This year Roger Dubuis did a very bold thing. The brand, best known for its strong designs and high complications in men’s watches, decided to focus entirely on women. In fact, when the brand’s booth was unveiled at the very start of the SIHH in Geneva, Switzerland, men weren’t even allowed inside. Okay, okay…that only lasted for a few minutes, but the brand had made its point: 2016 is the Year of the Women for Roger Dubuis. And the women have taken notice.

“We decided to have the focus of our brand dedicated to women,” says Jean-Marc Pontroue, General Manager. “We knew that if we wanted to have a strong message, it had to be clear to all our partners and customers. That’s why the SIHH this year was entirely dedicated to the women’s world. If there is one brand that can afford to do it, it is us.

“The Excalibur has been our focus for many years,” he continues. “Velvet became a large part of our sales without doing much effort to make it happen. Traveling around the world, I meet with customers who tell me that they need more women’s mechanical watches. I felt Roger Dubuis should be more involved in this area. The Velvet was designed as a woman’s watch from the very beginning. All our Velvet watches have stones, either small or big, to highlight the jewelry side, and they always have a mechanical movement. We wanted to highlight Velvet, something we have never done before.”

“We decided to have the focus of our brand dedicated to women. We knew that if we wanted to have a strong message, it had to be clear to all our partners and customers.”

Velvet

Many brands in the watchmaking industry are stopped from being truly creative by the burden of their history and the expectations of their customers. Not so for Roger Dubuis.

“Roger Dubuis, being a young brand—21 years this year—we are not blocked by a heritage that puts us into a box forcing us to make watches for men only,” Pontroue explains. “We are very flexible and free to address women with the same legitimacy as we do high complications.”

The Velvet collection has been in the Roger Dubuis line for more than five years, and without really trying, women customers have grown to be 30% of the overall Dubuis business. Pontroue felt it was high time to dedicate efforts developing women-only products.

Complications

Pontroue is seeing more and more women fascinated by mechanical timepieces and certain complications.

“We have seen the growing interest of women in design and technology,” he says. “Before it was only design, which was the main priority for choosing a product. I have seen an increasing desire to see the complexity of the movement. When you buy high-end products, there is a competence behind these beautiful products. If there is one luxury accessory that fits this,  it’s watches.

“For the time being, we have our automatic in-house movement that we use in our women’s watches,” he continues. “In the coming years, we will develop new complications for women. This year, we had a new bi-retrograde date indicator, which was a unique movement developed internally. The current case we use for the Velvet doesn’t allows us to play with a lot of development; for example, the tourbillon doesn’t fit into the 36mm case of the Velvet, so we are working on other options for this collection.”

The Future

As Chairman Mao was fond of saying, “Women hold up half the earth,” and Pontroue predicts that in the next few years, 40% of Roger Dubuis’s customers will be women.

“Here at Roger Dubuis, we have daily requests from customers to surprise them,” he says. “Our customers never ask for something specific, they want concepts that don’t exist on the market.” And Pontroue is committed to providing that surprise for women.

Velvet by massaro

A collaboration that Roger Dubuis announced this year is with Massaro, and the result is a collection of truly spectacular straps.

“Massaro is a provider of the most incredible haute couture shoes in Paris,” Pontroue explains. “When we thought about future straps, Massaro immediately came to mind. They have a very strong creative team in new materials—it’s like Formula 1 in the car industry—they think about things completely differently. I met with the people from Massaro and they wanted to work with us. It’s all about how much willingness you have to work together.

“We have developed a couple of these projects, and we are continuing to develop them,” he continues. We are always looking for high-end, spectacular companies.”