Following the sale of his phenomenally successful watch brand TechnoMarine, Franck Dubarry kept busy. He learned Spanish, played polo and qualified for a black belt in Karate, gained a top MBA degree, became a Hollywood film producer, invented a GPS-base
“I've done okay in the film industry, it’s like with the poker table, you win and lose, but I'd rather stay with what I know and go back to the world where I know that I won't get killed.”
FRANCK DUBARRY EXUDES the kind of calm contentment and levity of spirit that comes when someone seizes hold of their life. Control and self -awareness allied with confidence in what you are dedicating valuable time to. Not a hint of smugness, just a well-earned assurance in knowing how to live right.
Dubarry talks to me from his apartment in Miami, but he has several houses around the world, in Hong Kong, the South of France, Geneva and Argentina, where he is currently engaged in creating a major polo resort. As an accomplished polo player himself, Dubarry dares to break the age-old rule of never mixing business and pleasure. He’s also a black belt in karate and teaches and trains in Miami and in Geneva, where he has his own dojo.
Dubarry founded the TechnoMarine brand in 1997 and made a fortune. The watches divided opinion, in that they were an attention-grabbing departure from the conservative norm of the Swiss watchmaking world. They were bright, brash, and heaven forbid… married plastic with diamonds.
In Dubarry’s own words, “I made foreign, great looking watches designed by a European, made in Asia, and assembled in Switzerland – so it was a fantastic recipe for success… the protocol was new material combinations and it was great.”
He steered the TechnoMarine brand to phenomenal success and the company clocked up $1 billion (consolidated retail figures) through the sale of 2.5 million watches across a global distribution network of over 100 countries, effectively creating a new market segment. Fast-forward to 2007 and Dubarry felt it was time to move on so he sold the company to a consortium of Private equity investors. “After selling TechnoMarine I was able to live new experiences and to share them with my family. I settled in Argentina and nurtured my passions – martial arts and polo – and travelled around the world,” he says.
DUBARRY ALSO GAINED an MBA at the London School of Economics, NYU Stern and HEC Paris (The Global Trium ranked as the Number 1 MBA in the world by the Financial Times) and delved into the cutthroat world of film production in Los Angeles.
Although he has very few good things to say about his experience in the LA film industry, Dubarry still managed to carve out some success. He stumbled on a script and was grabbed by it. Foregoing the typical route of optioning it, Dubarry decided to buy the script outright for $100,000. “Out of instinct and out of passion I bought the script” he says. “Now I really didn't know what to do with it – I bought it as if you
“I took the time to discover wide-open spaces, from the Argentine pampas to the steppes of Mongolia, from the Sinai to the Sahara desert and the plateaux of Rajasthan. I met some extraordinary people who were living in conditions of hardship but knew how to make the most of every moment.” “I wanted to create watches that would be the only thing from modern civilization one would like to take into the wide-open spaces where we find the true value of things and in particular, the value of time.”
would buy a painting. But believe it or not, a Hollywood major studio paid ten times that price. Now the film has been green lighted and will be starring Bruce Willis”.
Despite this detour, Dubarry wanted to return to the business he knows best… the particular environment that is the watch world. As he explains, “I've done okay in the film industry, it’s like with the poker table, you win and lose, but I'd rather stay with what I know and go back to the world where I know that I won't get killed”.
SO FRANCK IS COMING back, and Baselworld 2015 will mark his return with the launch of his eponymous watch brand. He’s been gone eight years. But he’s done an awful lot in that period. Most importantly, he confides, “I took the time to discover wide-open spaces, from the Argentine pampas to the steppes of Mongolia, from the Sinai to the Sahara desert and the plateaux of Rajasthan. I met some extraordinary people who were living in conditions of hardship but knew how to make the most of every moment,” he says.
He adds, “It was by talking to those people that I realised I was a prisoner of time. I was doomed to run around from one city to another, from one plane to another... whereas those persons lived at the pace of horses and seasons and children growing up. They had a freer relationship with time, softer and nevertheless as much sophisticated.”
Duly inspired by his globetrotting experience, Dubarry alighted upon the creation of another watch brand, but this time giving it his own name, and thereby imbuing it with a sense of his own personal integrity. As he puts it, “A brand blending freedom and the sophistication of our modern life.”
Expanding on the motivation and desire behind the new brand, Dubarry says, “Freedom lies in our relationship with time: we can’t keep time but we can decide how to spend it. I wanted to create watches that would be the only thing from modern civilization one would like to take into the wide-open spaces where we find the true value of things and in particular, the value of time.”
SO WHAT CAN we expect… what will these impending new timepieces look like? “We are using stainless steel and gold and composite materials and some precious stones and diamonds, a lot of different things,” Dubarry says.
“I have three models; one is called the Crazy Balls two-hand version, and then I have the Crazy Balls Chrono, and then a Tonneau version. And we’re mixing the materials. It’s refreshing, rejuvenating and I’m going to try and price it well… meaning based on the quality I’ll give it the best value. I don't have a definite price but the three-hand Crazy Balls will probably be around $1000 to $1500 and then the diamond version will go up.”
Another crucial factor of course is the audience Dubarry hopes will fall for his new creations. Who will the watches be aimed at? “We are targeting the same consumer group as with TechnoMarine,” Dubarry reveals, “Which is a high-end consumer – the main difference will be that I’ll try to control my distribution as much as I can because I want this to be a longlasting experience. It's not a company I’m starting just to sell in a few years. The idea of this brand is really not to be the explosion I had with TechnoMarine, but something stable that I can build and add new products to every year and control the distribution. To grow it into a global brand.”
If your interest has been piqued, then make an appointment and keep your eyes peeled for the Franck Dubarry booth at the Baselworld fair from March 19 – 26. I haven’t seen the watches yet but they are certain to be distinctive, especially as Dubarry prides himself on being different. As he concludes, “I try to be on the edge of where the market is going to… I wouldn't want to bring a product that looks like somebody else’s”.