In December 2020, Antonio Calce was appointed as CEO of Greubel Forsey. The industry veteran and trained engineer has previously worked for Piaget and Panerai, has headed Corum, and was CEO of Kering-owned Sowind Group, which comprises Girard-Perregaux and the JeanRichard brand.
WatchTime sat down with Calce to talk about his vision for the ultra-exclusive Swiss watch brand, his passion for the industry and complicated watches.
“We need to evolve by implementing a global vision and strategy.”Antonio Calce
What made you choose a career in the watch industry?
I was always passionate about watches. I was born in Neuchâtel and have thus always been sensitive to watchmaking jobs, to design. So it goes without saying that when you are passionate about these two fields you start working for the industry.
What was your first watch? And what are you wearing today?
My first watch was a Baume & Mercier, and today, I’m wearing the new Greubel Forsey Balancier S². This timepiece is the first in our new product offer and in a new price segment with a lot of design and modernity.
What makes a watch collectible, in your opinion?
For an item to be collectible, it needs to be valuable. There can be different things that add to the value of such an object – its historical significance, uniqueness and difference, the way it is made, how many are made, its quality, et cetera. Watches are very interesting collector’s items in that their value stems from so many different things coming together in just the right way. A collectible item should remain timeless.
Do you have a favorite complication?
I have few complications that I love such as the GMT, with its globe, and the QP, with its computer mécanique. On top of that, I also am impressed by all our different tourbillons, such as the Double Tourbillon Technique 30°. These complications are so impressive and give a lot of added value by their precision.
What was the first thing you changed at Greubel Forsey?
It’s more about evolution than it is about change. What we need to do is to secure a sustainable future for the brand and the 120 employees that are working for Greubel Forsey, which means that we need to evolve by implementing a global vision and strategy, through a new product offer, distribution and communication, while capitalizing on the incredible craftsmanship.
It is just incredible what Greubel Forsey did in only a few years, but we will not rest on our laurels! Greubel Forsey has always pushed the limits and boundaries and always sought to go one step further. It’s a mindset that Robert Greubel, Stephen Forsey, all the team and I share, which makes our collaboration very exciting! Our responsibility is to always maintain this very high level of excellence and what I can guarantee is that in our master plan for the upcoming years we will maintain it.
One of your goals with Greubel Forsey is to increase volumes in the CHF 200,000-to-CHF 350,000 price range. What target audience and markets do you have in mind?
I think that it is important for the future of the brand to enlarge its customer base. Of course, we will remain exclusive. With the evolution of our product offer in a new price segment, with timepieces that showcase a lot of design and modernity, we will reach a younger clientele. However, we will continue to cherish our existing collectors.
You currently make about 100 watches a year. How will this number increase?
Since we’ll never compromise on quality, it’s a matter of gaining in efficiency. We’ve already taken steps to ensure production and delivery of around more than 180 timepieces in 2022, which is a significant increase for us.
Increasing production will require more staff, and more training. How do you see the team grow in the next years?
We will definitely need to grow our team but also our infrastructure. We’ve acquired the land around our atelier and are currently working on a large expansion project that will incorporate new workshops and ateliers.
With such low numbers logically comes an exclusive group of clients, do you see a “typical” Greubel Forsey client?
The product offer that we had until today was very niche and for very specific collectors. Now, with the evolution of our product offer in a new price segment, we will reach a younger clientele yet remain very specific with a profound appreciation of quality, craftsmanship and authenticity.
What role does the U.S. play?
The U.S. has always been a strong strategic region for us. While we’ve had great success in the region for many years, our potential is far from exhausted. It is a strategic and important market for Greubel Forsey, with a significant potential. In the next two years, it will be a priority, and significant investments will be made.
We have recently seen more watches with sporty cases. Are we also going to see a watch for women from Greubel Forsey?
Of course, we are thinking about going into the field of feminine watches.
Is e-commerce going to be part of your strategy?
For now, e-commerce isn’t part of our strategy. As an independent brand, the personal contact we have with our clients and the service we’re able to offer, remains an integral part of our business. That said, we are working to expand our certified pre-owned program which does have an e-commerce component to it. But it will always go hand-in-hand with our personal approach.
Another element of your strategy is communication. How do you tell a younger collector why it makes sense to invest in a watch from Greubel Forsey, instead of buying into the stainless steel hype?
It is correct that today we need to communicate about the brand. The unique product offer that Greubel Forsey has needs to be known. We already started few weeks ago with a new pertinent vision in order to let us reach new steps.
Do you have a favorite/quintessential watch in the collection?
I really like the GMT Sport we launched beginning of this year. It has a very modern look, fits perfectly on the wrist and is light to wear thanks to the titanium. However, how can we remain indifferent to a Hand Made 1 or to a Grande Sonnerie ? These are watchmaking masterpieces!
If you could change one thing about the watch industry, what would it be?
In my opinion, I think that the industry benefits from an incredible savoir faire, but lacks for creativity and differentiation when it comes to product, except for few brands. I also think that the new emergent clientele needs to dream, and we thus need to adapt our communication on this basis.