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Jean-Marc Pontroué, CEO of Roger Dubuis, speaks with Whitewall about expanding the watchmaker’s line of women’s watches, advancements in new materials, and the necessity of taking
WHITEWALL: This year at SIHH Roger Dubuis solely focused on women’s watches, with the Velvet collection. Why take such a bold stance?
JEAN-MARC PONTROUÉ: Most brands for many years have made the male segment their priority, which for 20 years we also did. We’ve been working on the Velvet collection, and the more we worked on it, the more we wanted to have a strong angle to its story. If we really wanted to have one message to remember from SIHH, a strong male development would hide what we did with the ladies’ collection. So that’s why we say that we have identified Velvet as a potential iconic future family. We have identified the ladies’ segment as a growing business opportunity for the brand. If we want to have one message at SIHH, we’d better make sure that we are a brand of statement, and that’s why we took such a major approach in saying all innovations will be behind the Velvet collection this year.
WW: How do you perceive the overall market for women’s watches, and what kind of statement did you want to make within that?
JMP: When you look at the luxury market today, women are by far the largest customer. If you take cosmetics, perfume, shoes, ready-to-wear, you name it, women are always the number-one customer. For watches, though, men are. The last couple of years, though, we have seen a growing interest in women in high-end jewelry, in watches, and in high-end watches. We believe that there is a growing interest in more creative proposals when it comes to high-end women’s watches. We believe it is our duty to have the same approach to women’s watches as men’s for high-end watches. And the younger you are as a brand, the more freedom you have in expressing yourself in these two segments with the same credibility.
WW: It was great to see an exploration of material with the Velvet collection. It seems that material—over precious stones, et cetera—is not something that makers of women’s watches pay attention to. Would you agree?
JMP: For the Velvet collection, we have created five segments. It was not worth it for us to come up with only one key innovation, so we approached five different customers in mind, five different prices, with new material, new calibers, and so on. One of them is new material. Women are usually only given the choice rose gold, or yellow gold, or white gold. We wanted to break the rules when it comes to big watches, when it comes to high-end complications. Why don’t we innovate in the ladies’ material, which is something very unusual in this business.
WW: How would you like to further develop your line of women’s watches?
JMP: New material will still be in our development—new calibers for small complications for women, and new fashion approaches with straps. Of course, it depends a lot on the feedback of the demands.
WW: Would any material innovations in this collection influence future men’s collections?
JMP: Carbon was a men’s material, which has been used for ladies. We see we can be experimental in ladies but we are very much researching for new harder, spectacular materials. We have all of the developments in the pipe, which will be dedicated for males first.
WW: Why is it an important part of the brand to take risks in design aesthetics?
JMP: There are today 700 brands in the watch industry in Switzerland alone. If you want to appear on the radar, you’d better make sure you have something for which you are noticed. So from the very first day Mr. Dubuis has always created models that had a statement, and there are always some that are very polarizing. Today we are perceived as a brand having strong concept statements, products that have an identity, that have a personality which is very much associated with one who is wearing it. They are the profile of customer we have encouraged to be. Whether it’s male or it’s ladies, they are people who are very much self-confident
This article is published in Whitewall‘s summer 2016 Design Issue.