cutting and setting. Was it important to combine these two element, and has it become a pillar for each design?
One of the problems, when I developed the line, was to put diamonds on the watches. We started by saying that we didn’t want pavé set diamonds like everybody else. We wanted to set baguette cut diamonds. So we worked with the office in London to develop a way to set baguettes in such a way that would not be too costly. So we developed what we call a mosaic setting, which is a facet with three diamonds, which together perfectly replicate one individual ‘facet’ of the Graff’s signature bezel in diamond form.
Can you please take us through the 2014 novelties, which include highly complex models, and a big statement with the $55 million Hallucination watch, now the most expensive watch in the world?
The Hallucination is amazing. Of course, I am only responsible for the watch. Obviously, the big part is the bracelet, which is made out of 110 carats of color diamonds. If you tried to copy this watch, it would take you years because you would never find the same stones. Those colored diamonds are maybe 1,000 times more rare than white diamonds. We also released the thinnest watch with a flying tourbillon, dual time function, and grande date, with the Grand Date Dual Time Tourbillon, which had never been done in such a configuration. So that watch in terms of technique was the highlight. Then of course, we developed several other watches, like the MasterGraff Icon Skeleton with a sapphire cage, which is also a first in the world. These are really helping us compete with the big guys.
Today, Graff Luxury Watches boasts five proprietary movements, all designed and constructed and built exclusively in Geneva. Is the next step to create an in-house movement?
We are a jewelry company before being a watch company. The watch company is doing very well. We are having more success with it. But there are many, many, advantages in doing what we do. We can study different movements with different workshops, different companies, which are very reputable and work with brands such as Cartier, Patek Philippe. So those talents are huge assets to us. If you have a big boat, like a tanker, you would need 100 kilometers to change course. We are a speedboat, and in doing this we can adapt very quickly, and make special orders, which we do about 10 times a year. So we need that flexibility. This is maybe one of the reasons for our project’s success. What we have realized in six years, nobody has done before.
What are the most popular models in Graff’s Luxury Watch line?
The most popular model for ladies is the Graff Butterfly. The most popular for men, I would say, is the ChronoGraff 45. But surprisingly, we sell a lot of tourbillons too. So the MasterGraff Ultra Flat Tourbillon 43 is a very good model because it combines our calibers and Graff’s brand image. But the every day watch that is most successful is definitely the chronograph, or the big date.