While it has all the qualities of a successful watchmaker – great craftsmanship, the ability to create innovative pieces – Roger Dubuis is far from your average watch brand.
It’s uber-exclusiveness and reputation for innovation and always breaking barriers as well as links to adrenaline-based sports, fast cars and all that is modern, daring and exciting, makes it a coveted brand for the young, cool, rich and famous. But it’s highly sophisticated watches with some of the most complicated movements ever developed in the world mean it’s also hugely popular with watch connoisseurs and collectors that are looking for something unique and exclusive.
Roger Dubuis was founded in 1995 by Swiss watchmaker Roger Dubuis. Within a few years, the company was designing its own in-house movements, certified with a prestigious Poinçon de Genève. Roger Dubuis became known for its highly complex and sophisticated mechanisms, combined with innovation and state of the art materials. In 2018 Roger Dubuis signed a partnership with Lamborghini, which was set to take the brand to a new level in terms of its reputation. Designing a new version of its iconic Excalibur Huracán in collaboration with Lamborghini Squadra Corse, Roger Dubuis perfectly aligned itself with the world of motorsports and adrenalin.
Later that year, CEO Nicola Andreatta joined the brand. Andreatta has spent his whole life in watchmaking and throughout his career has worked on many aspects of the watchmaking businesses. His vision of taking the brand into the future is closely aligned with the values and DNA of Roger Dubuis. As the latest novelties are launched at Watches & Wonders, we discover the plans for the future and the next level of watchmaking at this forward-thinking brand.
You joined Roger Dubuis just under two years ago – tell us about the direction you have for the brand and how you define Roger Dubuis’ DNA?
I’ve been with the brand for less than two years, but I feel like I’ve been here all my life. I always say that whatever I did before trained me to become the CEO of this incredible brand and I feel like there is a good link between who I am and my passions and the world of Roger Dubuis. When I joined the Maison I was in a very healthy position thanks to the work the previous CEO and what the incredible team have achieved. Just before my arrival, the brand signed two important partnerships that complement the work of Roger Dubuis.
Going forward I’m going to perfect what Roger Dubuis stands for. That means that we want to become the most exciting way to experience Haute Horology. We express this in two ways. The first one is the adrenaline factor; and this is where we have connected with motorsports, in particular Lamborghini and Pirelli. Then we have what we call the expressive singularity, and this is a different universe related to the possibility of expressing yourself. We want to push that side a bit more as we have been exploring the adrenaline side and now we want to discover a little more about the second part of the Roger Dubuis universe. This has to do with expressing yourself and extravagance and will allow us to connect with some different partners, related to art, or the way of living in general. All things that are beautiful, incredible and exclusive in life – these are things that most of our clients love and this is where we want to develop further. We must always take into consideration that we come from the pinnacle of Haute Horology. What we do is very exclusive because of the way we manufacture it, but also because of the technical content that we put into our timepieces. This makes them less accessible and more exclusive.
If I had to somehow encapsulate all of our beliefs into one word, I would use the word “excess”. Every meaning of what excess stands for from always going beyond to surpassing expectations. Everything we do has to include, freedom, pleasure and madness. This perfectly defines the world of Roger Dubuis.
With all the constraints that the world is facing today, how are you working to ensure that your clients are still getting the Roger Dubuis experience?
We are convinced that when we come out from this situation it won’t be business as usual. Everyone is reinventing their own selves and we are always projecting forward so we can’t stand still at this time. The digital world is developing faster than ever and we cannot avoid this at Roger Dubuis. The recent presentation of Watches & Wonders highlighted this. It’s a frame of work that we have implemented and the whole Richemont group has accelerated very fast to offer digital and e-commerce. The fact that Richemont acquired YOOX Net-A-Porter a couple of years ago, is an example of the appetite that the group has for the digital world. For us, it’s one of our priorities. There will be more and more coming from Roger Dubuis in terms of e-commerce, but it’s important to do it our way. We should not forget that our DNA is different from all the other brands in the market and we need to keep the exclusivity while being contemporary in everything we do. So the content has to be crafted in a way that resonates with what the brand stands for. Given the fact that we want to be experiential and we think about the power of emotions, we would not be able to survive without the physical part, so we talk a lot about the connection between the physical and the digital world. Providing a journey for our customers so they can connect with the brand in different ways – either through digital means but also through the boutiques. The important thing is to ensure that whatever way the customers are connecting to the brand, they will always feel like they are part of Roger Dubuis.
We want to use our tools to create this incredible journey, which is made of experiences. After this situation is ended it will probably be on a smaller scale, but we will use our boutiques as a place where clients can fully experience the world of Roger Dubuis. Our new store at Dubai Mall is one of the biggest in the world and it is one of the places where you can discover a lot of experiential points. There is a zone that we haven’t used yet at the back of the store where we are going to add even more aspects that will allow people to experience and live the brand in a different way. This allows us to create emotions that are unique and allow us to connect our clients to the future of our world.
What can you tell us about the novelties presented through the Watches & Wonders digital platform?
We presented at Watches & Wonders the “Twofold” watch. This is a concentration of all the novelties and spirit of the Maison. It features a very well known calibre from the Maison; a double-flight tourbillon, which is one of the most complicated movements to produce but it is very economic. We were the first Maison in the world to produce this. So with this movement, we created a new watch, which encapsulates no less than three world premieres. The first is the use of an incredible new white material. It’s a new compound that we created ourselves together with Lamborghini. It’s very interesting because one of the first challenges I gave my team was to create an all-white watch that wasn’t ceramic. I challenged them to find something better than ceramic and we came up with this incredible material which is 2.5 times lighter than ceramic, much stronger and even lighter than carbon fibre. We came to Mineral Composite Fiber (MCF) by not only finding the right components but also patenting a new process. We wanted the fibres to be so small that they were easy to machine and manoeuvre.
That was the key element for us. Ceramic is easy to break and you cannot reach very thin layers with it, which is what we needed because of the complexity of our timepieces. So the team came up with this incredible compound, which is filled with microelements that make it super-white. We tested it to make sure it didn’t give any allergic reaction and we also made sure the white colour would stay forever. We were so happy when we developed this material that we decided to also put it inside the movement. Which is something unprecedented. We used the same material to cover some of the decorative bridges of the watch. The second world premiere is the way we applied Super Luminova on the bridges and we found a specific process to do this. The third world premiere is the way we developed the strap. As always, we needed to do it in a different way. We created a new rubber material that is luminescent at night and then we created layers of rubber on the strap and cut it with a laser so that the effect of luminosity is embedded in the material. So the luminescence will stay forever. All of this is celebrating one of the best calibres in the world.
What has the impact been so far on the watch?
I knew that customers would like the white colour but we were overwhelmed with the response. We had so many requests and so much good feedback. The number of views across our social networks was one hundred times higher than normal. We immediately understood we were going in the right direction. As we speak I think we only have two pieces left out of eight. Sometimes I think we are not very good at being commercial. Because with all the innovations and all the new things we bring to a timepiece we could easily make 88 pieces, but we need to remain exclusive and it’s a complicated piece to manufacture so we decided to limit it to only eight pieces in the well.
What can you tell us about QLab?
This is something I brought in when I joined the company. Everyone was talking about being innovative but that’s not something that necessarily just comes to us. So I told myself that we need to create a virtual and physical place within the company where we unleash the creativity of our people and allow them to explore, discover, test ideas and share them with each other. A place where we can stage all of our inventions and creations, a place that allows everyone within the company to tell us what they think. I believe anyone in the company can come up with amazing ideas, whatever their role is. There will be instances where we allow people to visit where we stage and present everything that we are doing. We observed in the past few years that sometimes it’s really difficult to move from ideas to reality. So Q-Lab will allow us to explore ideas and break down the processes to bring them to the final product. There are many different advantages to the QLab and it allows us to protect our innovation and everything we are doing. I want to make sure we all go in the same direction and I want each of my colleagues in their departments to do their best. So I am pushing them, but in the end, we are all responsible for what Roger Dubuis stands for.
Tell us about Roger Dubuis in the Middle East and what is in the pipeline for the second half of the year?
Well, we just opened our biggest boutique in the world in Dubai, and for us this highlights the importance that the region has to us. At the same time, we can’t hide behind the fact that in the last few years we haven’t dedicated enough resources and attention to the Middle East. I believe that our DNA and concept resonate very well with Middle Eastern customers who are very good connoisseurs of the luxury world and they like to pamper themselves with only the best. Roger Dubuis answers to this because we are the best in terms of technical knowledge but at the same time, we want to be a bit more expressive. I would love for people from the Middle East to get closer to us. We want to make sure that people in the region understand that we make beautiful things and that with us they can have incredible experiences that we offer and because of the adrenaline that infuses every single thing we do. So I think we need to create a better platform for us to connect with our tribe in the Middle East. Every time I come to Dubai I see incredible cars everywhere, I know that people in the region love luxury, so I think we are the best answer for them.
How did you discover your passion for the watch industry and how did your previous experience support your role today as CEO of Roger Dubuis?
I don’t know if I ever really discovered it as in a way, I was born with it in my blood. My father was always into watchmaking and he started taking me to the factory with him from the age of five! The process of manufacturing things amazed me. The way something could go from a piece of metal to a beautiful object. I was always amazed by the concept of time and this crazy idea of controlling or measuring time, which is something we humans believe we can do but in the end, time goes on, even without us. So it is a very difficult thing to conceive and understand in full. My father didn’t want me to have a career in watches because he thought it was a crazy world, so he sent me to study finance. But what I wanted was to work with physical objects. Growing up in a factory and being connected with watches in general (I started going to Baselworld when I was 16), I was very well introduced to that world and I knew I wanted to make it a career.
To answer the second part of your question, definitely whatever I have done in my life previously has been training me for my role today. The fact that I have approached very different aspects of watchmaking from selling watches to manufacturing to marketing to design, allows me to have a much closer connection to my team. When they talk about something happening in the factory, I know what they are talking about. I love this world and I couldn’t do anything else. I’m exactly where I want to be.
What is it that you still aim to achieve with Roger Dubuis that hasn’t been done yet and what would you like to see from the future of your career?
For Roger Dubuis, there are plenty of things we are working on. We never stop and for myself, my attitude and character are that of never being satisfied! So we are projecting ourselves into the future and working in many directions that will allow us to develop a completely different stance in the world of Roger Dubuis. I want to evolve the brand, the way we design our stores, the way we welcome our clients. We are offering new experiences and new ways to pamper our tribe of connoisseurs and clients. So there are plenty of things to do! I know where we are going but every day new things are happening and there are new challenges.
Another initiative we started at the end of last year is something we call the Young Advisory Committee (YAC). This is comprised of people from inside the company that are below the age of 30 from every part of the company. It’s a place where we encourage inclusion and diversity and we constantly discuss strategic solutions with them. So we immediately get feedback from the younger generation. We want their opinions and feelings about what we’re doing and if it’s going to appeal to young clients in the future. I think this highlights the attitude the brand has of inclusion and it also highlights the direction that we are moving in.
In terms of my own career, very honestly I would be very happy to continue with Roger Dubuis because I love it. I respect tremendously what the brand was at the beginning and what has been done in the past. We will keep evolving it day by day and we are constantly looking to break the boundaries of watchmaking. We want to express our DNA and ourselves but be relevant in the time we’re in. Which is great because we can bring our own codes and focus on the future and how we build the future of watchmaking.
How would you describe Roger Dubuis in one word?
What difficulties do you think the watchmaking industry is facing today?
It’s going to be an interesting time going forward and it’s not going to be business as usual. The world is evolving so the concepts of digital, omni-channel and so on are going to be much talked about. Everyone will have a different interpretation and we don’t know what the retail of the future is going to be. Not everyone will be able to fully embrace this evolution.
I do believe that in the short term when we will have fewer people travelling, brands will have to rediscover local communities and work more with the local clients instead of counting on travel retail and tourism. However I do think that people will come out of this crisis dreaming and wanting to experience even more, so we need to be ready, not only with our watches but with every aspect of the business.
What is the watch you’re wearing today?
This is quite a unique piece. It’s the Excalibur Single Flying Tourbillon. It’s a very rare watch, we are making a limited edition of just eight pieces and I am the only one who can sell this watch to clients personally. So we call it the CEO watch. It’s super exclusive and can be personalised by the clients. I have sold two already to clients and whenever I can travel again I will promote it. It is a watch that I love.