Hubert Burda Media

Behind the Scenes at Roger Dubuis

As creative director of Roger Dubuis, Alvaro Maggini controls how the watch brand is perceived. He tells us how to move fast in an industry that takes its time.

Gregarious, talkative, fast-talking – Alvaro Maggini is the antithesis of the slow and studied watchmaker. His role as creative director of Roger Dubuis may seem like a vague designation, given his purview includes everything from business-card and fair-booth design to boutique concepts, perfume develop-ment and advertising, but what it actually means is that he has his hand in pretty much every pie, controlling all external contact points at the brand. Given Roger Dubuis is one of the most forward-looking maisons in the entire Richemont group – or, arguably, the entire fine-watchmaking industry – maintaining momentum and progression is no small task.

While Roger Dubuis is known for its exemplary mechanics, its image is what makes it stand out from its Richemont brethren. “The product speaks for itself in mechanics, for the precision, for the exclusivity,” says Maggini. “But it’s difficult to put all this information in one visual or one advertising campaign. So we have a lot of storytelling that’s not only about how many hours we spend doing that. We’re much more about lifestyle storytelling. And we don’t have a mass-market clientele, we’re more specific to the high-end customer. You need to have money, it’s expensive!

“It’s not a specific clientele, like a classic brand. We’re not classic, though we do classic calibres. We use tourbillons, we use double tourbillons, but we exaggerate it. A lot of brands use a micro-rotor behind the watch. Not us. We use it at the front, we think it’s important. When I joined the brand, a lot of people said to me, ‘Roger Dubuis is bold, it’s extreme, it’s extravagant.’ I think it’s bold, but it’s not extravagant. It’s just perfect in shape – it’s graphic, it’s architectural, it’s new, it’s nice.”

This year’s novelties include a number of Excalibur models, all of which exhibit exciting design and mechanical elements, but retain an outstanding look that’s common to all Roger Dubuis watches. Maggini works with the movements team to, as he says, “bring fresh air and perspective” to its designs. Having worked in fashion and advertising prior to this, his first gig with a watch brand, he sees his main challenge as helping the brand move “in a faster way, without breaking the rules. The difference or the gap between the fashion and watch industries [is that] fashion moves faster. It’s nervous. The watch industry is sleeping, sleeping, sleeping. I’m not sleeping. I hate sleeping.

“What I like to have is that everybody in the industry knows something about Roger Dubuis. It’s not to be like Chanel or Dior, brands that everybody knows, where everyone can buy at least something from the brand. In the 1970s, brands like Chanel and Dior started to create lipstick. The idea was that even if you’re poor, you can have a small dream, to have a part of Chanel. For Roger Dubuis it’s not like that.”

One aspect of the fashion industry that has been adopted by many watch houses is the use of celebrity ambassadors. Maggini laughs. “I don’t think you need an ambassador to sell better. Ambassadors are nice if they believe – best example, Paul Newman. The [Rolex] Daytona was nothing before Paul Newman bought the Daytona, and then it exploded. I prefer to do a really nice event with nice people coming: Madonna, David Beckham, Ryan Gosling. I’d prefer to spend the money there. To make it enjoyable for our guests to meet these people. ‘I went to dinner last night and I met the fantastic, sexy Ryan Gosling.’ That’s much more interesting.”

Thinking smart, for this year’s Roger Dubuis booth at SIHH Maggini adopted a less-is-more approach, with a predominantly white canvas bifurcated by a stroke of lightning. “It’s about reduction to the max. Everything is white, and then you have 10 products floating in the showcases, and you see just that. It’s like a hospital, it’s so perfect, and all about the details. And then … you see everything.”