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Roger Dubuis must develop on a global scale
Point of View

Roger Dubuis must develop on a global scale

Monday, 23 March 2009
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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5 min read

Appointed Chief Executive Officer of Roger Dubuis in summer 2008, Matthias Schuler, formerly Chief Operating Officer at IWC, talks about the brand’s future.

In 2007, the Richemont Group acquired Roger Dubuis’ production facilities, part of which now manufactures for Cartier. A year later, Richemont acquired a controlling interest in the brand from its founder, Carlos Dias. Matthias Schuler, who was appointed CEO in summer 2008, talks about the Manufacture’s major projects for 2009.

What were your impressions when you took over at the head of Roger Dubuis?

Matthias Schuler, CEO of Roger Dubuis: I was impressed by the high standard of expertise among staff, particularly the younger members. The architecture and layout of the Manufacture itself also convey an image in keeping with Roger Dubuis watches.

Any weaknesses?

When Roger Dubuis was established in 1995 it employed a dozen or so people. Ten years later, it had grown into a company with a staff of almost five hundred. However, organisation had failed to keep pace with growth, and management wasn’t commensurate with the company’s new size. By introducing a new structure, with five directors and 20 heads of department, we now have a more efficient decision-making process.

Did this have any bearing on the decision to downsize, announced a few weeks ago?

It didn’t take me long to realise that the company was oversized compared with its markets. My predecessor’s vision was out of synch with reality. This was already clear in 2006 when revenues fell. Hence one of our first tasks was to evaluate outside demand for Roger Dubuis watches to then bring production resources into line. As I said, this led to a new organisational structure, plus measures to rationalise and therefore improve productivity: indeed, one of the weaknesses I had to acknowledge when I arrived as CEO was that industrial processes were technically solid but inefficient.

Having said that, the projects that lie ahead open up genuine opportunities to define Roger Dubuis as a global luxury brand, a task that has been neglected in the past. In just five months we’ve succeeded in filling some of these gaps, in particular in marketing. We’re currently planning the brand’s next advertising campaign. At this stage, it’s essential that customers know what Roger Dubuis stands for, what it’s DNA is.

Roger Dubuis has stood out in the past for producing an astounding number of original movements in very little time. Is this a solid base?

Roger Dubuis has indeed created some fabulous movements. That said, during my time as Chief Operating Officer at IWC, I used to wonder how anyone could possibly produce thirty new movements so fast. And we do indeed have some concerns with quality, as standards haven’t been sufficiently high. We are now rectifying this by concentrating on key movements – technical pieces with a reliable calibre – and the manufacturing processes that go with them. At the same time, we’ve set up after-sales services outside Geneva, in Hong Kong, Tokyo and the United States, where we can service our watches. If necessary, I will personally apologise when a customer encounters major problems with one or other watch.

It sounds as though you have a lot to do at what isn't necessarily the best time.

Crisis also brings opportunities. For Roger Dubuis, this means we won’t be resting on our laurels. We have the strengths to turn the situation round and increase our revenues. Beginning with distribution: there were no Roger Dubuis points of sale in China, and the brand hadn’t been present in Russia or even the Middle East since 2004. We have taken the necessary steps to be represented in these markets, hence become a global brand, and to integrate our distribution networks. We now deal directly with the majority of our retailers out of a total 175 points of sale, including own-name boutiques. And this figure is set to increase, with Richemont’s backing. I’m well aware of the difficulties in establishing a niche brand, which in our case means annual production of around 3,500 pieces. It’s up to us to show that it can be done. Our goal is to reach 6,000 to 9,000 watches by 2015.

What difference do you see between IWC, your previous brand, and Roger Dubuis?

IWC has 140 years to its name and, given its history, evolves within a rather set framework. Roger Dubuis, in contrast, is a young company with greater flexibility in its decision-making processes.

With hindsight, was Richemont right to take over the Roger Dubuis brand after purchasing its production facilities?

There is, without the shadow of a doubt, a clientele who appreciate the kind of product that Roger Dubuis represents, particularly in the emerging markets. By this I mean high-end, complicated and extremely creative watches. Now the brand must develop on a global scale, both in distribution and marketing. This is one of the reasons why, even though we have had to let some staff go in Geneva, we are recruiting some fifty new people internationally. Proof that the brand is growing.

If you were presenting Roger Dubuis, what points would you emphasise?

Today, the brand is structured around three key families, Excalibur, Easydiver and Kingsquare, while bringing powerful, distinctive and immediately identifiable products to the market. In these times of crisis, it’s important to focus on content as customers are buying authentic values. Roger Dubuis is the only Manufacture whose watches are 100% Poinçon de Genève. We employ forty people just to finish parts to Poinçon de Genève standards. We need to pass on the message of this very special expertise, and this message must now be considered as part of a worldwide presence.

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