Roger Dubuis (RD) is a Geneva-based horology manufacturer that specializes in luxury watches and was acquired in 2008 by the Richemont group. It sells its products through distributers in the Middle East but plans to open retail stores in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) soon, its first in the region. Executive sat with Omar Chaoui, regional brand manager of RD, for a chat about fine timepieces and regional prospects.
E How did the 2008 financial crisis change the watch industry?
The crisis has taught us that today, as an industry, we need to provide something that has a genuine value, as we are no longer in the euphoric years between 2002 and 2008 when people were over-consuming. Consumers now want inner value and this has led brands to refocus their offering and for distributors to refocus on their portfolio of brands.
Over the past two to three years, brands within the industry have gone back to more discrete watches. Today, consumers don’t buy a watch because it is big and visible and has a cheap or dull mechanism. Today, when consumers buy a $50,000 watch they want $50,000 worth of watch, so they want the finest material, the best possible movement and they want a watch that they can wear today, 10 years and 20 years from now.
E How does your brand fit in the portfolio of brands offered by Richemont?
We are the avant-garde traditional watchmaker. We are avant-garde in terms of design and 21st century brand but we are traditional in the sense that we are the only brand in the world that offers Poinçon de Genève (Seal of Geneva) 100 percent manufacturing in all of our watches. We are the fastest growing brand in the Richemont portfolio.
We feel that what we sell is not just a watch. If you want to know what time it is, you can look at your phone or the clock in your car. What we are selling is the demonstration that you, as an individual, appreciate the finest form of watch making. We are selling [the right to] belong to a closed club of connoisseurs and dandies. When you enter the RD boutique, you get the full experience. We call our employees watch advisers, not sales people, as they are genuinely passionate about watch making and in love with what the brand represents. They are here to share a passion with you, enjoy a drink with you and have a chat and if you want to buy a watch, they are happy to assist you.
E What are your strongest areas of growth geographically? And have you seen any impact from the turmoil in parts of the Middle East? Are you going to open a store in Beirut?
The Asiatic region is the fastest growing market. The Middle East is also growing fast. We have faced a significant drop in sales in Egypt and Bahrain due to the unrest in these countries but the rest of the region is doing great. In Lebanon we are growing tremendously, as well as in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. We might consider opening a boutique in Beirut in the future when the opportunity arises and we find a right location. Today, we are looking at opening a couple of boutiques in the UAE, our first stores in the Middle East.
E What does your client drive?
He would drive a TVR or a Wiesmann because it is rare, it is automobile to its core and it is genuine car making.
E Who are your competitors in the Middle East?
It is quite a tough question because we don’t compete just with watches. We compete with cars, apartments and art. When you reach a certain price point, consumers will not necessarily be choosing between two watches but between a watch, a piece of art or a two week holiday.