Interview With Eric Giroud, Watch Designer Extraordinaire!

Eric Giroud

Chances are that unless you are hardcore luxury watch enthusiast you are probably not familiar with the name Eric Giroud, but let me tell you, you should be! This man has been the creative genius behind some of the world’s most breathtaking and mindblowing timpieces, including the highly lauded Opus 9 and Glissiere Tourbillon pieces from Harry Winston, the Sequential One by MCT Watches (along with Denis Giguet) and HM No.1 from our good friend Maximilian Büsser and his team at MB&F.

Recently Eric was kind enough to free up some time in his very busy schedule to talk to us about his passion for design, his amazing career and quite simply what inspires him to do what he does best, design!

For those of you who would like (and are able to!) read the original interview, it has been published here…in French!

TWL: What are the top three most challenging watch designs you have worked on during your career and why?

EG: With each new project there always comes new challenges, however, historically speaking the first real challenge for me was working on the design of the Harry Winston Glissiere Tourbillon automatic watch, as this was the first time I had ever worked with a Master Watch Maker, in this case Christophe Claret. Although this experience proved to be a very steep learning curve for me, Christophe Claret was extraordinary to work with and Harry Winston was very confident in my abilities.

The design of HM No. 1 for MB&F was also a huge challenge for me because this required the creation of this new brand’s first ever watch! This was the first time I had attempted something like and whilst I learnt a lot during this very exciting adventure I also had to deal with all the fears and doubts that come with the creation of anything new and different.

Harry Winston Glissiere Tourbillon automatic
Simply amazing – the Harry Winston Glissiere Tourbillon Automatic

Finally, I think Opus 9 has been a great challenge in the sense that I had to manage the enormous amount of freedom I was given as effectively Harry Winston and Jean-Marc Wiederecht left me in control of the conceptual approach of this project. This complete level of freedom is not necessarily easy to manage, but in the case of this project there has been a magnificent support of the other partners and well, the result speaks for itself…

TWL: Of all your watch creations which are you most proud of? Why does this particular piece hold such significance for you?

EG: Undoubtedly Opus 9 for Harry Winston, as I feel a very personal attachment to this project. Not only did it give me the opportunity to take a ‘vacation’ away from my usual work environment but also I had the unique opportunity to experience the richness of collaborating with the team from Harry Winston and the watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederecht. This adventure taught me a lot and was especially rewarding on a personal level.

Managing the freedom to create a prestigious piece is undeniably a difficult thing, but I must confess that I was enormously pleased with the result. If I am completely honest then I must say that when I saw the first prototype I was very much moved by the result.

Harry Winston Opus 9
The legendary Opus 9

TWL: What are your sources of inspiration for the incredible designs you create? How do these influences impact on the overall finished product?

EG: Inspiration…..a magic word! Just kidding, but in fact one must be very inspired to create watches that stand out and are noticed. For me, there are two sources of inspiration. The first comes from external sources such as other brands, images, signs and other data that you feed your brain. The second follows on from this and comes from within, influenced by research and personal culture.

In my case, I am interested in various art forms. I love to listen and discover music, possibly while lying on a sofa. I am a lover of contemporary art and so I spend my time walking through the exhibits and going to meet the artists. In this way I live surrounded by works of art and I buy whenever I can. I also feed my brain with films, stories, and in doing so the imagination of filmmakers. Not to mention the many magazines I look through that help me get a feel for the various trends.

For me music and horology meet within the rhythm and harmony. One minute of music can provoke such profound feelings within me. When I create a watch I’m trying to close myself off so that I can search within to touch the deepest senses.

Besides I like this outlook on the world. Contemporary art helps me to push myself to break out of my habits and routines. The questions posed by these artists stimulate my creativity. Artists have no limits or taboo, they even dare to denounce what is not so common nowadays. I find that confront and embrace this way of thinking is a real breath of fresh air. It helps to create tension and consequently to provide ideas or developments in watchmaking

Still, I think that the impact of inspiration on the final piece does not necessarily play a significant role in the sense of the emotion that each watch evokes. I think that the sources of inspiration are often undisclosed and remain a deeply hidden to the public. What they mean are apparent sometimes only to those who participated in the project development.

TWL: What is the first thing you consider when designing a new timepiece? Why?

EG: The first thing is to understand the requirements of the project in question. Once this is achieved then the creative process can commence through sketches or drawings by hand, allowing me to best understand the various difficulties related to the dimensions and integration of the movement. This forms the core of how to build the watch which is the conceptual phase of the project.

From there I can meet with other people within the brand in question to share my various insights or concepts so that we can define together in what direction we’ll go. It is very important to me to involve the various stakeholders of the project very early in the process of creation to be as fair as possible.

MB&F HM No.1 White Gold
HM No.1 in White Gold by MB&F

TWL: What do you think is the single most difficult aspect when commencing a new design project?

EG: The most difficult aspect is understanding the reason why and the merits of the new project. It is important to reflect on these questions so that the design process can be as fair as possible whilst still meeting the requirements and thus allowing us to then create the object.

I always say this sentence: A good project is a compendium of good questions, and a good product is a good response.

TWL: You have had the opportunity to work with many amazing watchmakers during the course of your stunning career, who really stands out in your memory and why?

EG: Unfortunately, I cannot choose just one, because at each stage of my career and for many different projects I have worked with extraordinary watchmakers who have each taught me a lot. Historically the first that opened the door of his workshop to me was Peter Speake-Marin who made me realize the importance of the movement, of its various components, operation and diverse finishes.

It was then with Christophe Claret and the Glissiere Tourbillon automatic for Harry Winston, where I experienced for the first time the opportunity to work on a project that contained a highly complicated movement as well as incredibly unique design. This experience was made even more extraordinary for me by the fact I was working on the entire project – including the movement.

I must also mention Laurent Besse and his inventiveness and openness as part of HM No. 1 and Jean-Marc Wiederecht for the richness of collaboration and his incredible ingenuity in the context of the Opus 9…

TWL: What are you working on at the moment? Can you give us any sneak peeks of what we can expect from the master designer in 2010?

EG: Right now, unfortunately I can not reveal the projects on which I am working, but what I can say is that I am working on projects for 2011 and 2012. Confidentiality is the watchword of my profession, so until the formal presentation of each new product on which I participate, I unfortunately can not reveal anything!

TWL: Finally, what advice can you give to aspiring product designers who wish to follow in your footsteps?

EG: I have no specific advice to give young designers, however I would simply say that this is a wonderful occupation with a lot of rules. Do not think that freedom is born of the rules though. It takes a lot of patience, humility and belief in different stakeholders and always being very curious and occasionally luck…

Tom Mulraney
Tom is the founder and editor of The Watch Lounge. Together with his team he is dedicated to bringing you the best, original content you won't find anywhere else on the net.