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The CEO of Roger Dubuis on life at the cutting edge of the watch industry

Roger Dubuis may be based in Switzerland, but that’s where the watchmaker’s classic credentials begin and end – this innovative brand isn’t afraid to challenge tradition. Meet its CEO, Jean-Marc Pontroue

For those in the know, Roger Dubuis represents an exciting departure from the traditional ranks of Swiss watchmaking. Established in 1995, this is still a relatively young brand in the context of watchmaking, and it has a keen eye for the innovative and eccentric – producing the likes of the Excalibur collection, a skeletonized flying tourbillon with a distinctive star-shaped bridge.

At the cutting edge of the watch industry, you would forgive CEO Jean-Marc Pontroue if his efforts to drive the brand forward focused purely on the avant-garde aesthetics for which Roger Dubuis is known. But there’s a reason its collections bear the Poinçon de Genève (Geneva seal) with pride – despite appearances, this is a brand that takes its watchmaking very seriously indeed. We caught up with Pontroue to find out what 2017 has in store for Roger Dubuis.

On Roger Dubuis

Our world is one of creativity and watchmaking excellence. We enjoy international success for avant-garde designs that set us apart from the competition. A Roger Dubuis will rarely be a collector’s first watch; they are timepieces for the true aficionado who is looking for something unique to add to their collection. Our customers appreciate quality and functionality, as well as beautiful design. We’re not trend followers, we create trends: a Roger Dubuis watch focuses on a unique blend of unconventional aesthetics and the highest technical sophistication. Our creativity in the use of never-before used materials and unusual designs is what truly sets us apart.

On competing against famous watchmakers

I believe that the world is changing, not just in the watchmaking industry, but in our way of thinking as a whole. Of course, there are still luxury brands that are steeped in history, but they are also looking to young, fresh creative directors to modernise them and make them relevant for the new, international, young customer. This customer is looking for the original, the ground-breaking, something that will set them apart from their friends. This is what we can provide at Roger Dubuis.

On the changing haute horlogerie market

I see great changes coming over the next few years. The watch industry is moving forward, with brands striving for more innovation to differentiate themselves. We see ourselves spearheading this movement, as this idea of pushing forward and striving to discover the ‘next big thing’ has always been a key part of our brand DNA. We revealed our latest projects at SIHH in January, and are preparing for some exciting times ahead.

On current watchmaking trends

I have noticed the trend for innovation in materials this year. This is something we are forerunners in at Roger Dubuis, for example with the debut of the Cobalt Micromelt material in our new Excalibur Quatuor for 2017. But I have noticed other brands beginning to experiment with new materials this year also, which is fantastic.

On the importance of in-house movements

There is a belief that the market is shifting from in-house movements to aesthetics – I don’t think this is the case, especially for us at Roger Dubuis. It is in fact the combination of these two components that sets us apart. For our skeletons, our Excalibur collection, which is undoubtedly our most iconic design, it is the in-house movement’s relationship with the design that creates this pioneering collection.

On Roger Dubuis’ personalisation project

The Rarities by Roger Dubuis service is a celebration of choice and the unique – offered to our top-level customers. This customer also buys private jets, Ferraris, tailored suits. All of these brands and services give them the opportunity to create something bespoke, and they expect a similar approach when they come to us. We can personalise any aspect; dials, cases, gemsetting, signed functional components, special prints or engravings and even the packaging. The timepiece becomes the ultimate embodiment of individual personality and discerning taste. I have my initials at three o’clock and the letters are part of the movement. Once the design is approved it is carefully constructed, taking three months to perfect.

On his favourite watch

I wear the Excalibur 45 Double Flying Tourbillon. This is the embodiment of the ethos of Roger Dubuis in one watch. It is original and it makes a statement.

On partnering with other luxury brands

I always look at potential partnerships dependent on brands who have the same ethos as us. Brands who are pushing boundaries, for whom technology, discovery and originality are key. We are very much influenced by what is happening in other industries, such as the aircraft business, sports car business and yacht business. Our very first partnership, for example, came about last year with FFF racing. We are in discussions with other companies but we also know that if you want do something right then it requires a lot of time, resources and people to do things well.

On the future

An interesting change that I see continuing over the next few years is in what the ‘average’ watch customer looks like. I see younger, international customers and women growing in numbers, and watch manufacturers will need to adjust to this. We have our Velvet range which is a 100% female line, and we put just as much thought into the mechanics as the aesthetics. We know that women who are interested in watches want more than just diamonds, although we can provide that, too.

On the dangers facing the watch industry

The pessimism towards the luxury watch industry is a huge challenge that we are facing now. However, it’s often times of adversity that lead to the biggest development. It will take a strong mindset for watch manufacturers to continue to be successful in the coming years, but I think it’s a challenge our industry is ready for, and we will be leading the charge.

For more information, see rogerdubuis.com

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