By  on April 9, 2007

MILAN — Frida Giannini keeps to her fast-paced schedule with the object that takes the longest for her to design and produce.

"It takes up to two years to design a watch," said Giannini, Gucci's creative director. "It's a drawn-out process and quite different from designing a shoe. In terms of trends, when you work so much in advance, you have to second-guess and dare."

She would know. Giannini has infused a luxe-driven fashion angle into the watches and increased coordination with other categories since the watch business was integrated into the Gucci brand in June 2006. Before then, it was under the Gucci Group Watches umbrella, a multibrand organization that managed the category for Gucci and other divisions in the group.

The goal is to turn the Gucci watches into a key category for growth.

"The idea was to empower Frida so that she could channel her inventive [talent] into the watches, as she did with all the other product categories she's responsible for," Gucci chief executive officer Mark Lee said in an interview.

Gucci will unveil a new style called Signoria at the Baselworld watch fair that begins Thursday in Basel, Switzerland. Named after the historic Florentine piazza to evoke tradition and aristocracy, Signoria features a quartz movement and a round case wrapped by a bit-adorned wristband.

It's available in steel or yellow gold with the option of diamond sprinklings; the face can be in malachite, tigereye or hawk's eye.

Retail prices range from 950 euros, or $1,195 at current exchange, for the steel version, to 11,500 euros, or $15,000, for the diamond one.

On the fall runway, Giannini used a burnished gold version to complete her Lee Miller-inspired clothes that melded a Forties feeling and modern accoutrements. There is the possibility this model will be sold as a limited edition.

Lee is plotting a growth strategy for the brand's watches that includes the revision of distribution, positioning and price points, as well as whittling down the current 250 styles, especially the silver ones, and boosting underperforming geographical markets.

In the wake of the double-digit growth registered in all Gucci product categories, Lee is keen on spotlighting the watches.

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