Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.
This week in “Keeping Time” we look at one of our favorite timepieces to come from Romain Jerome, the Space Invaders watch. Based on the classic eighties arcade game, it also marks a new direction from the brand which in the past has been responsible for a timepiece made from such absurd materials as rusted pieces of the Titanic, moon dust, and ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
We spoke with Romaine Jerome’s CEO, Manuel Emch – who is responsible for introducing Space Invaders – about where the watchmaker is headed.
WHITEWALL: Early watches from the brand were quite unique — made from pieces from the Titanic, moon dust, or volcanic ash, for instance. Were you looking to steer the brand in a different direction from this?
MANUEL EMCH: Although I was not convinced with the first designs, I found the concept very unique and strong and felt that the brand had a lot of potential. I redesigned and expanded the existing collections, introduced new legends, and developed new concepts of capsule collections. We now work on both axes: a materialized axe around the air, the earth, and the sea by incorporating physical materials from important moments of the history of mankind (conquest of the moon, the Statue of Liberty, the Ejafjallajökull volcano, or the Titanic) and a more immaterialized axe, which pays tribute to cultural references of the X and Y generations. This latest axe enables us to target a younger and more hedonistic customer that has been left aside by most of the high-end watchmaking companies. Through capsule associations, we collaborate with legends in the field of arts such as contemporary artists (a first edition of ten unique watches made by the most influential contemporary Swiss artist will soon be released but only sold in contemporary art galleries), video games, and tattoo artists. We also cooperate with other icons of this generation, such as DeLorean and Colette.
WW: How would you describe your collector base?
ME: Our customers are either collectors looking for very limited editions or customized models from various brands, or clients who are passionately interested in one of our legends. In general, our followers are young and independent with an iconoclastic personality. They are looking for luxury timepieces that are creative, innovative, and daring and that fit their lifestyle.
WW: You introduced the new collection, Space Invaders. Tell me about your idea behind this watch?
ME: Simply the fact that video game is an entire part of my generation’s cultural background, and therefore it creates immediate emotional links that are essential in watchmaking. We do not only sell mechanical know-how, unique craftsmanship, and beautiful design objects, but also emotions and therefore the storytelling part is essential. Tribute to video game art is one of our strategies, and we just released the Pac-Man collection, a limited edition of four different series of twenty watches — eighty pieces all together, as the game was released in 1980. Furthermore, we also released five series of eight Space Invaders watches in five new colors. Among these five editions, there is one only available at Colette, in Paris, and that has been presold. Interestingly, one of the watches has been bought by Maxim, the singer of The Prodigy, another icon of my generation! We have already started to work on future associations, as this collection has become a real collectors’ line.
WW: What watch do you wear on a daily basis?
ME: A Space Invaders or a Steampunk depending on the mood of the day and the way I’m dressed.
Born in Switzerland in 1972, Manuel Emch studied design at the Art Center in La Tour-de-Peilz before gaining a Master’s Degree in business at Lausanne University’s Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC). The winner of several watch design awards, Manuel Emch is gifted with considerable skills in the field of establishing and consolidating brand identity, which he ably demonstrated at Jaquet Droz, which he revived and repositioned as one of the finest references in the field of Haute Horlogerie.
On January 1st 2010, Manuel Emch joined RJ-Romain Jerome as CEO in order to give it a fresh creative impulse and to establish the credibility and reputation of this youthful brand that shakes up the conventions and clichés often associated with watchmaking. In parallel with his activities in the watch industry, Manuel Emch has for over 20 years nurtured a passion for contemporary art and has built up an eclectic collection.