MILAN — Ermenegildo Zegna Group has signed a long-term partnership agreement with Sowind Group for the design and production of a collection of signature watches, which will bow in mid-2011. The Switzerland-based Sowind Group owns the Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard brands.

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Gildo Zegna, chief executive officer of the Italian men’s wear giant, highlighted the “exclusive, luxury” positioning of the collection, which will be available exclusively at 50 to 80 Ermenegildo Zegna flagships around the world. “The watches will be in line with the rest of our offer,” said Zegna, noting each piece will retail at between 5,000 and 10,000 euros, or $6,938 and $13,877 at current exchange rate. Details about the styles are not available yet, and Zegna said the collection will “evolve gradually.”

Zegna and Girard-Perregaux first partnered for a limited edition Centennial watch to mark the Italian firm’s 100th anniversary this year. “The success of this celebratory watch encouraged us to further develop this category. It was a natural and gradual entry,” said the executive. Zegna also stated that he views this watch project as very “masculine” and that it responds to “new markets” ranging from China to Brazil and India. In September, Zegna signed with India’s Reliance Brand Ltd. to grow the label in the region.

“What better connection between luxury and men than a watch?” Zegna asked. He also underscored the “common affinities and shared desire for excellence and innovation” between “two Piedmontese families,” the Zegnas and that of Gino Macaluso, ceo and majority shareholder of Sowind Group. “This partnership is an interesting tale of two families whose commitment and work ethic have become their own life philosophy, and who have chosen to travel together along a new mutual path while still maintaining their own identities,” said Macaluso.

Sowind will celebrate its 220th anniversary next year. Girard-Perregaux is known for making complex movements such as tourbillon, power-reserve and chronograph in-house

Zegna, who said he’s “always liked watches and cars — the two usually go together,” was upbeat about the future of the venture. “The [haute horlogerie] sector suffered very much last year, even more than fashion, but business is picking up,” he said. “There are good signs that point to a recovery.”

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