Dare to Be Rare: An Interview with Roger Dubuis’s Jean-Marc Pontroué

Lara Mansour   |   10 - 09 - 2017

In the vast luxury market, Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO of Roger Dubuis, takes risks in his pursuit of exclusivity and visibility.

The balance between exclusivity and being known by a wider audience is a challenge that many brands face in the luxury market today. The aim to create an object of desire that is also acknowledged beyond high-end collectors is not an easy hill to climb, but that is exactly the hill Roger Dubuis wants to conquer.

The house has been praised for taking risks and looking at innovative ways of designing new products, but how well is it known? The task of visibility is something that plays a lot on Jean-Marc Pontroué’s mind, the CEO of Roger Dubuis since 2011. Strong product presentation, high-tech mechanics and a theatrical approach is something that Pontroué strives for in every project and partnership, and it is starting to work.

How challenging is it to sell premium watches?

We have a strong identity but it is not known enough. We have worked on it and the products are clear, but the issue is how to be more known among a certain number of the population and that’s why we have partnerships. I spend time travelling the world seeing customers who are very interested in the architecture of our Skeleton, as one of our best sellers is the Automatic Skeleton. The biggest problem is that I still have to explain who is Roger Dubuis, as 80% of our turn over today is created through new customers.

You like to push boundaries, does that become risky?

In this niche business, we over invest in research and development, yet we tend to fail in 9 out of 10 projects. When I came to the company, 100% of our best sellers were new products each year, and that is risky. Now we have about 30% in our innovations as bestsellers, but 70% of our business is core business.

You talk about visibility and exclusivity, does visibility kill exclusivity?

What we are missing today is brand recognition. I dream about having a billboard in Dubai Mall. We are here to create dreams which are not for everybody, and that is the beauty of our business. For now, we are very focused on our visibility, although the exclusivity will remain.

Tell us about your partnership with FFF Racing team?

As an official partner of the FFF Racing Team, it allows us to affirm a presence among spectators of this exciting sport, while offering its VIP and VVIP guests exactly the kind of immersive experiences that both brands favour. It offers opportunities for global exposure within a high-profile environment that is entirely in tune with our commitment to mechanical excellence and performance.

Why did you choose to focus on Excalibur?

We have had this model for 12 years and it has a 70% market share, so instead of making my life complicated, I said let’s concentrate all our energy on the brands icon. When you see the landscape of luxury in the world, there is no successful luxury brand without an iconic family, so if we want to become a relevant brand in the future we need an iconic family.

Can you tell us more about “Disruptive”?

We believe in coming up with a new story, and this year we launched an innovation for Excalibur, which needed a platform with a unique message. With this ‘Disruptive’ approach, we wanted to say that we are the first brand to come with a new world premiere, and we have the Cobalt which is all carbon.

What are the challenges of working with Cobalt?

It is complicated because the material is not something you can work. So, we have to break the alloy into powder and from that you build. It takes more time, its resistant to temperatures and was never used in the watch industry. We have consumers who are after this story telling, having a watch that is exceptional by its movement, but also by the material.

You have the same movement but in a different material, how did you combine the two?

We were depending 80% on gold but there have been new trends. We have had a hit with carbon and we need to put more focus on new material. Especially in the Middle East region where it’s hot and people want lightness. The more complicated it is the better because it is difficult to copy so if it looks like something that exists, we don’t do it. All the products that you see, there are very few where you can say someone has done it years ago. We are a brand of statement, but it is complicated.

Who is the Roger Dubuis consumer?

An entrepreneur, aged between 25-45, who doesn’t want to wear the watch of his grandfather. He has a new car, a Ferrari, or a Lamborghini.

By Lara Mansour Sawaya

 

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