In Paris for the Belles Montres International Prestige Watch Fair, Romain Gauthier glows with the energy of a man on a mission, and that mission is clearly to make his mark on the prestige timepieces segment; the very one which demands newcomers demonstrate a rare and admirable blend of patience, tenacity and savoir-faire. Nor has Romain Gauthier chosen the easy solution. Before becoming a brand in his own right, this young independent watchmaker started out making parts for some of the most highly regarded watch firms, acquiring in the process the machines he now uses to manufacture his own watches while keeping the business going with third-party orders and accessories sold by leading names in luxury.
“Looking back, I’d say I chose the right business model,” he declares. “It took some heavy investment at first to acquire cutting-edge machines, then to develop reliable manufacturing processes and get brands interested in outsourcing, but it means I’ve been able to finance my own watches and produce them entirely in-house. This will also become a profitable activity in the long term. The downside is the time it’s taken to put everything in place. I started out on my own in 2000 and began work on my first movement in 2002. I launched my first model four years later and it’s taken me another four years to show the first variation on this calibre. It’s scary to realise that only now am I producing the model I had in mind eight years after setting out under my own name. I console myself with the knowledge it would have been hard to do it any other way.”
Research into constant force
Romain Gauthier has no intention of resting on his laurels. The first two models in the Prestige collection will remain in production at a rate of some 15 this year and the same number in 2011. “There will be 30 in all of the hours/minutes/seconds model which I unveiled early in the year, in platinum, white gold or rose gold. Collectors appreciate this kind of exclusiveness. Marketing this watch is much easier thanks to its more evocative dial, a larger target clientele, and a more attractive dynamic. It’s frustrating to think that I was all ready to go at end 2009 but no one dared commit to orders before Baselworld. It went well in the end though. One of our customers took ten at once, in fact my order books are full until end 2012. It’s also encouraging to see that the majority of those who bought the first Prestige watch also signed up for the second. Now we need to divide our forces and focus some of our resources on the next movement, which we aim to have ready for end 2011. The manufacturing strategy I put in place allows us to go faster and we’re now reaping the benefits of that.”
Anyone wanting the inside info on this new Romain Gauthier watch is in for a disappointment. Its creator will only reveal that this third timepiece will be “more complicated and more spectacular.” “My ambition is to have traditional watchmaking progress,” he explains. “We must remain humble and respectful of what our predecessors achieved, but it is also our role to prove we are worthy successors by making our own contribution to watchmaking. That’s how I see it anyway. For this third watch I’m particularly focusing on the barrel drum. It’s inconceivable that we should be making watches without constant force. The Spring Drive was already an innovation in this direction. I intend to achieve constant force by mechanical means, for reasons of amplitude and ultimately precision.”