Haute Living presents its “In The Neighborhood” series at Aston Martin Residences with a conversation featuring Pierre Halimi, General Manager of F.P. Journe America. The topics included the luxury brand’s rise of passionate collectors, transforming the boutique business model into a first-class retail experience, and welcoming F.P. Journe America to the neighborhood.
They were hosted by Haute Media Group Cofounder Seth Semilof. Watch the full webinar below.
Here are some of the questions and answers from the exclusive interview with F.P. Journe America.
Seth Semilof: Tell us your vision of why you chose this area.
Pierre Halimi: Bal Harbour is an amazing mall. The issue that we had is we had 600 square feet and if you really want to welcome people, you need space. I did not have a choice for this. The fact that we are in downtown Miami, we are in the center of everything; we are in the center of the business, the center of the residences, the center of all the culture. It is a true melting pot here downtown, more so than Bal Harbour. We moved from the boutique business model to the Maison, the “house of,” where we can welcome people, have a drink, or have a cigar on the terrace on the Miami river, or even just hang out and talk to other collectors. That is the idea of what we call the usual community, so at least we can enjoy each other.
SS: F.P. Journe has an amazing amount of collectors and passionate watch lovers. Tell us a little about the brand F.P. Journe.
PH: F.P. Journe was a brand created in 1999. Mr. Journe, François-Paul, F.P. for short, actually started making watches back in the early 80, so he was making watches well before he created the eponymous company. He is considered to be the best watchmaker alive. Unfortunately for a lot of people, we are not well known because we are very, very tiny. Last year, we produced 904 mechanical watches worldwide for the whole year. That is it, so that limits a lot.
SS: Tell us about the experience that you have given to your customers because I think it is first class and it is something that was not done in the watch world before.
PH: The good thing with François when he designed the first boutique in 2005 for Tokyo, he did it in a way that was a store, which is kind of like the showroom, and then you walked behind the showroom and you had a bar, a library, and sofas. Time to relax, time to have coffee, and think about this. I do not think François-Paul had the vision of what the retail would be in 2021, but it does not matter for him. It really helped us tremendously when we started, seeing that trend of the retail and the customer being on the same side. We like to play with this, and the great thing is when you come here and you need another Journe collector, you have something to talk about. I have been telling François-Paul, as much as I really appreciate the success we have and the money that entails, the fact that when I see two Journe collectors meeting each other, becoming friends, going on vacation together, you cannot buy.
SS: Where do you see the brand going over the next three to five years?
PH: Exactly the same. François-Paul’s aim when he says he wants to do the best watches is not your best or my best. It is his best and what is his best? It is what we call the scientific watch: the precision instrument. His watch has to be precise. That is his mantra, so everything that he is trying to do is trying to gain maybe a 10th of a second better accuracy a day. It is almost impossible because it is exponentially more difficult to always bring something new. If it has been done before, why would I do it? Even if you look at our automatic movement from the beginning, it has been set to be a little bit off-center for the only reason that if, one day, you want to make a complication in the back and that time you wanted to do the celestial map, he is able to do it mechanically. Then, Patek Phillipe came out with Sky Moon. He said, “Oh, they did it before me. Good for them.” No more celestial for us. Why copy? That is not the point of it. Create, create, not copy.
SS: You have been in Miami for a long time. The growth of Miami is just explosive. Have you ever seen anything like that?
PH: I remember coming to Miami and Miami Beach back in the ‘80s. It was weird. It was like you knew it was coming up, but it was Tony Goldman and all these guys that really created South Beach. He said, “How come we do not have one Michelin star right now in Miami?” Michelin had not come to the city yet with all these new restaurants, but they had to come. We have all this space that we should be on the map for the culinary part and not just the fiesta, which I think is the superficial part of Miami. I think with the New Yorkers we are going to be more gravitas and more culture than we had in the past, which I welcome tremendously.
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