In town to present Roger Dubuis’ unique Pirelli pop-up concept, we found a great opportunity to sit with Jean-Sebastien and to dig a bit deeper in to the brand, its collaborations and to learn a little of what’s coming next. 

An exclusive selection of timepieces were showcased; the iconic Excalibur range including the three colours of the Excalibur Spider Pirelli Automatic Skeleton. Featuring rubber inlays from certified Pirelli winning motorsport tyres having competed in real races, these timepieces represent the new wave of daring elegance and fearless racers.

Showcasing the Maison’s talent for shattering codes and blasting conventions, this on-trend concept pop-up boutique offered an augmented reality simulator experience placed inside a Pirelli racing car directly on the stand. The design of the booth itself also suggests an innovative interpretation of the Manufacture through a wealth of visual elements. The black and white chequered flag pattern, for example, contributes to the powerful racing ambiance.

What was the highlight of your year 2017? The launch of the partnerships definitely. Whether it’s with Lamborghini or Pirelli. These are both two strong and innovative partnerships. One that hasn’t been done before – this is the first time a watch brand has tied up with a tyre manufacturer. With Lamborghini, we’re doing it in a way that no one else has done before.

Differently, how? In so many ways. Instead of just putting the logos on an existing collection, we created a whole new timepiece with very strong engine-inspiration. How does the collaboration work? How do the design teams get together? Getting two partners to work in tandem is one thing, adding a third partner adds a whole new layer.  It’s easy if you share the same values and the same passion. In Pirelli’s case, they thirst for performance. They’re always innovating – new materials, new rubber, new shapes – creating winning combinations for the track. The brand is different from their competition. I love the slogans that you’ve using – Dare to race.

Dare to be rare. What is daring about this watch? It’s not only about the watch – it’s about the brand itself. As you know, Roger Dubuis is a unique, exclusive brand. So, as a customer, you’re already daring to express your personality. You don’t conform to society, you’re different just by wearing a Roger Dubuis. You know, wearing the design of tyres of a Grand Prix winner on your wrist together with this cutting-edge skeletonised movement, is already an innovative spirit. Only people with a strong personality will be able to wear such a strong statement on their wrist.

You launched a Kuwait Edition Excalibur. How did that go? It went so well, and we’re very fortunate to partner with the Behbehani Group, and through them we have a very sharp understanding of the Kuwait market. Because of the DNA of the products and the DNA of the brand, it’s easier to innovate and bring the right products. Will you consider a further Kuwait Edition?
I think so, yes. As I say, it’s a conversation between us and Behbehani and we’ll see what we can come up with.

Are you attracting the collectors or a younger group? We never target anyone. We will never innovate or come up with a collection because we think it’s smart or that we’re targeting a specific audience. Our design team innovates with only the true spirit of Roger Dubuis in mind. We’re a young, innovative brand, with a strong design component. We’re daring.

Jean Sebastien Berland, “We are extremely pleased to bring our unique Pirelli pop-up concept to Kuwait, where we have some of our leading brand enthusiasts. Vividly reflecting Roger Dubuis’ “dare to be rare” mind-set, this new space is a spectacular demonstration of the Manufacture’s commitment to disruptive materials and progressive complications”

It’s been quite a year. Where to next?
Obviously, our next big news will come in January 2018, at SIHH. Here we’ll be sharing our world premieres. There will be new materials, new movements, a different shape for the Excalibur. We are fortunate to have our own R&D department within the manufacture, these guys are very smart people, always innovating and never standing still.

How are women reacting to Roger Dubuis? You know, the reaction to the 606 Velvet has been overwhelming. All around the world, particularly here in the Middle East.

And what’s next for ladies? New models, or smaller versions of men’s models? For next year we’ll still have the ladies’ Excalibur and Velvet – as I mentioned with new materials, new stones. And a new movement too.

Smartwatches. What’s your opinion? They’re a convenience – if you’re in to sports, or if you prefer to read your messages on your wrist. But that’s all. They have a completely different purpose to a Roger Dubuis timepiece. It’s a bit like going in to your garage where there’s a normal everyday car, and next to that is sitting another exclusive model – you take your pick for the moment, but they are different.

Are they having an impact on the watch business? Surprisingly, I think they are helping shine a light on the watch industry as a whole. We’re more visible now to the younger generation. I see my kids and their friends asking for smartwatches. Whereas teenagers of five years ago wouldn’t have ever considered a watch because they felt they had everything they needed on their mobile phone. Now they’re turning to wristwatches again. As they advance in years and develop their tastes they’ll turn towards more traditional watches for sure. The smartwatch is doing us a favour.

The young age of the brand – it’s perhaps a double-edged sword. It presents opportunities? Yes. And freedom. We are free of any dogmas, and any expectations vis-a-vis our audience. It gives us freedom to innovate. Our audience is very recptive, and they’re very keen on us remaining different. We can be, and they want us to be, something different to the brands from where their grandfather bought his watches. Most importantly though, our young and flexible appoach is not only an image, our whole organisation is founded on this and the brand stands behind it. Everyone working within Roger Dubuis believes in this dream too. We have no boundaries in whatever we do – we’re all about encouraging and creating innovation opportunities.