Reinventing the Game: Exclusive Talk with Roger Dubuis’ Managing Director of Southeast Asia and Oceania Laurent Toinet

A special talk with the Managing Director of Southeast Asia and Oceania for Roger Dubuis, Laurent Toinet, about the maison’s emblematic pieces, partnerships with other brands and more

Roger Dubuis has consistently elevated its art and technical mastery, while always striving for excellence and constantly challenging itself to go further. Determined to celebrate the physical return of Watches and Wonders Geneva with outstanding masterpieces, the brand launched the Knights of the Round Table Monotourbillon timepiece and the remarkable evolution of the Excalibur Monobalancier. What’s more, Roger Dubuis also introduced the third timepiece from its Urban Culture Tribe with the Excalibur Sorayama Monobalancier. This was the result of the collaboration with world-famous Japanese artist Hajime Sorayama. To learn more about the maison as a whole and its hyper horology, we spoke to Roger Dubuis’ Managing Director of Southeast Asia and Oceania, Laurent Toinet.

DAMAN: First and foremost, how would you introduce Roger Dubuis as a brand, and describe the collections to a new watch collector?
Laurent Toinet: You know, I think Roger Dubuis is a brand that, since day one, since Mr. Roger Dubuis founded it in 1995, is at the forefront of haute horlogerie. So, that’s number one: We use all the techniques of haute horlogerie, of ancient watchmaking, and we interpret them in a very contemporary way with very expressive designs. And if I have to introduce Roger Dubuis to someone who’s new to it, I would use three words: expressive, contemporary and haute horlogerie, which together make Roger Dubuis a hyper-horology brand.

DAMAN: Which model, in your opinion, best represents the brand today?
Laurent Toinet: It’s difficult to pick one. I think if I look at this year, the Excalibur Monobalancier in EON Gold is a very emblematic piece. We completely reworked the case and the movement of this piece, which is fully skeletonized. We also skeletonized the micro-rotor and increased the weight of the gold on the piece. This piece is also extremely modern and, as always, comes with the Geneva seal for finishing while various special techniques has gone into making it. So, I think, this Monobalancier is what embodies the best of Roger Dubuis.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Monobalancier and Excalibur Double Tourbillon

DAMAN: Speaking about models, the brand seems to focus primarily on the Excalibur collection. If we look back to a few years ago, however, Roger Dubuis had a more diverse portfolio of models, including La Monegasque and the Pulsion. Is there any reason behind this?
Laurent Toinet: What we like to say is the fact that Roger Dubuis is a little bit like a human being. When we were born, in 1995, we paid tribute to our parents, the history and watchmaking. Then, as a teenager, we tried to find our own way. So, we explored different collections, different models like La Monegasque and the Pulsion, etc. We went into different areas, we tested our knowledge, we tested our designs, we tested our craft. And then, as we grew into adulthood and gained in terms of maturity, we found that we do best is skeletonized creations. And this is why we have the Excalibur and Excalibur Spider as our most emblematic pieces.

DAMAN: Let’s talk about the Roger Dubuis Excalibur Monobalancier, which is another legendary piece. What are the difficulties in combining hyper mechanics with a certification like the Poinçon de Genève’s hallmark of quality? Does this avant-garde approach to watchmaking present any particular challenges? Especially when seeking approval from the Poinçon de Genève office…
Laurent Toinet: We have been working with the Geneva Seal since 1999. So, it’s always been something that we pay a lot of attention to. The Geneva Seal requires a number of steps and increases the time—by 30 to 40 percent—to actually create the piece. So, indeed, there are a lot of challenges because there are all these steps related to polishing and finishing, to assembly as well. And obviously, everything needs to be made in Geneva.

Roger Dubuis Knights of the Round Table Monotourbillon

DAMAN: There’s also the Knights of the Round Table Monotourbillon, which is the first time Roger Dubuis is pairing its signature Knights of the Round Table motif with a tourbillon. What were the main technical obstacles in fulfilling this creative endeavor?
Laurent Toinet: I think the most interesting part is how this is the epitome of creativity in a way, so the designer and the watchmaker can really develop something unexpected, right? This is what we are trying to show showing you: It’s a creative brand; it’s been in our DNA for the past 27 years. That’s why the Knights of the Round Table watch is now combined with a tourbillon. We added this complication to the watch in order to also pay tribute to our watchmaking heritage. We also kept the way the twelve knights were hand-carved on the dial. So, it’s probably the best of watchmaking, plus very contemporary and creative designs.

DAMAN: Roger Dubuis famously enjoys partnerships with Lamborghini and Pirelli. Can you explain the benefits these partnerships provide? For example, are there any forms of technology transfer between Roger Dubuis and its partners?
Laurent Toinet: The partnership with Lamborghini and Pirelli was initiated five years ago and has been very interesting, as you say, for us in terms of creativity, in terms of pushing against the boundaries of our movements, of our technical innovation. We were inspired by the engines of the cars to develop our own designs, which we made truly our own. Basically, we develop our own movements in-house, but we find inspiration from a car. So, you will find elements in the design that remind you of the Huracan or Aventador cars. At the end of the day, it remains a Roger Dubuis piece. You will also find materials such as carbon, for example, that is quite often associated with Lamborghini as well.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Sorayama Monobalancier

DAMAN: Speaking about partnerships, last year the brand recruited a famous tattooist, Dr. Woo, to design a watch. And now Roger Dubuis has turned to Hajime Sorayama. The Japanese illustrator applied his aesthetics to Roger Dubuis’ signature time-only wristwatch to create the Excalibur Sorayama Monobalancier. The watch and its movement have been reworked by Mr. Sorayama in the manner of his trademark robot drawings. How has the response been to this new release?
Laurent Toinet: The pieces are sold out! This comes from a collaboration with a very contemporary artist—a well-known Japanese artist—who is known for a specific technique. And I think that’s something important to us: to identify what the strength of the artist is. Then we give the artist a lot of freedom—full freedom—to interpret his own art style on our timepiece. Sorayama is very much into polished chrome and that’s how we could interpret it on this Excalibur Sorayama Monobalancier, which is limited to 28 pieces.

The Japanese illustrator’s name in the dial of Roger Dubuis Excalibur Sorayama Monobalancier

DAMAN: As the Managing Director of Southeast Asia and Oceania, could you kindly give us your reading of the current market and your response strategy?
Laurent Toinet: I think the watch market is currently doing very well. But for me, it’s a bit more difficult to talk in general about the market. So, I’d like to talk about Roger Dubuis. I can tell you that Roger Dubuis is performing very strongly in this region, on both our main collections Excalibur and Excalibur Spider. Particularly in Indonesia, we are further developing our partnership with Time International to invite clients to our events and to continue to present our pieces to the local market. So, to answer your question: Today we are here to continue to expand our footprint while preserving, of course, the very limited production that the brand can commit to.

DAMAN: Every year, we see a lot of forms of haute horlogerie from Roger Dubuis. How does the brand continue to maintain its position in respecting the tenets of fine watchmaking while also appealing to today’s modern customer?
Laurent Toinet: One of the most important aspects of Roger Dubuis is to be the past, the present and the future. When I think about the past, it is really this expertise in complications, in calibers, in technicity. But how do we make this appealing to today’s generation? It’s through the very contemporary and expressive designs that we embody, like the Excalibur Monobalancier.

Roger Dubuis Excalibur Monobalancier with an EON GOLD case adorned with 60 round-cut diamonds

DAMAN: Speaking about the customer, everyone seems to be talking about sustainability. How does Roger Dubuis see the present and the future of upcycling, recycling and neutral carbon manufacturing processes?
Laurent Toinet: Sustainability is now at the core of our production as well. It has already been a priority in what we do and how we develop, as we think about sourcing the right materials from the right places and ensuring this goes on in the long term.

DAMAN: Last but not least, can you give us some insight into what Roger Dubuis has in store for us for 2023?
Laurent Toinet: Good question. I think we have to meet again at Watches and Wonders Geneva for you to see our next creations directly! [Laughs]. I can’t wait to show you our new timepieces.