Actress Gong Li helps Swiss luxury with Chinese market

Actress Gong Li helps Swiss luxury with Chinese market
Chinese actress Gong Li walks the red carpet for the Met Gala in Manhattan, New York, May 4, 2015.

When Chinese actress Gong Li walked the red carpet for the Met Gala earlier this month as a co-host, her Roberto Cavalli couture gown and dazzling Piaget jewelry made her look like a queen of style.

The diva's public outings have become increasingly rare. But the gala in New York, as well as unrelated events for Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweler Piaget, seem to be the motivation she needs to meet with her fans.

Just before the Met event, Gong, a Piaget brand ambassador, celebrated the debut of the complete collection of the brand's signature Limelight Gala watches in Beijing.

Inspired by a heritage piece of the 1960s, the collection features watches delicately set with diamonds and gold. The asymmetrical designs are accomplished with smooth curves, showing femininity in a modern light

The Gala collection was first launched in 2013. Born out of feminine jewelry design and the ultrathin movement, the Limelight Gala is the essence of Piaget, says Thomas Bouillonnec, managing director, Piaget China.

"This is very much in line with what Piaget is and what we want to offer to the customers. There is a daring part in the design, different from the oval or round shapes. It's both a traditional and young watch," he says.

The collection is intended for young, dynamic and independent women.

While men have been the major customers for luxury watches in the past, the situation has changed, Bouillonnec says.

"Before, the market in China was much more male-focused. Now it's more balanced. The ladies today are very important. They are buying for themselves."

China's luxury market declined slightly for the first time last year due to the economic slowdown, the central government's crackdown on giving and receiving gifts across government institutions and Chinese consumers buying luxury products overseas to save costs.

While the company's latest financial figures weren't public at the time of publishing this report, Bouillonnec admits that it is a tougher time than before.

"Easy money is not there anymore compared to a few years ago in China. But it's also a super interesting moment. You have to fight to meet your customers."

Bouillonnec says Piaget is also trying to attract people to shop at home by improving in-store experiences and ensuring exclusivity for high-end customers.

As part of its long-term strategy, the brand will keep a limited number of all-operation boutiques and distributions to ensure its exclusivity, he says.

Piaget was a leading name in the ultrathin movement of the 1950s and 1960s. And now, the brand is capitalizing on the growing market of jewelry. The brand has been promoting the Rose collection for the past three years and is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its Possession collection.

"Historically, we are a watch business. Now we want to be stronger on jewelry," he says, adding that although the company entered the jewelry trade late, it is confident about the future.

The brand belongs to the Swiss luxury group Richemont, which also owns Cartier, Montblanc and Van Cleef & Arpels.

In January, Richemont was reported to plan a price rise of 5 to 7 percent in the euro zone to counter a sudden surge in the value of Swiss franc.

Piaget China may see similar price hikes in the future, says Bouillonnec.

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