Roger Dubuis, Founder of Roger Dubuis Horloger Genevois, on life of semi-retirement.
What is retirement or semi-retirement like for you?
I don’t consider it a retirement. It has been great, and I am still following my passion. Now I have no obligation to arrive on time. I can come and go as I please. I also have more time to be a grandfather to my grandchildren. So I am a bit anti-social these days around the manufacture.
Do you miss being a full-time watchmaker?
I don’t miss watchmaking that much; but having said that, I do miss sitting at my watchmaking desk and doing something. The company is so kind to me and they set up a little private studio for me. I can do what I want, and I am also consulted by the watchmakers as to how to solve the problems that they face. It’s more like I’m playing a godfather role to them. It’s like being back at work, but yet it’s not.
Did you always want to be a watchmaker?
Yes, I always wanted to be a watchmaker ever since I can remember. It all started with me falling in love with the church clock in the village where I grew up. I came from a family of carpenters, so I learnt to appreciate artisanal skill. It all started with the village cobbler who was also the keeper of the steeple, and I was asked to help him with the tower bells. I was fascinated with the mechanisms of the clock, which led me to a lifelong love for watchmaking. When I became of age, I left my family and began my watchmaking education and career.
What do you think of watchmaking today? Is it still the same or has it changed, and in what way?
It is going pretty well, but there is a pressure to perform today compared to the old days. Today, you need to attract people to the brand, and to do that you need to cross a lot of boundaries of technical innovations. We had many crazy ideas, but due to the technical limitations in the old days, we couldn’t make them happen. Today, there are many good ideas, and the younger watchmakers are pushing boundaries into the realms of space and illusion, and leaving it to faith.
How much do you think technology has helped move watchmaking forward?
It is especially true where infrastructure is concerned; technical innovation has allowed watchmakers to create almost anything. Let’s take the perpetual calendar, for instance. Twenty years ago, it was a nightmare to make one as we had to make everything by hand, and all the parts have to be precise right down 0.001mm. Now with the new high-tech machines they can cut the parts right down to an accuracy of one micron. It’s fantastic. They can do things better than we could only dream of. The greatest aspect of our progress has a lot to do with the technical evolution in machinery. This is the new way to go, because during the quartz era, we lost a lot of our craftsmen. To address the shortage in the current booming industry, we need the machines to cope with the expansion. Quartz, at the end of the day, is a necessary evil; without it, we would have progressed at a slower pace.
If you were to return to watchmaking, what would your new calibre or movement be like?
If I were to do that, the next watch I would make would be a mechanical one, of course, and it would be a perpetual calendar. I have spent most of my time mastering the movement; it is also one that presents the most challenges.
For watchmaking, how much DNA should be retained, and how much would you let go?
DNA holds a brand back and it doesn’t do much to help the brand to move forward. Roger Dubuis Horloger Genevois is a young brand. It has no past to follow and no heritage to concern itself with; therefore, it is free to create and push the boundaries. Roger Dubuis represents ease and carefree qualities, though we always make sure we adhere to the Poinçon de Genève standard, and maintain the accuracy and the precision of our watches. It is important to let the watchmaker create, do their own thing and never be creatively repressed.