Back to black
Ulysse Nardin continues to swim against the tide with its newly appointed captain CEO Patrick Pruniaux, who tells melainne chiew it’s the voyage that interests him
a brand like Ulysse Nardin doesn’t beg to be heard across entire oceans; its presence is simply felt. Freak, which launched in 2001, propelled Ulysse Nardin onto the horological radar with its unconventional design aesthetic. Bereft of conventional hands, dial and crown, it featured a flying carrousel, a movement that revolved on its own axis every hour, and a separate indicator for hours. More importantly, it was also the first watch to boast ultraresilient, amagnetic silicon parts, with its Dual Direct escapement paving way for even more technological advances in years to come.
“Ulysse Nardin is a brand for people in the know, for connoisseurs,” says Patrick Pruniaux, who joined the Kering Group in September 2017 as chief executive officer of Ulysse Nardin. “I’d say it’s for someone who aspires to have one of the best watches in the world, while finding the balance between having that status symbol without being too showy or in your face.”
Likewise, one might say that Pruniaux embodies many qualities of a brand like Ulysse Nardin. The 46-year-old’s varied portfolio clues you in, suggesting he is no cookie cutter. He brings with him over two decades of experience in the industries of luxury and fastmoving goods. He was Regional
Director at Moët Hennessy for Latin America ( 2000 to 2004), followed by Tag Heuer ( 2005 to 2014), first as International Export Director ( 2005 to 2009) then Vice President for Global Sales & Retail ( 2010 to 2014). Pruniaux came on board Ulysse Nardin from Apple ( 2014 to 2017), where he was part of the Special Projects team that launched the Apple Watch. More recently in August, Pruniaux was also appointed CEO of Girard-perregaux.
Contemplating it might be a habit he picked up from his time at Apple, Pruniaux says he is fixated with consumer behaviour. “I am obsessed with how our product is being used. To buy a product and keep it in the drawer is a pity. You want to make sure there is maximum consumer experience. We’re exploring the different aspects of that field to ensure clients always derive joy and fun when they buy premium products from us. It’s very often in the luxury industry to find brands just want to sell something.”
Despite Ulysse Nardin’s many technological triumphs (the Grinder winding system that debuted in this year’s Freak Vision, the Ulychoc shock absorption system from 2015, and the in-house Anchor Constant escapement from 2014 among others), it remains a brand known mostly to watch enthusiasts. Says Pruniaux, “When we do something great, we sometimes don’t talk enough about it. We are just always more focused on a permanent quest for improvement.”
To him, the journey, however, is more if not as important as the destination. “I’m more worried about things we don’t do right yet, than the results, which may or may not be a good illustration of the work we’ve done. You can achieve success without being good at what you do; likewise, you could fail despite being very good, so I’m more obsessed with what we do well and what other things we need to improve on.”
Indeed, Pruniaux is proud of the way the new #Freakmeout campaign has come together, and the excitement created around the brand, especially with the debut of its Freak Out collection debut in Kuala Lumpur in August, where entertainment came in the form of pulsating dance beats and appropriately bizarre contortionist acts. The #Freakmeout campaign is represented by a solo shark in an urban jungle, seemingly out of its element yet able to traverse the unfamiliar ground effortlessly.
“I think #Freakmeout represents to some extent what people want: To be surprised, to see something different and fresh,” Pruniaux explains. “The Freak epitomises what Ulysse Nardin stands for — a sense of freedom and innovation that combines daring ingenuity with undeniable style. I think the party represents the mindset of the company pretty well.”
Likewise, the brand-new quartet of watches preserves the Freak DNA and is powered by the signature baguette-shaped flying carrousel movement, the manual-winding calibre UN-205 with a proprietary dual silicon escapement and a generous 7-day power reserve. The latest expression of the Freak family comes in four variants, all cased in titanium: Blue Gold, Out Of The Blue, Black Gold and Full Black. The latter’s case comes with a black PVD surface treatment to evoke jet-black cool.
He shares, “It’s really down to us now. We have the power to grow and accelerate ahead of other brands, but having said that, we shouldn’t be a mainstream brand. We probably need to very marginally increase our awareness to others to make sure when they’re aspiring to own manufacture watches, especially with our values, they pick us.”
FROM TOP: PATRICK PRUNIAUX; FREAK OUT BLUE GOLD
FROM LEFT: FREAK OUT FULL BLACK IN BLACK PVD COATED TITANIUM; FREAK OUT BLACK GOLD IN TITANIUM; THE MANUALWINDING CALIBRE UN-205