“Hyper horology” is a phrase that comes up often during a chat with Roger Dubuis CEO Nicola Andreatta. It’s a good description of the brand’s big and bold timepieces, and also perfectly sums up the brand’s values of “impertinence, excess and extravagance” and its high-octane partnerships with brands like Lamborghini and Pirelli.
Even though the pandemic has forced a slowdown in this full-speed-ahead approach, Andreatta – who spoke to The Peak via Zoom in late March, a fortnight before the start of digital watch fair Watches and Wonders – sees it as an opportunity for his team to take stock. He says, “The last few years have been very successful for us. We were having the best year in the history of the maison when suddenly, Covid happened. But now, we have a bit of time to think about the way we do things and how we want things to be moving forward. The question is, how can we work now to make sure that we emerge from this situation stronger than before?”
1) One of your key models, the Excalibur Single Flying Tourbillon, was given a revamp this year. What did you want to achieve with this facelift?
One of our key inspirations is architecture, and that can be seen in the way we shaped and designed our new product. We took the lines of the original case and stretched them to create greater balance and harmony. Instead of focusing on curves, which is from a Baroque world of the past, we have these tense lines and surfaces on the case. The result is a case that’s exactly the same volume of the original, but looks thinner and elongated.
2) The Excalibur Glow Me Up has a bezel with diamonds that are lit up by different-coloured lume placed in and around the grooves the diamonds are held in. How did the idea for this showstopper come about?
In traditional watchmaking, when you want to play with light, you play with metals and create different finishings and angles. But moving to the next level, you think about how you can play with light using different materials. We have been working on unusual ways of using Superluminova in recent years with watches like the Excalibur Twofold, and we had experience with creating special grooves for diamonds with the Excalibur Superbia. We put it all together and were amazed to see that the idea worked. The most important and challenging part is cutting the stones perfectly, in a certain way, for light to pass through evenly. In fact, we just got the first bezel a couple of weeks ago, just in time for Watches and Wonders.
3) Roger Dubuis recently launched its Urban Art Tribe, and announced partnerships with tattoo artist Dr Woo and graffiti artist Gully. What can we expect?
We have two universes at Roger Dubuis – one is about the adrenaline factor, which focuses on motorsports. The other side of the brand has to do with expression – the ability to express yourself and different ways of seeing and interpreting reality. There is no world that better represents better perspectives and different ways of seeing reality than the contemporary art world.
We were looking for artists who share our values. Dr Woo, for instance, invented a new way of tattooing, and it’s a style that is very graphic and architectural. He has never worked with watches, but he told us, “I like the idea of experimenting and finding different ways of expressing the way I see the world.” That’s how we connected. We showed him our Astral Skeleton (Roger Dubuis’ star-accented openworked design signature) and asked him, what would you do with it your world? He’s started working on it, and we don’t know what we are going to get, but that’s the beauty of art and experimentation.
4) You got a big reaction when basketball stars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were spotted wearing Roger Dubuis watches in the documentary The Last Dance. Did this get you thinking more about potential sporting partnerships?
Yes, and honestly, the easiest thing would be to say, okay let’s do a partnership with Michael Jordan. It would be a very fluid thing that could happen. But we don’t like to do things the easy way; we like to challenge ourselves. Also, we want to stick to our DNA and our vision. An important message that I gave to my teams at the beginning of this year was, we need to be more strategic. We need to drive where we want to go, not get driven by what happens. When that happens, you often end up diverting from your DNA. For our clients, that’s the worst thing you can do. They chose Roger Dubuis for the way we think, and if we start going everywhere, we’re going to confuse them.
We have two very defined universes, motorsports and contemporary art. If we start going to other worlds, we’re going to dilute the message. That’s what we’re going to be focusing on in the next few years, and I’m not going to divert from that. We might have other little things here and there, but it will not be the main message.
5) Early Roger Dubuis watches, created when the brand was started by the eponymous watchmaker in the 1990s, have a classical style that is totally different from the brand’s futuristic aesthetic today. Do you think you will ever reference those early and still sought-after pieces?
Never say never. At some point, I will also leave the company. The person who replaces me in future might think this a good idea. For me, Roger Dubuis is about evolution and looking forward. In the brand’s 25-year history, we have done many different things. That was a great thing that we did then, but now we are a totally different brand. I don’t see the need to go back.
A lot of brands go back to the past by doing re-editions. They redo things because they lack creativity. They keep on pushing the same things because that’s the only thing they can come up with. They might have beautiful watches, but the fact that they don’t come with something new, means, in my opinion, that they don’t have new ideas.
At Roger Dubuis, that will never happen. Ideas come on a daily basis. Every time we do something new, we are already on the next idea. You have to continue evolving and inventing, and that’s what we are. If not, we would be like every other brand in the world.