The Man Behind the “Maverick” of Richemont Group

Roger Dubuis
Roger Dubuis Chief Marketing Officer Sadry Keiser

Sadry Keiser has one of the most unusually authored biographies of any watch industry executive. To be fair, the Chief Marketing Officer of Roger Dubuis probably shares this feature with some of his colleagues because it is so very Roger Dubuis. The company calls itself the “bad boy of the Geneva watch industry,” and it is not difficult to see why. Just look at the watches, and Keiser’s official portrait. In Keiser’s own official biography, which goes out to anyone who interviews him, Roger Dubuis is also described as the Richemont Group’s “maverick” while Keiser is described as a man with an “unexplained attraction to watchmaking.” Keiser himself described Roger Dubuis as the “wild child” of Richemont in an interview with the retailer Watches of Switzerland in the UK. Well, the watches certainly raise the decibel level, sometimes quite literally.

Roger Dubuis
The Excalibur Blacklight Spin-Stone Monobalancier showcases the brand’s contemporary skeletonising chops

If your first encounter with Roger Dubuis is at a watch fair, such as Watches and Wonders Geneva, you might actually discover the brand when you hear a racket of some sort somewhere around the Van Cleef & Arpels and IWC booths. Or you might be having a meeting over at A. Lange & Söhne only to find yourself talking over a cacophony of what absolutely cannot be anything related to Swiss watchmaking. Except of course that is, and it is all done on purpose. Keiser tells us, not at all sheepishly, that Roger Dubuis creates a spectacle at the fair to draw a crowd; “I can tell you that 80 percent of the people we see…in our boutiques are not only new to Roger Dubuis, they are new to watchmaking!” Keiser met with us at the Singapore ION boutique late last year (2023) to engage in a free-ranging conversation about the novelties of 2023; Roger Dubuis also inaugurated a new store at Marina Bay Sands late last year but that is a story for another time.

The youthful Keiser – his official information does not list his age but that is as expected of Roger Dubuis because age is nothing but a number here – likes to think of himself as a bridge between the technical side of the story and the design team. In his role as Chief Marketing Officer, he is also a bridge between the brand and the media, and by extension, the public. Keiser cut his teeth in the technical arena of watchmaking at TAG Heuer’s manufacturing end, and that brand’s research and development department. This experience would prove beneficial to his later stint as Head of Product Marketing at Roger Dubuis where he was “overcome by a wild desire to return to marketing – and inject it with his own inflammatory watchmaking passion…”

It was this promise of inflammatory rhetoric that drew our interest to engaging in a lengthy chat with Keiser, who was in town to introduce the Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph in particular. Happily, neither he nor the watch disappointed us!

Roger Dubuis
The Monovortex Split-Seconds Chronograph

Before we get into things properly, tell us if the Spider Flyback Chronograph is the first production chronograph since the Sympathy collection?

No, there was a chronograph with a plain dial around 2011 or 2012, and it was the piece celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Poincon de Geneve <this was a limited edition of eight – Ed>. It is less characteristic than (our now signature style) with contemporary skeletonizing (although it did have a tourbillon). The team at that time thought it was good to master the various complications but recognised that there are also other players doing the same, maybe better than us or more known than us. So, we needed to bring additional value…we focused on the tourbillon for simple reasons: there are fewer components so there is more space to have transparency and to explore different styles. Then we went with automatics, then double tourbillons, and so on. It took time to get back on track with chronograph complications, and to return to the roots of Roger Dubuis <in relation to the famous Sympathy case chronographs that the founder created – Ed>. It is a different kind of game playing with a skeletonized approach on the chronograph complication. There was no doubt for us on bringing back that complication but just a question of finding the right way to do it. Now is the right time to launch the Flyback Chronograph, because you have never seen this kind of watch before!

No, of course not, so let’s dive right into it!

For me, the Flyback Chronograph is an interesting approach because I think we keep the philosophy of the company – putting the mechanics first (and completely visible). Needless to say, having an integrated calibre for us, that was absolutely mandatory. Also, playing with the architecture of the calibre, keeping the freedom of aesthetics that we like, while being respectful of tradition…and keeping the Poincon de Geneve in play.

What I mean by playing with the architecture while keeping elements of tradition is that the column wheel (must be present) for sure, but we put this on the front of the calibre <this distinctive element is normally bridge-side – Ed>. So, once again reengineering the architecture of the calibre to bring (and deliver) specific signatures on the way that people are seeing it.

And last but not least, we talk about the vertical clutch, of course, because once again, it is following the beauty of, and respect for, tradition. But at the end of the day, within the very (contemporary) kind of design that follows the spirit of the Excalibur Spider, there is also an obvious to link to motorsport activities, paying tribute to our Italian friends (that is to say Lamborghini, a long- term partner to Roger Dubuis – Ed).

Roger Dubuis
The Monovortex Split-Seconds Chronograph

Why wait till later in the year to debut the Flyback Chronograph when you had the chance to pair it with the Monovortex Split-Seconds Chronograph at Watches and Wonders?

Part of my answer will have to do with the Monovortex… (because) it speaks to the philosophy of the company: to showcase the expertise of the watchmaking industry and to incubate a fraction of our innovations in one single piece. But when you put everything in one single watch – I am talking about a new regulator a new winding system, alongside a new display system as well…and then a split-second chronograph complication (a high complication that is arguably more complex than the tourbillon – Ed) – the bar is set pretty high. To be frank with you, we needed to go to the real and tangible world, to see if everything works as it should. But at least at that time (during the show in Geneva), we got to demonstrate to the world and certainly to the connoisseur, because every single person attending Watches and Wonders is sensitive to fine watchmaking, who Roger Dubuis is and what we are about. You can see that Roger Dubuis is a serious player.

Then again, Roger Dubuis is not a foundation so we all expected a commercial offering at some point…

That is right! And we decided that the Goodwood Festival of Speed was a good philosophical fit with the Spider Flyback Chronograph; motorsports in general are a good fit for the chronograph. We also did not want to fire all our (marketing) bullets at one time…instead we wanted to create a conversation with the community that helped everyone understand the sequence that we have in mind, from concept to commercially available piece. Because (both the Monovortex and the Flyback Chronograph) are new concepts, in a way. You can see from the Flyback Chronograph if we have captured well that reality behind (some of) the concepts in the Monovortex.

Roger Dubuis
Close-up of the Excalibur Spider Countach Double Tourbillon that calls attention to the motorsports affiliations that Roger Dubuis likes

How do you approach Watches and Wonders, or any fair really, from the perspective of introducing watches to the public, or introducing it to partners? Is it sales first? Presentation first?

It is a very good question. I think these shows are moving, let us say from business to business to consumer to become more business to consumer. For a couple of years now, we see the content of such shows moving in this direction as well. As one of the operators at Watches and Wonders, we are also following this trend to (orientate) more towards being business to consumer. You know, we are in that position where we need to be seen by a large audience, but talk only to a few, if you know what I mean. From a marketing perspective, (the question is) how I can be sure to reach a larger audience, where that larger audience can understand the reason why Roger Dubuis exists. What is our unique proposition and does my audience get it? You know, if everyone understands that we are a pure player doing contemporary skeletonised complications with Poincon de Geneve, then I am in heaven!

On the other hand, there are a few people where we need to go a bit further and dig into our own worlds and bring additional stuff to the table. This means explanations on the watches in a way that we can be sure that we nourish and we cultivate the phenomenal experience (of Roger Dubuis). We know that we are not the first brand within the collections of those people…and yet there are those newcomers who are very curious, not only about Roger Dubuis but about watchmaking.

Roger Dubuis
The Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph in Profile

This is a reference to what we spoke about: the people you draw with spectacle, like the robot dog that was the highlight of Watches and Wonders? How do you communicate the values of the brand properly because these people may know what a skeletonised movement is, because they can see it, but they certainly will not know what the Poincon de Geneve is…

Once again, another good question! To be transparent with you, I think half is structure (the communications strategy including all means from advertising to partnerships) and the other half is much more spontaneous. There is a way to communicate the fact that we are a fantastic alternative to the classical operators. At Roger Dubuis, we are a bit schizophrenic. A fraction of what we are doing is, let us say, very Swiss; the other part is ultra-contemporary (and this is where conversations like this one come in). From my perspective, this is the beauty of a brand of our size: we have the luxury of having the time to converse with our clients and friends. We are not always in pushing mode in a marketplace where we are talking about line extensions and everything is transactional. As we discussed, Roger Dubuis is not a foundation but we still need to build (individual) conversations to start relationships!

This article first appeared on WOW’s Festive 2024 issue.

For more on the latest in watch reads, click here.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top