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Interview: Raymond Loretan, President – Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève

Interview: Mr. Raymond Loretan, President of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) – The man with a bird’s-eye-view of the luxury watchmaking industry.

Earlier last month, Ethos Watches, India’s leading chain of luxury watch boutiques hosted what is popularly known as the “Oscars of Watchmaking” – The Fondation du Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) in Delhi, India. They exhibited the 84 shortlisted nominees from 12 categories and safe to say, we had the industry’s most exquisite and talked-about watches, all under one roof. It’s an annual celebration of the spirit of watchmaking and its many values – Innovation, creativity, precision, and passion. While recognizing the talent and efforts of watchmakers from across the world who consistently strive to push the limits of horlogerie and embrace its mechanical mastery, the GPHG, year-on-year, also sets new standards for the industry and exhibits its direction.

To get a deeper insight into where the watchmaking industry is headed and the inner functionalities of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, we caught up with President, Mr. Raymond Loretan – The man at the helm. Here’s all about our interview.

Raymond Loretan GPHG

Raymond, to give our readers a quick brief, tell us what the GPHG is and what’s its significance in the watch industry.

The GPHG, Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève was founded 22 years ago and is a unique competition for the best watches the world has to offer. We annually handpick six extraordinary timepieces across 12 to 14 categories, extending it to 15 this year. Finally, at the award ceremony, we select a winner.

Can you give us an insight into the selection process? How do the GPGH and the Academy pick these watches? Are there any guidelines, mandates, or eligibility criteria?

In 2020, we witnessed a remarkable change at the GPGH that came with the birth of the academy, as the process of selecting these watches saw a paradigm shift. Initially, we had a jury of 30 professionals, which are now assisted by 300-350 academicians. Today, this number sits at 650 and we strive to increase it to 1000 by 2025. All of these professionals are involved in the selection process. Right from the pre-selection, to runner-ups, to the final six. Finally, it’s handed over to the grand jury. While so, the academy holds 30% weight in the final decision and selection of the winner, so their expertise and opinions are highly significant to the GPHG. With this evolution and expansion, the GPGH is formulating new values that will be followed in the future.

In terms of operations, it’s smooth and perfectly secure. It works using an electronic platform and we have a notary approving the whole process. Right from selection, to voting, to comments and notes, everything is electronically executed.

On the other hand, brands and nominees must announce their nominations along with their respective timepieces to the Academy. This year we had 254 watches that applied for nomination and we, of course, selected only 90 as per our categories and criteria. The selection, as mentioned earlier, is done by the academicians.


To ensure transparency and fairness in competition, what are the principles followed by the GPHG?

Through the selection process, the GPHG follows three strict principles – Neutrality, universality, and solidarity. There’s absolutely no room for influence, biasness, or corruption. Watchmaking is now practiced all across the world with appeals of their own. As you know, the number of non-Swiss watchmakers has substantially increased in recent times and hence, an increase in the number of participations from them in the Gran Prix. It now stands at 12 countries, and Switzerland is the 13th. Solidarity greatly matters to the GPHG. We encourage watchmakers from across the world to participate as some brands often hesitate with the perception that they may be smaller-scale brands competing with titans of the industry.


Raymond, you’re a man with a bird’s-eye-view of the watchmaking world. How do you see the industry evolve today and where’s it headed?

Highly positively. And unsurprisingly, the watch industry was quite resistant through the COVID crisis despite the differences and obstacles. Yes, it was much better for high-end watches and older brands than compared to smaller names, but as of today, the watch industry is picking up again. There’s also a huge potential for this industry in India and it isn’t by chance that we’re hosting the GPHG here, India is a brilliant market and will continue to grow in coming years.

By 2023, India will be the most populous country and the largest democracy in the world. Yes, there are difficulties that will arise in the market, but we think with time, this will open up further. Switzerland is putting lots of effort into reinforcing the flow of trade and our economic ties while opening up newer streams. Just a couple of weeks ago, our economic minister visited India to speed up the signing of a free trade agreement. Safe to say that we’re at the avant-garde of this movement.


How do you think consumer behavior has changed pre-and-post-COVID? Or do you think it’s been consistent?

Quite consistent actually, but I also feel it’s strongly bound by buying power and it has been influenced by COVID and its economic crisis. However, you have people who have been quite affected by COVID and the international crisis we’re witnessing with the Ukraine-Russia war. So, yes, people are a bit hesitant to buy a watch right now, which is absolutely logical. But globally, and with time, I think the market will recalibrate and sustain. Simple because watches aren’t simply pieces of utility that tell time, but artistic and engineering marvels who incorporate values, tradition, and innovation.

You have a background in diplomacy, you have a background in law as well as in media. How did you find your passion for watches?

Passionate is a strong word for a chairman, I think he mustn’t be passionate, but instead cool and neural.

Well, the truth is, when I was in Singapore, I was very close to the watch business. As we all know, the watch industry has great economic significance to Switzerland and it was my responsibility to promote this industry. I must say, it was a truly intensive time, during the 90s and early 2000s, as many international brands were expanding and opening boutiques and various selling points in Singapore. Being in the center of this influx, I learned a lot about watchmaking and its importance.

To me, a watch represents precision, tradition, creativity, and innovation. These are values dear to be and if I could say so, highly quintessentially Swiss too. But well, it’s an absolute honor and pleasure to promote such a rich and diverse industry.


How do you see the Indian market grow in the coming years?

The Indian market represents 2% of the worldwide watchmaking market. If we throw in the overseas buyers, maybe 2.5% but I’m sure this number will increase substantially in the years to come. Well, we aren’t a profit-driven organization so it’s hard for us to comment on market growth, but in terms of interest and curiosity from the Indian market and enthusiasts so far, I see spectacular potential for growth. It of course also depends on the evolution of the Indian economy and how it affects the buying power of Indians.

Finally, for any man or woman looking to spend some good money on a watch today, what advice would you give them?

I’ll just say that buying a timepiece isn’t an investment. It’s intimate, and it should be done with emotion. Listen to your heart, not your head. No matter what the price is, if you connect with the timepiece, its story, significance, and silhouette, go for it.

Stay tuned to Lifestyle Asia India’s InstagramTwitterFacebook for more watch updates.

All images: Courtesy brand

Interview: Raymond Loretan, President – Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève

Mikhail Gomes

Features Editor, Lifestyle Asia India & Contributor - Augustman

A watch aficionado, Mikhail also enjoys learning about fine whiskies, and one day hopes to establish his own menswear label. At Lifestyle Asia India, he writes on watches, menswear, auto and tech.


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