Function and beauty: Roger Dubuis’ new boutique at Harrods
The watch manufacturer's CEO Jean-Marc Pontroue on the launch of its UK flagship in the Knightsbridge department store
Opening in Harrods, beyond business, is about prestige. Compared to a lot of department stores in the world, Harrods is probably the most mature when it comes to betting on disruptive brands such as ourselves. I'm sure they could have chosen many others, but they said, "let's go for adventure".
The concept of our retail outlets is that you have to be eye-catching – how can we tell you our story in just a couple of seconds to make you stop and enter? We wanted to create an environment where you can spend a nice time with us and show you products that you would never see elsewhere, because when you purchase a Roger Dubuis you are not buying a normal timepiece. It's a disruptive brand for disruptive people; our customers are those who have a successful career and social life and want to express their hedonism. The brand is a cocktail of all these values.
We never want to be creative, because everyone is claiming that they are creative. In watchmaking, you can claim to be creative because this year you have made all your dials in green – they may be nice, but that is not the true definition of the word. Our focus is on how we can find new ideas and create a world premiere. This year, for example, we have launched a watch incorporating cobalt, a material that has never been used in this industry before. We are more influenced by other industries than our own – from the Frieze art fair to the worlds of motorsports and super yachts. In all these businesses you have to think, "what can I do that has never been done before?"
This year, we have partnered with Pirelli, the official supplier of Formula 1 tyres. The starting point was to create a truly unique experience for our customers, so we are reusing the winning tyres from the Monaco Grand Prix to make straps for our watches, which come with a certificate of authenticity. What I like most is that people remember the story and find it great because it is so simple. Often the best ideas are the most obvious, and you can't believe you haven't done it before.
To mark the opening in Harrods we have launched two exclusive timepieces. The first is a pocket watch using the Quatuor, which is based on the principle of having four balance wheels that negate the effect of gravity on the movement. It makes the most of Roger Dubuis' know-how in developing high-end products in-house. This capability is very important to make a statement in this industry – we don't sell our movements to other brands, and it is the only way to really guarantee the exclusivity of our watches.
The second is a new take on our Excalibur watch. On the dial it features 12 Knights of the Round Table, each less than 1mm high and completely different to each other. Every year we develop a new limited edition, because there are only 28 pieces available in each version. We have already sold out of the first 56 watches, with the next available from July.
We are also offering access to a bespoke service through Harrods, which is done through a dedicated department called Rarities. For my own timepiece, which I have worn since my first day working at the brand five years ago, the watchmakers incorporated my initials into the skeletonised movement at 3 o'clock. If you removed my initials the watch wouldn't work. It is this combination of function and beauty that sums up Roger Dubuis.
Jean-Marc Pontroue is CEO of Roger Dubuis, which has carved out a niche as one of the most bold and daring watch brands today; rogerdubuis.com