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

Plaza Watch International - - The Eponymous Return - WORDS NICK RICE

“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”.

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