Roger Dubuis: the maverick of Swiss watchmaking

A watch needs to be more than a good timekeeper these days, it needs to be a statement on your wrist. Few firms know that better than Roger Dubuis
Roger Dubuis: the maverick of Swiss watchmaking
By Thomas Shambler
Wed 23 Mar 2016 05:09 PM

There's a common phrase that comes out of the mouths of many a watch hater, specifically when asked about its function in the modern world. "There's no point having a watch, my phone tells the time". What these watch misanthropes fail to understand, however, is that a humble timepiece does more than the iThing in their pocket ever could. It denotes personality, success, character and a state of mind. It puts a little part of yourself on your wrist, for the entire world to see. As such, what you wear is distinctly important to who you are.

For an unorthodox few, there is only one name in the world of watchmaking that represents them adequately. They are creative, wealthy, and unyielding to anything but the finest in craftsmanship. They want a watch that represents their bold lifestyles, and want a timepiece that – just like themselves – causes people to stop and stare. These men and women, these modern-day mavericks, almost certainly are fans of Roger Dubuis.

While it is the youngest and smallest of all the watch brands in Richemont's portfolio, Roger Dubuis is certainly the most daring. The watch super group also looks after the likes of Vacheron Constantin, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Cartier, Panerai, Piaget (and the list goes on), all watchmakers grounded in rich heritage. But Roger Dubuis, which opened the doors to its atelier in just 1995, has none of that, but that's no bad thing. With no history to fall back on, Roger Dubuis is forging its own path. It has just five collections: Excalibur, Velvet, Hommage, Pulsion and La Monégasque. Known for daring designs, like its complicated skeletons, the team are anything but mainstream.

Case in point, Roger Dubuis does not pander to its clients. The watch firm is more than happy to polarize opinion. Statements like, "some people don't like our watches, and that's fine" are often overheard in its boutiques, certainly not the typical Swiss approach. Neither is its business plan; in a study by Deloitte, 41 per cent of Swiss watch executives are pessimistic about the economy in 2016. Apparently no one at Roger Dubuis got the memo, it's upping its retail presence in the year ahead, adding an additional five stores to its retail presence. Having just opened up new boutiques in New York and Dubai Mall, there are future plans to open stores in Tokyo, Miami and Los Angeles. The plan is to open another two shops in Shanghai and Beijing a year after that.

A casual glance at the collection will show you that no two Roger Dubuis watches look alike. However, the brand's identity remains distinct throughout. The beauty is in the details, and the intricate movements of each ticking face. It is the only watch brand to have 100 per cent of its watches certified Geneva Hallmark – denoting extreme quality. It can take up to seven years to build a Roger Dubuis watch (even the simplest movement requires one year minimum).

Roger Dubuis is young when compared to other brands.  However, to mark its 20th birthday just last year, it produced the Astral Skeleton, a number of limited-edition designs including the Excalibur Star of Infinity, the Excalibur Broceliande, the Spider Pocket Time Instrument and the Excalibur RDDBEX0499. Place any of these on the wrist and they're more likely to impress than almost anything else. Each piece has no dial, but stripped down to the basics of the watch revealing the movement inside. Built using rhodium or titanium, and studded with diamonds and coloured gems, these are not watches to be ignored. Skeletons – the process of building a watch that puts its movement front and centre – are a speciality of Roger Dubuis.

What's next in 2016? Apart from unveiling its latest collection, Roger Dubuis plans to build its fan base. Traditionally, Europe and Asia has been its strongest footholds in the market. However, with Former US President Bill Clinton photographed for the cover of Time wearing a Roger Dubuis, along with the likes of US model Stephanie Seymour and fashion icon  Daphne Guinness calling themselves fans, we expect many more great things to come from maverick Roger Dubuis in future.

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