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Monday, July 17, 2017

Embattled Signet Jewelers CEO, Mark Light, Resigns Due To ‘Health Reasons’

Signet Jewelers new CEO, Virginia “Gina” C. Drosos

Signet Jewelers Ltd., the world’s largest retailer of diamond jewelry, has named Virginia “Gina” C. Drosos as its new CEO, effective August 1. She will replace Mark Light, who served as CEO since October 2014. 

Light, who has been an executive at Signet for more than 35 years, is retiring due to “health reasons,” according to a company statement. 

Light has been struggling with allegations that stem from a class-action arbitration case dating back to 2008, alleging years of systemic, mass sexual harassment; and gender discrimination in pay and promotion. The case, which has now grown to 69,000 employees with these allegations dating back to the 1990s, was made public in February in a long, detailed Washington Post story that included interviews with some of the victims. 

Light was identified in the story, which reads in part: “Multiple witnesses told attorneys that they saw Light ‘being entertained’ as he watched and joined nude and partially undressed female employees in a swimming pool, according to the 2013 memorandum.”

The company denied the allegations at the time calling the Post story and subsequent press stories that followed, “distorted and inaccurate.” It reads in part: “(The) arbitration claim was brought against Sterling in 2008 that alleged gender discrimination in pay and promotion. None of the 69,000 class members have brought legal claims in this arbitration for sexual harassment or sexual impropriety. Since its filing, it has never included legal claims of sexual harassment or hostile work environment discrimination.”

At the time Light was head of Signet’s largest U.S. division, Sterling Jewelers, which includes the jewelry chain stores, Kay, Jared The Galleria of Jewelry and regional brands. This division currently makes up approximately 58 percent of Signet’s total sales.

“Given the company’s positive direction and my need to address some health issues, the board and I agreed that it is a good time for a transition,” Light said in a statement.

Drosos, a former beauty and consumer goods executive, has served as an independent director of the company’s board since 2012. She has nearly 30 years of executive leadership experience and previously served as president & CEO of Assurex Health and as a group president of Global Beauty Care at The Procter & Gamble Company. 

“She is a visionary and transformational leader with a proven track record of growing and scaling global businesses through winning strategies and innovation,” Stitzer said. “Gina’s experience brings a unique combination of demonstrated brand building, given her strong background in beauty, along with the creativity, flexibility and boldness of an entrepreneurial mindset. She also possesses a strong financial background, having managed multibillion dollar P&Ls through phases of high growth, while delivering cost reductions and operational efficiencies. As a member of the board since 2012, she is deeply familiar with Signet’s strategic vision.”

Drosos joined Signet’s Board of Directors in 2012, serving on the Compensation and Nomination and Corporate Governance committees. She is a member of the Board’s Customer Experience sub-committee focused on “OmniChannel” strategy and winning in fashion jewelry, as well as the board’s “Respect in the Workforce” committee focused on programs and policies to support the advancement and development of employees. 

Signet operates approximately 3,600 stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., primarily under the name brands of Kay Jewelers, Zales, Jared The Galleria Of Jewelry, H.Samuel, Ernest Jones, Peoples and Piercing Pagoda. 

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Georges Kern Leaves Richemont To Pursue An Ownership Role With Breitling

Georges Kern Photo by StephZibi - Wikipedia

Georges Kern, a 17-year veteran of Compagnie Financière Richemont, has resigned after nearly rising to the top position in the Swiss luxury goods company. 

“Richemont regrets to announce the resignation with immediate effect of Mr. Georges Kern,” the company said in a brief statement. Kern was head of Watchmaking, Marketing and Digital for Richemont, a newly-created position he held for fewer than four months, after an extremely successful 15-year leadership role with Richemont owned watch brand, IWC Schaffhausen. 

At the same time Jérôme Lambert, who had an equally successful runs as the head of Richemont owned luxury brands Montblanc and Jaeger-LeCoultre, took the newly-created position of head of Operations responsible for central and regional services and all its brands other than jewelry and watchmaking. 

The two executives were basically co-CEOs of Richemont reporting to its board of directors and Johann Rupert, chairman and founder of Richemont. The talk in the industry was that one of them would be tapped to fill the top spot. Both were already responsible for activities within their category for the 16 watch, jewelry and fashion brands the Geneva-based company owns. They include Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Baume & Mercier. 

In addition, Richemont holds a 49% equity-accounted interest in the YOOX Net-A-Porter Group, a publicly traded eCommerce company.

“Georges has been offered an interesting opportunity to become an entrepreneur,” Rupert said in the Richemont statement. “He has had a very successful career at IWC Schaffhausen and we wish him well.”

According to reports, the entrepreneurial opportunity is a stake in rival watchmaker Breitling. The company was purchased by private equity firm, CVC Capital Partners, headquartered in Luxembourg. 

The Richemont statement notes that Kern has stepped down from Richemont’s senior executive committee and group management committee and will no longer be standing for election to the company’s board of directors at the forthcoming annual general meeting of shareholders.

Richemont’s watchmaking, marketing and digital activities will report to its senior executive committee. 

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Actress Margot Robbie Joins Watch Brand Richard Mille

Photo by Dennis Leupold for Opus reps

Actress Margot Robbie will partner with luxury watch brand, Richard Mille to produce a collection of women watches of which the proceeds will be donated to charity. 

“The watch we are working on embodies Richard Mille’s vision of horology; it’s beautiful, unique and modern. I can’t wait for everyone to see it,” Robbie said.

They will donate proceeds from the new products to Youngcare, a foundation committed to helping young Australians with high-care needs the opportunity to live with choice, independence and dignity.

Robbie, 27, is known for both her beauty and her ability to excel at high profile roles. She is perhaps best known for her breakout role in Martin Scorsese’s 2013 hit, The Wolf of Wall Street, in which she stars as the female lead opposite Leonardo DiCaprio. Her performance in the film garnered praise from critics and audiences—most notably for her authentic Brooklyn accent from the Aussie native.

The Wolf of Wall Street paved the way for other opportunities for Robbie. Roles included starring opposite Will Smith in Focus, a lead role in sci-fi thriller Z for Zachariah, starring as “Jane” in David Yates’ The Legend of Tarzan, as well as the iconic “Harley Quinn” in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad.

Photo by Dennis Leupold for Opus reps

This new partnership between Margot Robbie and Richard Mille “complements the very contemporary spirit of the collection in which Margot will bring her creative energy and her own interpretation of femininity as she participates in the design of several models,” the watch brand said in a statement.

Women the watch brand has partnered with in the past, include actresses Michelle Yeoh and Natalie Portman.

Robbie grew up on the Gold Coast of Australia and eventually moved to Melbourne where she began acting professionally at the age of 17. She appeared on Neighbors, Australia’s longest-running television serial, from 2008-2010. In 2011, Robbie moved to the United States to pursue her career and was cast in the television series, Pan Am.

Robbie can be seen next in Simon Curtis’ Goodbye Christopher Robin. She recently wrapped production on Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya, which she stars in as Tonya Harding, and served as a producer under her production company, LuckyChap Entertainment. Robbie will soon begin production on Josie Rourke’s Mary Queen of Scots in which she will star as “Queen Elizabeth.”

Richard Mille is known for producing tonneau-shaped timepieces with high complications that use high-tech materials and modern crafting techniques. In addition to celebrity endorsements, the company partners with athletes ranging from Formula 1 racers to tennis stars, creating watches designed to be used in their athletic pursuits. 

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Christie’s Offers 300 Vintage Patek Watches In Special Selling Exhibition

Patek Philippe. 18k white gold ref.5270G 

Christie’s will host what it calls a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to purchase Patek Philippe vintage watches from an expertly curated collection of approximately 300 Patek timepieces. The private selling exhibition opened moments ago and will run till July 23 at its Rockefeller Center headquarters in New York.

The watches are from the mid-19th century to the 20th century ranging in price from $5,000 to $5 million. It will include several models new to the market. They are from various sources around the world, with some purchased from Christie’s decades ago and others from the original owners or families.

Patek Philippe. 18k rose gold ref.533R, manufactured in 1942 and sold in 1943

The Christie’s selling exhibition coincides with the much publicized Patek Philippe “Art of Watches Grand Exhibition” that will take place at Cipriani 42nd Street on the same days. John Reardon, Christie’s international head of watches, said the timing is no mere coincidence.

“With thousands of Patek Philippe collectors and enthusiasts converging on New York in July, it is the perfect time to celebrate all things Patek Philippe and offer collectors the chance to see and purchase exceptional museum quality watches,” he said. “This exhibition offers buyers the opportunity to own a piece of Patek Philippe’s history at all price points.”

Patek Philippe. 18k rose gold ref.5020R, manufactured in 1995

Reardon said his favorite part of the exhibition is being able to present 20th Century Patek watches in a way that shows the development of key complications, beginning at the reference 130 moving onward to the 530, 533, 591, 1579, 1463 and the split seconds 1436.

For perpetual chronographs the exhibit includes four 1518s and then a range of 2499s with examples in each series, Reardon said. With calendars, the exhibit shows the development starting with two examples of early triple calendar 96s and moving on to the presentation of superlative examples of the 1526, 2497, 2438, 3448, and 3450.

Patek Philippe. 18k gold ref. 1463J, manufactured in 1946, sold in 1947

“The icing on the cake is the total production run of the minute repeaters highlighted by seven early minute repeating wristwatches and nearly the entire run of modern discontinued minute repeaters, many with unique variants,” he said.

There will also be educational components to the exhibition with guided tours, lectures and watchmaking seminars with the goal of helping watch connoisseurs to be better collectors.

Patek Philippe, Perpetual Calendar, ref. 2438 being sold on Christie's watches online. Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000

The watches will be on public view at Christie’s Rockefeller Plaza galleries, alongside a display of 85 Patek Philippe pieces to be sold in a dedicated online auction July 13 - 27.

To complement the pieces on sale, there will be more than 20 historically important and rare Patek Philippe watches on display, loaned from global private collections, including many rare models that the watch world has never seen before in public or in horological literature, the auction house said. These includes what are described as “unicorn watches,” such as a Patek Philippe two tone “Reverso” cased wristwatch, a 3448 in white gold case “Senza Luna” with a confirmed extract from Patek Philippe, and an exceptional collection of early Patek Philippe minute repeaters.

James Ward Packard Patek Philippe ring watch

Other items on display include James Ward Packard’s Patek Philippe Walking Stick and Patek Philippe ring watch on view for the first time publicly. The walking stick features a Patek Philippe watch embedded onto the silver knob with a movement that is engraved with Packard’s name. The ring also has a movement and case bearing James Ward Packard's name.

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Tiffany Names Diesel Head Alessandro Bogliolo As New CEO

Tiffany & Co. said Thursday that it has named Alessandro Bogliolo, the former head of global apparel and accessories company, Diesel, as its next chief executive officer and newest board member. He will join the company on October 2.

Bogliolo, 52, is a veteran luxury industry executive who for the past four years led Diesel's efforts to revitalize its brand and enhance the customer experience, according to a statement by Tiffany. He also worked for 16 at Bulgari SpA, including in the roles of chief operating officer and executive VP of Jewelry, Watches & Accessories. During his career, Bogliolo has worked in a range of countries, including China, Singapore, Italy, France, Spain and the United States.

 “Today's announcement concludes the board's thorough process to identify and recruit an accomplished leader to position the Company for sustainable growth in the years ahead,” Michael J. Kowalski, chairman and interim CEO, said in a statement. “Alessandro has a well-deserved reputation for creativity and execution, having previously led a number of international brands to success and improved performance. I also believe that his vision and team-oriented approach make him an ideal fit with Tiffany’s long-standing values. Tiffany is an iconic brand and is at an important time in its history. We look forward to Alessandro and the Tiffany team delivering a distinctive vision of luxury and style to our customers around the world, while also focusing on driving attractive returns for our shareholders.”

“I am honored and excited by the opportunity to lead this remarkable company,” Bogliolo said. “Tiffany, with its legendary history, has always represented luxury, style, and an extraordinary standard of quality and excellence, and I look forward to working with the board and the rest of the Tiffany team to build on this foundation. It is my goal to continue to delight our customers with compelling product offerings, supported by best-in-class operations. I am committed to strengthening the company's position as one of the world's most important luxury brands and delivering value for all of our stakeholders.”

The new appointment is the latest development in leadership changes that began February 5, with the resignation of its former CEO, Frederic Cumenal, on Super Bowl Sunday, the same day it launched Lady Gaga as the face of its new fashion jewelry collection, Tiffany HardWear, with its first ever Super Bowl commercial prior to her halftime performance.

He was replaced in the interim by Michael J. Kowalski, the former longtime CEO of Tiffany’s and its current board chairman.

Later in the month the luxury jewelry retailer announced that it has increased its board of directors from 10 to 13 members. The most familiar name within the jewelry trade is Francesco Trapani, the former CEO of the Italian jewelry house, Bulgari. The other new members were also associated with high profile companies: Roger Farah, co-CEO of the fashion brand, Tory Burch, and James Lillie, the former CEO of the former consumer products conglomerate, Jarden Corp.

In the same announcement Kowalski said he plans to step down as board chairman.

Bogliolo started his career at the global consulting firm Bain & Co., after graduating from UniversitaÌ Bocconi with a degree in business administration and later completed the International Management Program at HEC Paris. According to his Linkedin profile, he also served as COO of North America for Sephora and as VP of sales and marketing in Greater China for the Piaggio Group, an Italian company that produces scooters, mopeds and motorcycles under several brand names.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron and Chaumet Will Return To La Biennale Paris In 2018

The entrance to the Grand Palais during the 2016 La Biennale Paris. Photo by Anthony DeMarco

The big news for jewelry lovers wasn’t even announced at the Tuesday press breakfast hosted by a few of the new board members of the La Biennale Paris (formerly known as Biennale des Antiquaires), the annual event held at the Grand Palais in Paris in September. 

In the world I cover the story is that the Place Vendôme jewelers—Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Boucheron and Chaumet—will return to La Biennale in 2018. These French brands and other jewelers (Wallace Chan and Bulgari among them) left the antiques fair last year when the new board reduced the size of the exhibition booths. The French brands were a centerpiece of the annual fair. Their popularity also led the antiques complain that they were getting too much of the spotlight. it is after all an antiques and art fair

Mathias Ary Jan, president of the National des Antiquaires (SNA), which owns and operates the fair, said was important that the thoroughly French fair welcome these jewelry brands back into the fold. It seemed that the jewelers were also eager to return. 

“They are a vital part of our French heritage,” he said following the event. “It was important to have them participate.” 

Also representing the fair at the press breakfast were Eric Coatalem, SNA treasurer, and Christopher “Kip” Forbes, president of the Biennale Commission, which oversees the event. 

The jewelry portion of La Biennale was reduced from 14 exhibitors in 2014 to four in 2016—Cindy Chao, de Grisogono, Boghossian and Nirav Modi. (There were 14 jewelers in 2014.) None were from France and only one, de Grisogono, showed previously at the fair a number of years ago. They will all return this year. 

In addition, for the first time the fair will host Swiss watchmakers. The two chosen were F. P. Journe and DeWitt are known for producing a small number of high-end hand-crafted timepieces. This followed last year’s special presentation at the fair of an historical non-selling timepiece exhibit by the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, an organization tasked with preserving the historical heritage of high watchmaking. 

The 2017 La Biennale Paris will be open to the public September 11 – 17, with a private viewing September 10. To date, there are 92 confirmed exhibitors, a number they would like to see improve as there were 113 exhibitors last year. 

A total of 29 exhibitors are from outside France. There are no exhibitors from the U.S., something that the SNA would like to change. In this regard one of Forbes’ major tasks will be to attract U.S. exhibitors and collectors to what is considered one of the world’s most important antiques fairs. On Monday, Forbes, vice chairman of the Forbes Publishing and avid art collector, with the two SNA representatives, hosted a reception for about 50 collectors and gallery owners. 

“For the Biennale not to have any American exhibitors, is something this dynamic new president (Jan) will address,” Forbes said. Both Forbes and Jan spoke about the landmark Grand Palais as an attraction and as a symbol of the fair’s importance.

“One of the challenges of the Grand Palais is everybody has to almost have to compete with one of the most staggeringly breathtaking buildings in Paris,” Forbes said. “So you have to raise the bar pretty high.” 

The main news has been known for some time. This year marks the first time the fair will be held annually since its founding in 1962. The organization, for now at least, will not change the “Biennale” name. 

This new group of leaders are very aggressive in making changes to the event so there will be more news coming. 

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

New Jewelry Designers at Couture and JCK Luxury

A petrified wood bracelet by designer Susan Oster of Feral Jewelry. Photo by Gretchen Friedrich

By Gretchen Friedrich, JNN Social Media Manager

My purpose for JCK and Couture 2017 was to seek out new designers and procure their stories. Breaking into the jewelry industry is challenging, as most established businesses consist of multiple generations and family members. New artisans often don’t have the family support and vendor relationships to aid in their success. They also tend to have a great deal of passion for their craft. 

The two women featured in this post are both newcomers to the jewelry industry, but they also have a common thread, their design background. Marcia Budet and Susan Oster entered the world of jewelry through a creative transfer of sorts. Budet has a formal education in architecture and Oster was in interior design for 16 years prior to her shift to jewelry design. 

A pair of earrings by Marcia Budet. Photo by Gretchen Friedrich

Marcia Budet: Elegantly Bold

Marcia Budet is a former JCK Rising Star award winner, and this year she debuted at Couture. Her “Elegantly Bold” style is evolving, with more challenging stone shapes and designs that reflect her architectural training. 

In my interview with her, she explains the features of her new pieces, created specifically for Couture. 

Susan Oster: Feral Jewelry

Susan Oster revealed her Feral Jewelry collection in the design section of the JCK Luxury show. This was her first jewelry industry show. Oster said she was a successful interior designer but wanted to explore a different creative pursuit. 

Aptly named, Feral Jewelry uses primal elements and recycled raw materials in each piece, including a 10,000 year-old piece of petrified wood as the centerpiece of a custom bracelet. 

Oster discusses her transition into jewelry in my interview with her at the show.

What’s Next?

Both Budet and Oster answered the “what’s next?” question with a laugh. But, these designers are never lacking for inspiration, and a passion for the creation process. 

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