Join us for the second instalment of the great watch debate, in which we ask industry leaders for their take on the impact of the smartwatch. How are traditional Swiss watch brands reacting to the storm? Does disposable technology signal the demise of mechanical watches? Are hybrid solutions the answer?
Dorothée Henrio joined Roger Dubuis in 2014 as marketing director, after almost a decade working with Cartier in London and in Singapore. An exciting brand to work with, there is no stopping the remarkable ascendancy of Roger Dubuis which, since its foundation in 1995, has proved to be the very antithesis of the more sober and classical offerings served up by brands laden with centuries of history. Combining a reverence for haute horlogerie with adventurous, contemporary design, Roger Dubuis fills a gap in the market for exuberant, sexy watches for both men and women. However, design bravado is one thing, and the solidity of the brand is based on the fact that each and every watch that leaves the manufacture is endorsed with the prestigious Seal of Geneva - the ultimate certification of quality in high watchmaking.
Dorothée Henrio has promoted the brand’s digital presence, positioning Roger Dubuis as a pack leader - an anomaly in the sector where a more conservative approach to the digital world prevails. Using social media channels to generate buzz with provocative teasers and campaigns, Henrio is totally at ease with 21st century technology and on the ball with the latest trends.
TJE:How does a daring and digitally savvy brand such as Roger Dubuis react to the advent of the smartwatch?
Henrio: The phenomenon of the smartwatch is definitely interesting and some watchmakers will certainly go down this avenue. But you have to understand the positioning of Roger Dubuis and the technical sophistication of the brand to see that we are not in the same market at all. Our watches are a product of the left and right part of the brain. The left part oversees the technical aspect of our watches - the development of movements - which as you know are all consecrated with the Geneva Seal; the right part is all about design, innovation and the discovery of new materials. Gregory Bruttin and his team do a lot of research in these fields. This year we have the amazing Velvet watch with a world-first carbon case set with Paraiba tourmalines.
TJE: So the smartwatch does not pose a threat for your segment of the market?
Henrio: No, not our particular segment. A client who buys a Roger Dubuis watch probably already owns a Cartier, a Patek and an Omega, and might also own a Ferrari, a Lamborghini and a yacht. We really don’t believe that the smartwatch will jeopardise or compromise our business. Our average price is very high, starting at around €60,000. Buying a Roger Dubuis watch is more like buying a piece of art. Last week, for example, we sold a watch to a king for more than €500,000 - although his son probably wears a smartwatch! However, we cannot ignore the fact that the way clients are “consuming watches” is different. But in the realm of fine watchmaking, knowledgeable clients know they are looking at something very different and are sensitive to the beauty of the movement, the complication, the research behind the watch, and the type of materials employed.
TJE: Would a hybrid solution - combining connectivity features with a mechanical movement - be feasible at Roger Dubuis?
Henrio: No, not at all. I can understand why lifestyle brands might be attracted to a hybrid solution, but we are very different. We are not a lifestyle brand. Roger Dubuis makes exuberant, high-end watches. We are daring in terms of materials, research and complications, and have collaborated with other Maisons who share the same DNA as us. This year, for example, we have teamed up with Massaro, the shoemaker owned by Chanel, renowned for its exclusive high-end shoes favoured by Daphne Guinness. They are very edgy, very experimental, but totally high-end. The “Year of the Diva” set of our booth unites the world of haute couture with the world of fine watchmaking where attention to detail is what sets both worlds apart. Smartwatch or disposable technology is closer to high street fashion.
TJE: Defend the virtues of a mechanical watch.
Henrio: Wearing a mechanical watch is like wearing a piece of art and unites all the metiers d’art, and all the creativity and technical know-how we practice in the manufacture. It is a piece of art that happens to tell the time, but it is first and foremost a piece of art. If it is a high jewellery women’s watch, it is first and foremost a piece of jewellery that just happens to tell the time. It’s all about the details and the story behind the watch. That’s what it is: fine watchmaking is about telling a real and credible story.
TJE:What is your personal reaction to the smartwatch?
Henrio: I admit that I was seduced by the idea of buying an Apple watch but took it back to the shop to get a refund because it was rubbish. They’re not there yet. The functions available today, the short battery life, are not up to par. They will get there eventually, but I feel Apple launched the product too soon.