Charriol (Est. 1983) In a startling and sad announcement in February 2019, it was reported that Swiss watchmaker Philippe Charriol, a legend in luxury watch circles, died while driving his race car on the French Circuit Paul Ricard home of the 2018 French Grand Prix Formula 1.
Born in 1942, Philippe Charriol founded his eponymous company as a multi-product brand making Swiss watches, jewelry, accessories, fragrances, opticals, ready-to-wear garments, and, eventually, Bordeaux wine. He established his Swiss watchmaking manufacturer in Geneva, but the Marseilles-born entrepreneur developed innovative distribution concepts that offered his brand in an international network.
In the 1980s, when the most desirable focus for Swiss watchmakers was the Place Vendôme in Paris, Philippe Charriol instead looked to the “Far East” to lay the foundations for what would grow into a luxury goods empire across the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.
Consequently, from its inception, the Charriol brand has been both a genuine Swiss watchmaker and an international brand rooted in Asia unlike many other European brands that set their sights on Asia much later. A Charriol 2011 event inside the Forbidden City for 500 celebrities and dignitaries from around the world was one of only 3 luxury groups ever allowed to celebrate their brand in the historic enclosure.
Before he founded his brand, Philippe Charriol was, for fifteen years, a leader at Cartier where he held various positions including General Manager and Brand President for the Asian market based in Hong Kong. It was his entrepreneurial spirit and fresh vision that led him to seek his fortune independently from Cartier.
After leaving, it took seven years before he opened the first stand-alone Charriol boutique in Hong Kong in 1990. Throughout the 1990s, Philippe opened locations from Singapore, to Hong Kong’s Prince’s Building, and to Times Square with outlets in Bangkok, Tokyo, Doha and Riyadh followed by Geneva, Beijing, Shanghai, Dubai, Mumbai, Las Vegas, and many more.
Philippe Charriol also pioneered online sales, becoming the first Swiss watch and jewelry brand to emphasize its own e-commerce platform starting in 2008.
Thirty years after he founded his company, Philippe Charriol left behind a legacy of a Swiss watch manufacturer headquartered in Geneva with a flourishing jewelry, accessories and multi-product presence on every continent.
Philippe Charriol’s business and personal lives were intertwined even to his final day, pursuing his business dreams as well as his personal passions that included motorsports which he pursued at an almost professional level.
He was fascinated by more refined pursuits including architecture, culture, and the arts. He created the Philippe Charriol Art Foundation in Hong Kong which, for more than 20 years, gave annual awards to young artists to pursue their education in the arts.
His legacy lives on in the hands of his children, Coralie (Creative Director), Alexandre (Visual Director), and Laetitia, as well as his wife Marie-Olga Charriol (PR Director), who are now the Charriol management team.
In a 2016 interview with JCK Insider, Coralie Charriol-Paul said, “My father worked for Cartier for 15 years and was the president in the Asian branch in Hong Kong before he left to start his new venture. Cartier had just launched Les Must de Cartier in the 70s [and] all of a sudden they were making lighters, cigarette holders where they were more affordable.
“Dad was at the beginning of affordable luxury and wanted to embrace it but knew he had to find a very identifiable look in his products. He became inspired at the Met Museum by a Celtic bangle and found a manufacturer in Germany to make this design in stainless steel.
“The staple piece was the St. Tropez watch. The watch was only designed for women and meant to embody the same characteristics of the beautiful village on the South of France … If the face of the St. Tropez watch was removed, you were still left with a beautiful cable bracelet, and that’s when Dad realized that’s where the jewelry can evolve … the cable is in every product we produce.
Today, this Geneva-based international luxury brand specializes in watches, jewelry, leather goods, writing instruments, travel ware, eyewear and fragrances. It is currently distributed through a global network of 3,800 retailers, 500 Corners, and 340 mono-brand Boutiques, including a network of 285 Charriol Boutiques in China.
Philippe Charriol drew inspiration from ancient Celtic culture to create his first collection in 1983, the Celtic Collection. He was the first jeweler to use gold cable, or steel cable, as decorative motifs in his watch bracelets. The concept, patented by Charriol, holds exclusive worldwide rights to it. The cable material is the key element in the brand’s Jewelry collections and is featured on all the brand’s accessories.
Charriol’s watch portfolio consists of several lines that feature 18kt gold or steel models. These are the Actor, Alexandre, Celtic, Colvmbvs, Rotonde by Charriol, Saint Tropez, and Parisii.
Some of the most iconic lines include the Alexandre that was inspired by the 1950s sleek lines of famous Corvettes, and named after Philippe’s son Alexandre Charriol. The line presents elegant and slim models dedicated to Asian wrist customers.
The Christopher Columbvs line took its inspiration from the late 15th Century sea voyages by the explorer. This theme was first applied in round watches that looked like portholes and was later revised to rectangular shapes.
The ST-TROPEZ is a stunning statement with an immediately recognizable look, enhanced by the matching cable bracelet, the small chain and “C” decors. This collection reflects all the charm and the glamour of the famous Saint-Tropez village and is the brand’s emblematic watch collection.
The first Philippe Charriol Boutique opened at Ocean Terminal in Hong Kong. Other outlets opened in Singapore, Hong Kong Prince’s Building, and Times Square. Jakarta and Bangkok outlets opened within three years of those. Oman, Bahrain, Doha and Riyadh opened consecutively and the first Boutique in China opens in 1996 and Tokyo one year later.
The Philippe Charriol brand extended its exclusivity when it introduced a technical key achievement set in its solid gold Celtic watch case, a Tourbillon movement. With this, the brand confirmed its horological legacy and became part of a very selective club of Swiss Haute Horlogeries.
Philippe Charriol described his designs as bringing “classicism and modernity together” while always being “attentive to quality and never losing sight of the functional aspect.” Charriol’s branding statement, “L’art de vivre la difference” (the art of living the difference), invited everyone to experience the distinctive beauty of Charriol fine jewelry and watches.
Buyers and collectors can experience and enjoy the timeless appeal of Charriol’s “Celtic Classique” Collection or the more formal Charriol “Celtic Noir” Collection. All are a mix of stainless steel, white and yellow gold, precious gemstones and diamond accents. Designed with incredible attention to detail and regard for high-quality, the brand’s collections range from whimsical and fairytale-romantic to contemporary and minimalistic. Charriol creations always draw attention when they appear on the Red Carpet.
The signature twisted cable motif in combination with pavé embellishments produces exquisite models. The new and edgy Forever Young Colors collection comes in fresh bold colors. Among the brand’s iconic motifs are the classic Chérie Amour and Lady, whose appeal lies in their subtle grace and harmony with every piece making a statement.
Charriol has always been renowned for the extraordinary range of styles for women and men that combine quality, class and elegance. The multifaceted brand creates jewelry and watches that complement any style – from strong and urban to romantic and refined in an upper level of costume jewelry. A Charriol ring, bracelet, necklace, earring set, and/or watch will be admired and appreciated for years to come.