Tuesday, 22 May 2012

A Few Minutes with Mike Margolis - President of America for the Sowind Group

It was a real pleasure to have an opportunity to interview Mike Margolis following his appointment at Girard-Perregaux/Jean Richard (also known as the Sowind Group) as the President of their American operations.

And now - a few minutes with Mike Margolis -

Courtesy of Girard-Perregaux

James Henderson:  What was your first watch?  Was it a gift, is there a story behind it?

Mike Margolis:  The first watch I remember having was in about 1974, it was one of the red letter LED’s that had just come out. The Pulsar’s were so expensive, I couldn’t afford one at age 14, so I had a generic one instead. When it died, my father gave me his SS Omega Seamaster Automatic. I wound it up, put it to my ear, and began a lifelong love of mechanical watches.

JH:  When you were a boy, what did you want to be when you "grew up"?

MM:  I never had aspirations to anything in particular.

JH:  Where did you go to school, what did you study exactly?

MM:  University of Connecticut, BA in Latin American Studies and Foreign Languages, then some postgrad work at the Universidade de Lisboa in Portugal.

JH:  In some ways you seem to have a bit more of a background suited for an academic, or even some sort of governmental career, what are some of the things you did prior to entering the watch industry?

MM:  I was a union carpenter, a lifeguard, an English teacher at a Berlitz School in Dusseldorf Germany, then began a career in the high-tech world.  My last job was 9 years with Magellan GPS.

JH:  What got you started in the watch industry?

MM:  In about 1997 I found watchnet.com and then timezone.com.  Before that, I thought I was the only person in the world who liked watches.  So I started hanging around TZ and very early became the moderator of the Blancpain forum, then also IWC and Vacheron.  I met Jean-Claude Biver in about 1999 while he was still at Blancpain.  He asked me to host a collector’s dinner in NYC and we became friends from that; and we’d see each other and stay in contact as friends would.  When he started at Hublot in 2004, he connected with me and asked that I would start an Hublot forum on timezone.  We did that in 2005, and that eventually led him to ask me to come work for him full time in 2007.

JH:  Tell us a bit about your time at Hublot, what was it like to participate in the "Fusion Revolution"?

MM:  Wow, what an amazing five years. It was an education in so many ways: I rode the rocket ship up in 07 and 08, then things retracted a bit in 2009, and then we took off again in 2010 and 2011. I will be eternally grateful to Jean-Claude Biver for giving me a chance in the industry.

JH:  Of all of the Hublot projects/partnerships that you were involved with, do any favorites stand out?

MM:  I crewed on a vintage wooden racing yacht at the Yacht Club of Monaco in 2007. Black tie dinner with Albert II Prince of Monaco, stayed at the Hotel Hermitage. For me, that was the best event I’ve ever been to.

Courtesy of Girard-Perregaux

JH:  After a clearly successful time with Hublot, you made the move to join Girard-Perregaux.  Obviously as the head of North America, it is a move up the ladder so to speak.  But beyond the title, what are some of the things that attracted you to Girard-Perregaux?

MM:  So many things: We are a true manufacture, and have been continuously since 1791. I am at heart a very traditional person and I love the classical nature of our product. Our Haute Horlogerie department is to die for: tourbillons galore, minute repeaters, perpetual calendars, etc...

JH:  What are some of the differences between a company like Hublot, and Girard-Perregaux? 

MM:  Obviously, Hublot loves the new materials and cutting edge technology. Ceramic, carbon fiber, bead blasted platinum, all de rigeur. Girard-Perregaux is more traditional, building and finishing movements by hand and casing them in steel and precious metals. Neither is better or worse, just different.

JH:  What do you see as Girard-Perregaux's greatest challenges here in North America?

MM:  We are a spectacular 220 year old brand who has been asleep. It is my challenge to wake it up!

JH:  How do you see JeanRichard developing?

MM:  2013 will be a great year for JeanRichard. There will be new models, a new advertising campaign, an entire new push to re-establish the brand. I am quite excited as I’ve seen the prototypes!

JH:  Although it might be hard to choose, do you have a favorite GP and JR model?

MM:  For G-P, I am wearing a 1966 triple date moon phase in platinum, a small limited edition of 100 pieces. Past that, I can only fantasize about the new 1945 triple bridge tourbillon with grey dial. Wow.

For JeanRichard, as I answer this I am wearing a blue Aquascope; my summer watch for the pool, ocean and bicycle.

JH:  What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

MM:  I have a huge passion for antiques and decorative arts. When I retire, I’d love to have an antique shop in Maine.

JH:  What do you like to do in your down time?

MM:  With four teenage kids, I don’t know what downtime is! Seriously, I love classical music, museums, travel and food. We live in a house from the 1760’s, so there’s always a project going on.

JH:  You have, in many ways, lived the dream of many watch fans - going from a watch collector and forum participant to the North American head of one of the world's most famous brands.  What advice do you have for those out there who might wish to follow in your footsteps?

MM:  I get asked this all the time, and always say the same thing: The watch industry is quite inbred, and it’s really hard for an outsider to find their way in. The best way I’ve seen is to take your gifts and talents, and offer them to your favorite brand at no charge. Show them what you can do for them, work your butt off asking nothing in return but for the love of being involved, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find yourself with a job offer.


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