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Wempe Signature x Girard Perregaux Laureato: A Signature of its Own
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Wempe Signature x Girard Perregaux Laureato: A Signature of its Own

The Wempe Signature Collection was borne out of a desire for the Hamburg-based luxury retailer to take the leap from founding its own watch manufacture almost 20 years ago, to becoming an internationally coveted collector’s brand with limited special models. Will it succeed? Time will tell. Either way, the collection serves as an ode to some of the most famous watch classics, complemented by an unmistakably ‘Wempe’ touch.

While writing this article, I happened to meet up with a colleague for a coffee down the road. We ordered a cappuccino and double espresso shot – nothing special. We met to talk about watches, of course, but one in particular (it even matched the colour of the steaming hot coffee in our cups, but we’ll reveal more later).

Heralding the arrival of the fifth Wempe generation

I live not too far from the retailer’s headquarters in Hamburg’s city centre. Its name epitomises fine watches and jewellery like no other in Germany. However, as collectors will know, its reputation stretches beyond Europe. Founded in 1878, the Hamburg-based family business is now run by the fourth generation of the family, Kim-Eva Wempe, and has 32 branches worldwide, including in New York, Paris and Madrid.

The company has been closely associated with renowned Swiss and German watch manufactures for generations. Four generations of Wempe have created Europe’s leading company for fine watches and jewellery (and, incidentally, Europe’s largest independent service workshop with over 150 watchmakers). The fifth generation is slowly but surely preparing for its own responsibilities. In early 2022, Chiara Wempe and Scott Wempe, only now reaching their mid-twenties, joined the company as partners alongside Kim-Eva Wempe.

Chiara, Kim-Eva and Scott Wempe in conversation with Patrik Pruniaux


A world premiere and an industrial-chic loft

I have just returned from the presentation of a very special watch bearing the beautiful but somewhat lengthy name Wempe Signature Collection x Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph 42 mm. It celebrated its world premiere for customers and the press in a secret location in Düsseldorf, in a sensationally converted factory loft. The entire Wempe family was present, including the CEO of Girard-Perregaux, Patrick Pruniaux, who joined us tanned from his skiing holiday in the Swiss Alps.

The event was anything but ordinary: the owner of the loft, who has a passion for rare sports cars, has a lift for cars, which can then be rotated on a kind of presentation plate in his living room. This lift was used for the presentation of this chronograph, which is limited to 100 pieces. Prior to this moment, the 100 or so guests enjoyed themselves in a living room that had been transformed into a ballroom. Instead of a curtain, brick-clad secret doors opened up for the watch presentation. Rarely have I experienced such a spectacular yet simultaneously understated event for the presentation of a single limited-edition watch.

Thus, it was only natural that the name Wempe came up in a conversation with my colleague at the coffee shop. The colleague also spoke to me directly about Wempe’s new collaboration with the Swiss manufacture, which Swisswatches reported on exclusively here. He didn’t quite understand something, he said, and I already suspected what it would be about.

The fifth series in a row with renowned German and Swiss manufactures

The chronograph is the first of several special limited-edition models planned for this year under the Wempe Signature Collection; in total, it is the fifth series in the collaboration with renowned German and Swiss manufactures, which was first introduced in 2022.

Is it “just” a dial variant?

His question was short, but already hinted at what he didn’t understand: “It’s just about a special dial colour, or have I missed something?” That one little word “just” was meant to express: “Why is a soon-to-be 150-year-old luxury retailer so spectacularly celebrating a special dial variant together with a soon-to-be 230-year-old Swiss watch manufacture? Have I overlooked something?”

I am putting this up for discussion here because I am convinced that it is a question that is on the minds of many people who are perhaps not so deeply rooted in the rare watch collecting community. At a superficial glance, the question seems justified: is it really “just” about an unusual dial variant whose Clous de Paris pattern reflects the light in dazzling copper tones? I stirred my cappuccino, organised my thoughts and had to smile, because I would actually rather give this variant the nickname Laureato Cappucino, but collectors should please decide that for themselves in future.

What is watch collecting about?

To get to the heart of the matter, I replied by asking him, what does he think watch collecting is all about? He thought for a moment, then smiled back knowingly to show me that he had understood. This knowing smile says a lot and I would like to explain it here.

The first choice among collectors: classic watches

What is watch collecting all about? Because that’s exactly what this implicit question and, of course, the philosophy behind the Wempe Signature Collection is all about. On the one hand, collectors, especially when they are just beginning their passion, want one thing: not to do anything wrong. The first choice is therefore not always, but very often, the much-vaunted classics that have established themselves with the manufactures for very different reasons.

Wempe launched the Signature Collection in 2022

It therefore comes as no surprise that the Wempe Signature Collection 2022 started with such classics. For example, it started with the Hublot Big Bang models launched in November, limited to 40 pieces, and a Wempe Signature x Breitling Navitimer B01 Chronograph, limited to 200 pieces. The Big Bang from Hublot is without doubt the watch with which the manufacture from Nyon, near Geneva, made a spectacular comeback in 2005, 25 years after it was founded. Not much needs to be said about the Breitling Navitimer, except that the first chronograph with the famous slide rule rotating bezel for pilots has been on the market since 1952 and is a classic, even among pilot’s watches.

Draw attention with a classic on your wrist

With a classic watch on their wrist, inexperienced collectors in particular feel safe at the beginning. After all, it’s often about belonging. Status is a not insignificant reason for buying a mechanical wristwatch. On the other hand, you are recognised as part of a group, but of course also through the status milieu of a watch.

What makes the Laureato from Girard-Perregaux special?

That’s what fascinates me about the new Signature Edition of the famous Laureato from Girard-Perregaux. Of course, the chronograph, which was completely redesigned in 2016 to mark the 225th anniversary of GP (sorry, I’m abbreviating the name like all collectors), is an absolute classic amongst 70s steel sports watches, but one for the connoisseur’s eye.

Initially less recognised, today a hidden champion

Launched in 1975, the model will celebrate its 50th birthday next year. Initially launched as a quartz chronometer, it took some time to find its place between an AP Royal Oak (launched in 1973) and Patek Philippe Nautilus (launched in 1976). So it really does deserve its name, as Laureato means ‘the graduate’ in Italian.

The key elements of a successful steel watch

As my colleague Nico Bandl so beautifully describes, its success cannot be explained solely by certain characteristics that have been highly coveted in the watch community for decades: striking octagonal bezel, an integrated steel bracelet and the waffle-shaped Clous-de-Paris pattern on the dial.

The contradiction among watch collectors: Rare but recognisable

Let’s circle back to the initial question. Anyone who is a little more advanced in the collector’s cosmos will perhaps take a second step and address the issue of rarity. Because the great paradox of watch collecting is precisely this: even if we absolutely want our watch to be recognised, classified and respected, we would naturally prefer to be recognised as one of very few, or at least as wearing a very special version of a well-known classic. And this is exactly where the Wempe Signature Collection comes into play.

Collector preferences: The three golden rules

Nowadays there are several types of limited editions, especially on the side of the manufactures. However, as is the case with car collecting, collectors actually only like two types: either something is simply difficult to produce, such as special movements, or has been refined using special or hand-crafted decoration techniques. That said, another important factor is the importance of choosing a company the collector can rely upon. The latter really applies to Wempe. If anyone knows their customers, it is the retailer that has been stocking Patek Philippe in Germany since 1927, which was also the first concessionaire to offer Rolex in Germany from 1953 onwards. Internationally speaking, collaborative timepieces by prestigious jewellers created together with famous manufactures have therefore repeatedly generated record results at auctions. To be fair, there is also a third type of limitation, which concerns rare case materials such as platinum.

The collector’s trump card: Rarity

The two models that followed in May 2023 were the Wempe Signature x Nomos Tangente Neomatik 41 Update (200 pieces) and the 50 pieces of the Wempe Signature x Chopard Happy Sport. The Tangente has not only been the most produced and best-selling watch from the German manufacture from Glashütte for over 30 years, it also breathes simple but convincing industrial design like no other German wristwatch. Chopard’s Happy Diamonds, presented in the same month, can be seen as a charming antithesis to this, also a classic that has allowed wearers to watch diamonds dance beneath the dial for exactly 30 years.

Limited (within reason)

We are talking about limited editions of between 50 and 200 pieces or, as with the new Laureato Chronograph, 100 models. Wempe and its partners have deliberately not imposed any rules on the limitations, as Kim Eva Wempe explained to me at the event in Düsseldorf. The manufactures are too different, the demand and the price are too different. Nevertheless, these limitations are, to put it mildly, very discreet.

The implementation of a collaboration: Execution is key

The decisive factor, and this brings me to my penultimate point, is the question of how collaborations are carried out. Looking closely at the new Laureato chronograph, we at Swisswatches were surprised in several ways at the photo shoot. I had a large trunk full of clothes with me, but I was amazed that I could wear my entire wardrobe with this watch. How versatile this model is!

Whether with my Nudie Lean Dean Dry Japan Selvage in the trendy double denim look, a herringbone jacket, or my vintage military parka, this watch is almost the perfect complement to a classic, masculine look. As a little side-gag, I naturally had to take my ST Dupont solid silver lighter with the same Clou de Paris pattern, which is still available to buy today as a Grand Dupont. A charming companion to this watch, even though I am a non-smoker apart from the occasional cigar.

Scott Wempe dons Girard-Perregaux

Scott Wempe was wearing a GP that he bought to celebrate his first entrepreneurial success last year, charmingly presented another GP collaboration: the watch with digital display and LEDs Casquette 2.0. It was presented by Anthony Vaccarello, Creative Director of Saint Laurent, in 2023 as a limited edition of 100 pieces as Saint Laurent Rive Droite in collaboration with Girard-Perregaux.

Girard-Perregaux: Exclusively at Wempe in Germany

One could argue that it is a coincidence that the Wempe family, of all people, are now big GP fans. But you only have to listen to CEO Patrick Pruniaux, who joins us for the photo session and tells us that the close collaboration between the two companies has endured over many decades. Up until last year, Wempe was even the exclusive representative for GP in France for several years.

At Wempe, family also means dealing with collectors as a family

At Wempe, the almost family-like interaction on a daily basis is no coincidence. This brings me to the last point I need to mention here. Watch collectors who devote a lot of time and money to their hobby are looking for more than just another watch, at least at a certain level. It’s about a community that not only includes like-minded collectors, but very often also the seller. It is not without reason that in Germany, it is often considered good form to buy your first mechanical wristwatch from Wempe, as collectors often build up a special relationship with those who sell them watches over decades.

A respected retailer

A small side note for all top collectors and fans of Wempe: Wempe has, of course, had a very special relationship with all these manufactures for decades. Were this not the case, it would be inconceivable for the retailer to have immortalised its name on such coveted classics from major Swiss manufactures.

Rare Double Signed models from Wempe

In addition to the Wempe Signature Collection, collectors will also find historically valuable ‘Double Signed’ models: limited edition watch models were created with eight renowned watch brands to mark the 125th anniversary, including the legendary W125 collection in collaboration with Patek Philippe. The retailer was even dedicated the exclusive reference 5125, of which the zero numbers of the 475 models made it to the Patek Museum in Geneva, while the series of one of the four material variants can be found in the Wempe Museum. The 125 examples (including 50 in platinum) of the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Sidestep with decentralised seconds display, developed exclusively for Wempe, are unforgettable.

11 collections to mark 100 years of Wempe Chronometerwerke

Such rare, individually numbered watches were followed two years later, on the 100th anniversary of Wempe Chronometerwerke in 2005, by further rare ‘Double Signed’ models with top brands such as Glashütte Original Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet and IWC.

Wempe Signature Collection: Committed to the tradition of rare watches

Strictly speaking, Wempe is not breaking new ground with the Signature Collection, but building on a tradition that began well over 20 years ago. I don’t want to speculate why Wempe hasn’t done this continuously, but firstly, you could argue that only something that doesn’t exist permanently is worth anything. Secondly, the world of watchmaking, with its ever-increasing popularity of monobrand boutiques, has changed radically in the last two decades.

You don’t develop a signature overnight

Last but not least: in the meantime, Wempe also established its own manufacture in Glashütte for the production of mechanical watches and, through the observatory in Glashütte, established the only German chronometer testing centre for exceptionally accurate wristwatches. Good things take time. But you don’t develop a good signature overnight – and you often spend your whole life honing your personal signature.

A dial that tells a story

All of this is reflected in a single but very unusual dial. Kim Eva Wempe and GP CEO Patrick Pruniaux will probably soon wish they had made more of this watch. However, being ‘One out of 100’, as engraved on the caseback of every Wempe Signature Collection x Girard-Perregaux Laureato Chronograph 42 mm, will remain a privilege for Wempe customers. Collectors will only be able to purchase this model at Wempe stores authorised by Girard Perregaux or online at Wempe.com. However, I would be surprised if new collectors did not prefer to make the journey to see the family character of Wempe for themselves and start their own personal Wempe story.


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