Every week this winter we bring you an excerpt of an article from our current Luxury Issue. Today we bring you an interview with Frederic de Narp, the CEO of Harry Winston. To read more you can pick up the issue or order it HERE.
Frederic de Narp joined the American jewelry house of Harry Winston as CEO in early 2010 after a solid 18 years with Cartier. Known as “The King of Diamonds,” Harry Winston touts itself as the most exclusive brand both nationally and internationally. For nearly three decades, the luxury brand has created timepieces that now rival and compete with some of the oldest and finest watchmakers in the world. It’s Opus X collection, which was introduced de Narp’s first year at Harry Winston, has been one of its most successful watches.
We spoke with Frederic de Narp about the future of Harry Winston, maintaining exclusivity, and the emotional aspect of luxury.
WHITEWALL: It’s safe to say that you’ve had quite a bit of experience in the luxury world. But what first drew you to the luxury — jewelry and watchmaking — industry?
FRÉDÉRIC DE NARP: Very early on in my childhood, I started selling antiques. I have always been fascinated by jewels and precious stones, a passion passed along to me by my grandmother who owned a beautiful fine jewelry collection. At the age of 17, I decided that I would start my career in selling precious stones in Japan. It is important to fix yourself ambitious goals when you are a young person. Japan and the Japanese culture fascinated me in many ways: the capacity of the Japanese people to build the world’s second-largest economy in merely 40 years; their team-oriented business culture; the values found in the Japanese culture, as well as martial arts, such as focus, discipline, beauty, and refinement. Therefore, at the age of 21, I moved to Tokyo and started my career in luxury retail at Cartier.
WW: You’ve said in interviews that when a client comes to Harry Winston, “it is to celebrate a meaningful moment in their life.” Was there a personal moment for you that was ever marked by receiving or giving a piece of jewelry or timepiece?
FDN: One of the most meaningful moments in my life was my engagement. I offered an engagement ring to my wife and she surprised me by offering me a timepiece as an engagement present. Joining Harry Winston — “The King of Diamonds” — in 2010 was also a defining moment in my career. To celebrate this exciting moment, I offered my wife a beautiful diamond ring set with Harry Winston tapered baguette-cut diamonds on the sides.
WW: You’ve called Harry Winston “the most exclusive brand there is.” How does Harry Winston continue to maintain that reputation?
FDN: Harry Winston is the only true American luxury brand within the industry today standing for timelessness. We will always stay true to the core values instilled by our founder: a true sense of quality combined with authenticity and exclusivity.
Harry Winston is also about creativity and innovation. It is a brand of many groundbreaking firsts: the first brand to lend diamonds for the Academy Awards, dressing Best Actress winner Jennifer Jones in 1944; the first to cut and own the most famous diamonds in the world — the Lesotho, the Jonker, the Vargas, the Taylor-Burton; the first to exhibit high jewelry in Beijing’s Forbidden City in 1996; the first to use Zalium in its timepieces or to reinvent time by introducing each year an Opus timepiece in partnership with some of the world’s most talented and innovative watchmakers in the world.
Harry Winston continues to maintain its reputation through rarity, beauty, and craftsmanship, and by creating the most unique fine jewelry and timepieces with no compromise.
WW: The recent Lily Cluster collection by Harry Winston is slightly more accessible in terms of price point. Who are you hoping to reach with that kind of collection?
FDN: For any brand, it is always important to listen to your clients, and to pay attention to what it is that they are looking for. We noticed there was an increasing demand for a collection of jewelry with versatility and that could be worn every day, but still keeping within the standards of high quality that Harry Winston jewelry is known for (D, E, F color diamonds). With the introduction of Lily Cluster, we found an answer to this. The design itself is one rooted in the Winston DNA, but adapted in a contemporary way for a new generation of Winston consumers. The collection is lighter, and more versatile — offered in platinum and yellow gold. Lily Cluster appeals to a new audience, women between 25 and 45 years old who want to purchase something special for themselves, but this collection also corresponds to the demand of our existing clients who want to add to their jewelry wardrobe pieces they might wear every day.
WW: The Harry Winston timepieces are relatively new in the world of watchmaking, having launched in 1989. Why do you think they’ve been so successful?
FDN: In just over 23 years, Harry Winston has pushed the boundaries of watchmaking and created some of the most beautiful timepieces in contemporary high horology, with audacity and creativity. The Harry Winston timepieces have unique and daring designs, rare and technical movements, and are only crafted in the most precious and innovative materials — gold, platinum, and our own material known as ZaliumTM – in our state-of-the art manufacture in Geneva.
What has been essential for Harry Winston, and allowed the Harry Winston timepieces to be so successful, is that we have remained true and dedicated to our founder’s vision and values. We are an American brand and are driven by the American values of fearlessness, pioneering spirit, and generosity. We have approached watchmaking with these same values and translated them, for example, into the Opus timepieces, which reinvent the way of telling time.
WW: Is there a timepiece you prefer to wear?
FDN: Opus X is one of my favorite timepieces within the Harry Winston collection. Opus X was also introduced in 2010, the year of my arrival at Harry Winston, and it celebrates one of the most exciting moments of my career.
To read more you can pick up the issue or order it HERE.