Text by Kee | Photos courtesy of Roger Dubuis
Roger Dubuis CEO Nicola Andreatta

Roger Dubuis doesn’t mince its words as it continues to remind us that its  high-level baller-esque wristwatches aren’t for everyone. Its CEO Nicola Andreatta – a watch biz vet – has seen enough to know he isn’t in the job to please faceless keyboard warriors and so-called watchmaking diehards rooted in only romancing the past. For the first time in 25 years, the Swiss marque might just be taking no prisoners and making the wristwatches that it wants.

Roger Dubuis isn’t the brand you think you knew. It used to be the one that didn’t dare to offend the puritans in watchmaking, the same folks who eat their vitamins and say their prayers, and only believe in parental advice and missionary positions. Heck, Roger Dubuis is actually done with people-pleasing as of 2020. Nickname it whatever you want – the villain, the anti-hero, the owner of that 12-foot yacht – it won’t shed a tear. In no coincidence, their newfound fire in the belly came about roughly the same time as an upper management reshuffle. Enter a new boss in the dapper Italian-Swiss Nicola Andreatta, who has a vast amount of experience building his own brand and even rebuilding a watchmaking department for an age-old one. What Roger Dubuis has launched in 2020 alone has created a ruckus: a minute repeater that chimes a tritone that was once believed to summon the devil (Excalibur Diabolus in Machina), a rave party-level glow stick of a wristwatch (Excalibur Twofold), and another that glorifies Pride, one of the seven deadly sins (Excalibur Superbia). And these mechanical bad boys don’t come cheap either. The latter, which is a unique piece, is said to be priced at US$858,500 – and was unapologetically launched in early September. Let’s be honest, Roger Dubuis has never been more of a heartbreaker or soul crusher than right this moment. And Andreatta is the man you can love, hate, or thank for it.


MANIFESTO: You joined Roger Dubuis just a couple of years ago. Has it been what you expected it to be?

NICOLA ANDREATTA: I found the brand in a very good shape. I love the overall positioning of the brand and I thank Jean-Marc (Pontroué, the former CEO of Roger Dubuis and current CEO of Panerai) for what he has done. Of course, now I’m putting my own spin on it. It has been an incredible time connecting with every little detail. I have even visited every boutique in the world and met as many people in the know as possible. Now, we are really starting to accelerate on the ideas I had in the last two years. We are expressing ourselves more now which is important for Roger Dubuis.

We are having fun with the watches and the story-telling. We have an ambition of creating a different universe. Every watch is a message and we have to serve it in the best possible way. We have to do things in a different way and connecting with different worlds. We are inspired by history and culture to find our edge. We want to have fun in everything
we do.

Excalibur Diabolus In Machina

M: How do you balance the marketing and story-telling aspects with the technical approach of the watches? After all, Roger Dubuis is still a highly technical brand at its core.

NA: For us, the techniques we use are at the service of the aesthetics. We want our watches to say that you are a different person and see watchmaking in a different way. At Roger Dubuis, we have different ways of expressing a tourbillon, a double-tourbillon, and even a minute repeater. We want to skeletonise everything. We stand for something excessive and we are living in pleasure, madness, and freedom. We don’t want people to come to us because it is just an expensive watch; we want people to be part of a tribe that lives and thinks differently.

M: The Roger Dubuis brand today appears to be much more of an alter-ego of the late watchmaker it was named after. Where do you see the brand heading and how much of its original soul is part of this journey?

NA: I met Roger when I was really young. As you know, my father made watch cases for him. He was a really small brand then and he started from a garage, which was also where our meeting took place. He was a very classical man and very connected to watchmaking. His original idea was also about change; otherwise he would have continued working for Patek Philippe. He decided to venture out on his own because he wanted to say something different. This remains the attitude of the brand too.

Excalibur Double Flying Tourbillon

M: What is your biggest challenge at Roger Dubuis?

NA: I think it is finding the balance between visibility and exclusivity. To be visible, you have to make sure everyone knows Roger Dubuis. But given our proposal and what we plan to do, we also want to be very exclusive. How we combine these two objectives is the main question. The answer is very simple, actually. We just want to be visible to the people who live the Roger Dubuis type of lifestyle. Don’t’ get me wrong; I don’t mean we’re targeting people who can afford the watches. We want people who live or aspire to live the Roger Dubuis way. We are not a mass brand. We cannot communicate in the same way as a mass brand.

M: You mentioned that Roger Dubuis isn’t exclusively a men’s or a women’s brand. How do you start to restructure this universe as there is still an existing women’s line, Velvet, in the series of watches?

NA: I think being gender-neutral is already very much a way of thinking for the brand. From a commercial standpoint, segmenting ourselves further doesn’t make any sense. We love diversity at Roger Dubuis. We even stopped having a dress code in the company, so if anyone wants to come in with green pants they can. We want everyone to express themselves and it starts from what happens in this building. So if a man wants a pink watch full of diamonds, why not? People have different tastes so put something on your wrist that you truly believe is representative of you.

M: Do you pay attention to the online forums and what they talk about?

NA: I do read a lot. I think it is a good way to understand what is going on. But at the same time, I don’t care for the negative comments. I already know we are a polarising brand. But if there are constructive comments, I will bring it to my team. I love that we generate emotions – positive or negative – as people have different tastes. We don’t want to be a brand for everybody. Look at our partner Lamborghini; it isn’t a car for everyone. Someone might like an Aston Martin because it is more of a classic. Lamborghini is noisy, extravagant, and right in your face. This is also who we are in the world of watches. Again, I don’t have to say anything bad about my competitors; they are different and I respect them.

Excalibur Huracán

M: You came from the Tiffany & Co. role into this one. Was it an easy transition considering both brands have vastly different wares and expressions?

NA: I don’t like to talk about my past but it was definitely part of my journey to get me to where I am today. I can finally say that I’m at a brand that I was meant to be at. I love Roger Dubuis because of what it stands for and I feel closer to this universe. This is because of my own personal lifestyle and experiences. I have spent a good part of my life doing crazy things: I am a licensed pilot, a skydiver, a windsurfer, a world champion sailor, and I love racing cars. So, it connects pretty well to the world of Roger Dubuis. That said, I’m still a little classical in my dressing with my suits. So I might have to change that soon.

M: You have such a strong connection to horology as well, being a third generation of a watchmaking family. You also ventured out on your own with NOA. What is the most important experience or know-how that you have brought into your role today?

NA: I think I have pretty much done every role in watchmaking, from designing watches to assembly to manufacturing with machines to handling the finance of a company to even setting up factories in China. I have seen a lot. Those experiences are all in my toolkit when I came into this job. But most importantly, it is the people that you work with that will help you the most. I have an incredible team at Roger Dubuis. Most importantly, I can be at their level when I talk to them as I’m aware of what each of them are talking about even if they are from different departments.

Excaliber Superbia

M: In your previous role, you had a 10-year plan. Do you have one for Roger Dubuis?

NA: I have to say that in my previous role at Tiffany, I had to relaunch an entire brand so that was a monumental task. I needed 10 years as it wasn’t an overnight thing. Now at Roger Dubuis, I’m working towards the next three years because there is a different standing with the brands. I must say that there is also a different way of creating the watches; the creation cycles are different. Here, it takes at least two years to produce a complicated movement. We are now projecting much further. We haves something called a QLab where we run and support more creative ideas, and we have several on-going projects at the same time. We have designed many things and we are not even sure if we can make it happen. To quote Elon Musk, “If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” Failure is connected to exploration. I tell my team to start on 20 projects and I know 15 will fail but we need to push because those five ideas will be amazing.

M: The Geneva Seal is still present in every single Roger Dubuis watch. What is the relevance of it now considering many brands have claimed to have better quality control internally than even the storied organisation responsible for such certification?

NA: It’s like creating your own rules on quality control, and then you follow them, and certify yourself. To me, it doesn’t make sense. What we undergo is the most complicated way to certify watches and we do so with an external party that has been around since 1886. The fact is they are also an independent company. We are making next-level watches but we are also respecting traditions. We are also helping to evolve the Geneva Seal and pushing their standards. The 12 requirements they laid out didn’t change for over a century; there were materials that weren’t even conceived then. When we created components from carbon fibre we had to work with them to figure how to certify it.

Excalibur Twofold

M: What has surprised you the most about Roger Dubuis?

NA: The proficiency of the team. There is always talk about the pedigree of a manufacture and how everything is integrated. Everyone talks about the Geneva Seal but no one knows what it means. If you don’t see for yourself how we test our watches to meet the high standards, you would not understand the level of difficulty involved. We have incredible people who are honouring the art of watchmaking because they are the only ones who know how to do it and they are also the best at what they do. I cherish these people since the first day I joined the company.


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