It was a different time, certainly a different era, but there was a period in the 1970s when fashion brands licensed their exclusive yet eponymous labels to businesses other than their own to make accessories. Itʼs hard to imagine now but Gucci watches were once produced under licence in 1972 by Severin Montres Group.
Swiss-made in Bienne, Belgian-born businessman Severin Wunderman made such a successful go of it that in 1997, Gucci decided to acquire the business and control the production of this burgeoning segment in-house; this corporate model was soon adopted by the likes of Chanel and Hermès.
Of course, a cynic would say that crass commercialisation has drawn a hallowed Couture house into not fine (as is traditional in industry parlance) but ʻhighʼ watchmaking. After all, Gucci does a lot of business in China and from January to November of 2020, Swiss watch imports to China totalled $2.39 billion, an increase of 17 per cent over the same period in 2019. But then, these cynics would be missing a point.
Yes, timepieces are a lucrative market but Kering-owned Gucci isnʼt just about making money, itʼs a complete lifestyle curated under the ethos and vision of creative director Alessandro Michele. Time In Alessandro Michele’s Perspective Back then, Gucci was one of the first major fashion brands to embrace the watch segment as a co-equal fashion statement.
Fifty years later, Gucci under the auspices of Alessandro Michele, is upping the ante, evolving from a series of horologically interesting if quirky timepieces into a statement of high watchmaking.
If itʼs 90th birthday was anything to go by, the first hint of the Italian brandʼs nascent watchmaking creativity was first displayed in the limited edition Gucci Coupé. Retro-styled case, dial and strap, and an nice automatic movement, it bore a form not unlike the Heuer Silverstone but bearing the Gucci diamond pattern and the vintage signature “G.Gucci 1921”, the asymmetrical counters with Dubois Depraz modules behind them, made for a uniquely “Gucci” perspective on timekeeping.
In the new era, The Gucci Grip Watch was among the first collection of timepieces designed by creative director Michele. Combining fine art and high fashion, Michele infused many Renaissance-inspired elements into his designs and the overall visual identity of the House. Micheleʼs style would herald the return of Gucci to the fashion forefront by catering to a younger customer.
So yes, while money is a factor, the design language pioneered by Michele and its resonance with the Houseʼs growing millennial audience is a true reason for why its first fine watchmaking effort ‒ the 25H collection, looks the way it does.
How Michele’s 25H Collection Came To Be
The “Grip” referenced a duality in watchmaking and skateboarding ‒ it describes a watch snuggly hugging a wrist as well as how “grip tape” keep a hold on sneakers on a skateboard. Easily referenced to the still life imagery inspired by Europeʼs historical jewellery districts, the velvet tones and plush aesthetic of the 1970s are there to serve up the exciting contrast of the minimalist Gucci Grip Watch with the retrotastic maximalism of the era.
Featuring a rounded square case evocative of shaped sports luxury watches of the era, the Gucci Grip with its three windows and three white rotating disks displays indicating hour, minute, and date respectively, was an appealing, wallet friendly (by way of Quartz Ronda movement) collection that served to introduce Gucci watches not to the watch-collecting cognoscenti, but to fashion lovers.
This simple elegance has been communicated into the Houseʼs latest timepieces, which are about to take Gucci into its next century. Featuring the brandʼs first proprietary calibres, the new high horology collection debuts with four lines ‒ the Gucci 25H, G-Timeless, Grip and Haute Joaillerie watches packed with signature complications like the tourbillon, jumping hours, ultra-thin micro-rotor movements and of course, bejewelled creations.
Named after one of Alessandroʼs Michele favourite numbers, the in-house calibre GG727.25 for instance, references Micheleʼs numerical talismans: ʻ7ʼ to encapsulate a sense of completeness, ʻ2ʼ representing balance and cooperation; ʻ5ʼ symbolising curiosity and freedom. Indeed, the 25H is the Creative Directorʼs take on the hottest watch segment today ‒ the luxury sports watch with integrated bracelet.
Part of the French luxury group Kering, Gucci doesn’t just find kinship with fellow luxury fashion brands Saint Laurent, and Bottega Veneta. The conglomerate also owns two high-end watchmakers: Ulysse Nardin and Girard Perregaux. Hence, Gucci cannot be accused of crass commercialisation when it has the resources of Kering Watch Manufacture and the know-how of two renowned brands at its disposal.
Looking at the sophisticated mechanical movements powering these timepieces, it is safe to surmise that it is Michele’s uniquely Gucci aesthetics combined with the technical prowess and legitimacy of centuries old high-end watchmaking that make this effort a horological unicorn: a calibre inspired by fashion itself. Function follows form instead.
With 33 new references in four collections celebrating its 100th birthday, Michele takes Gucci’s first watchmaking effort in a direction not dissimilar to The Grip – an ultra-thin cushion-shaped case measuring 40mm in diameter and just 7.2mm in thinness – exemplifies the new Gucci 25H Automatic models.
Even as Michele revisited the brand’s iconic GG logo in everything from blazers to horse-bit loafers, he takes great pains not to go over-the-top (as is his wont) with the 25H. That said, he does keep elements reminiscent to the GG motif by way of the tiny block-square links across the entirety of the bracelet and lines across the dial. The two tourbillon models too have an ultra-thin case profile: nigh miraculous when you consider that this is the brand’s first attempt.
The resulting 8mm-thin case maintaining that ultra-thin profile will form the architectural foundation for the rest of the collection. Italian refinement united with Swiss prowess, each case is constructed in layers and unlike most watches, perfectly symmetrical, with crown hidden within the midcase.
This little attention to detail means that you get to enjoy the full flavour of the brushed cushion-shaped bezel. While of course, the design cues might run afoul of what naysayers call the “NautilusOak” formula, the reality is that Gucci’s sensibilities tilt to the stylistic. Perfectly symmetrical. Sans crown. Sans date.
Crafted within the renowned Swiss watchmaking region of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the dials and decorative techniques are themselves applied in Ticino. It’s a horological mosaic that builds upon the heritage of Gucci, enriching fine watchmaking with a couturier’s perspective rather than intrude upon horological provenance like some brash interloper.