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Philippe Charriol raced for success and left us with a legacy in time |

Sunday Lifestyle

Philippe Charriol raced for success and left us with a legacy in time

LIFE AND STYLE - Millet M. Mananquil - The Philippine Star
Philippe Charriol raced for success and left us with a legacy in time
Always finding time with family: Philippe Charriol with wife Olga, his daughter Coralie and son Alexandre

When retail maven Nedy Tantoco hosts a dinner this Friday at Shangri-La Fort’s Ministry of Crabs, her family and friends will be there. There will be a special seat reserved for the honoree. Even if he can no longer be there. 

The honoree, renowned watchmaker and jeweler Philippe Charriol, died in a car racing accident last Feb. 27 in Marseille, France. 

“This was a dinner that Philippe and I had agreed on via text where he confirmed his arrival in Manila,” narrates Nedy. “The only thing he had not confirmed was which beach resort he would like to visit this time.”

It was the day after their exchange of text messages that Philippe died. “I was so shocked and saddened when Patrick (Jacinto) broke the news of his death to me,” Nedy says. 

A handsomely young Anthony Huang (now SSI president) with Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco, Philippe Charriol and his first wife Annick, and Rustan’s president and CEO Nedy Tantoco

“Let’s still go on with the dinner and leave a seat vacant for Philippe, and let’s just honor him,” former restaurateur Peter Jentes suggested. Peter was one of Philippe’s close friends in Manila; Philippe and Peter shared a sense of humor and a jovial spirit that bound them. 

Another jovial person who enjoyed Philippe’s company and will surely miss him is former Ambassador Bienvenido Tantoco.

“My dad and he were always laughing and reminiscing over their meetings in Paris and Hong Kong,” says Nedy.

Philippe was working with Cartier when he met Rustan’s founders Benny and Glecy Tantoco in Paris. “Years later, in 1983, he announced that he was forming his own Charriol brand of watches and jewelry, and he offered this to my mom,” Nedy recalls. Charriol is now one of the bestselling brands distributed by the Tantocos through their Stores Specialists Inc. (SSI).

The business partnership soon resulted in a friendship between the Charriol and Tantoco families.

Philippe Charriol and daughter Coralie were on the same track: A passion for speed and beautiful machines.

“With wife Annick, Philippe had two children. Their daughter Coralie launched a handbag line which we introduced at a big hotel ballroom event,” says Nedy. “The bags were well accepted in Manila. However, when the tall and pretty Coralie married, she focused on her family and later became VP and creative director for jewelry and leather goods of Charriol. She is now based in New York.”

Based in LA is his son Alessandro, now VP and visual director. He is a gifted artist who has had two major art exhibits at the Ayala Museum and Peninsula Manila. 

“Philippe was a very hardworking, yet devoted father who trained his children in the business,” says Nedy. 

His 14-year-old daughter Laetitia with second wife Olga is still a student.

Philippe was based in Monaco and supervise the business at the Charriol headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland where Charriol watches are made with their distinctive trademark — the cable strap. Nedy says the top-selling designs in the Philippines are the St. Tropez for women and the Christopher Columbus for men. “I personally use Charriol watches and jewelry, and so do my sisters Marilen and Maritess who is in charge of Rustan’s jewelry section, representing us at events such as the Basel Jewelry Fair.”

Philippe Charriol ’s watches — topped by The St. Tropez for women and Christopher Columbus for men — were inspired by the Celts’ ancient art using wired metal.

Many of the Charriol watches were inspired by Philippe’s love of sports and car racing.

“Philippe worked hard and played hard. Sports was really his passion; he loved the outdoors,” continues Nedy. “During his annual trips to the Philippines, he got to enjoy Boracay, Pangalusian in Palawan, and Balesin Island, where Alexandre held a Charriol event two years ago. He also enjoyed our log cabin at Tagaytay Highlands. He particularly enjoyed lunch at the Moroccan house of Maritess and Renato (Enriquez) in Lipa, Batangas.” 

He joined car races in Hong Kong where he also held his annual Philippe Charriol Art Foundation event, one of his pet projects. He would also check on his men’s suiting line made in China, where all the suits he wore came from.

“Philippe was always conscious about keeping fit and trim, that’s why he was disciplined with his food. I noticed that he stayed away from pork, preferring salads and other vegetable dishes,” says Nedy.

Charriol’s regional training manager Alexander Jentes (left) and regional sales director of Asia ,Thibaud Jaouen flew into Manila for Philippe’s scheduled arrival in early March. But their boss died Feb. 27.

Of course he was very particular about style and design, which is why during one conference with Charriol agents, he cited Rustan’s packaging and gift presentation, saying: “That is why Rustan’s is a good partner for Charriol.”

“Philippe was very amiable and charming; that’s why we always had good laughs with him. I will miss him and his laughter,” sighs Nedy. “He would always laugh every time he recounted the many times he had car racing accidents.

“I think Philippe Charriol died the way he would have wanted to. He loved car racing and he was not the type who would have been happy dying in bed. He always wanted action,” Nedy muses.

But this Friday, when Nedy hosts that dinner with family and friends such as Peter Jentes, Ping Valencia and Babette Aquino, they will miss Philippe Charriol’s brand of laughter when they see his empty seat.

I doubt it if they will be laughing.

The watchmaker with wings on his heels

In the library of Rustan’s chairman and  CEO Nedy Tantoco is a book that goes deep into the soul ­— and sole — of watchmaker Philippe Charriol.

The book was given to Nedy by Philippe who wrote and signed a personal dedication to her dated 10-2-99.

Written by Michel Cahier, the book reveals details about Philippe that you never read in the lifestyle glossies:

•At age 20, Philippe was driving a little Vespa 400 powered by a motor-scooter engine. Years later, he  sped at the world’s major racing circuits, at the wheel of Porsche GT2s and Lamborghinis.

•His passion for sports led him to create a superb SuperSports Chronometer, of which the first series of 3000 sold like hot cakes.

•He never really stopped working. He started the day with physical exercises under trainer Jean Claude Anicet, the three-time world champion of kung fu.

•A man of will, he subjected himself to a very tough discipline, neither smoking nor drinking alcohol, preferring fruits and fruit juices.

•Earlier in the 1970s, Philippe already dreamed of becoming an entrepreneur. He registered a Swiss company under the name Philippe Charriol International.

•He was born in Provence, “free yet attached to the soil, secretive but warmhearted, exuberant yet modest.”

•You never knew whether he was serious or joking. He was serious when he joked and he endeavored to be light of manner when he was serious.

•He started Charriol as a small company with sales of barely $1 million. “I hung on to a leach because I was sure I would succeed in the end.”

•In New York in the early 1980s, actor Sydney Poitier was coming to New York to act in a fim and offered a monthly rental of $15,000 plus a $90,000 deposit in cash, for his beautiful Manhattan apartment. Philippe accepted it and moved to Long Island.

•With the aid of Annick, he organized in their Long Island home a fabulous party for the creme de la creme of the U.S. sales and marketing world. They didn‘t know that the offices of Charriol‘s marketing company for the U.S. were in the cellar.

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