CEO Speak – Manuel Emch

CEO Speak – Manuel Emch

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Manuel Emch, CEO, Romain Jerome, who has just completed an year at the helm of affairs, talks about restructuring the brand in an interview with Mitrajit Bhattacharya…

It has been just over a year since you took charge. How has the journey been so far?

It has been an intensive and hectic year. We have developed an efficient team, integrated production assembling and hired skilled watchmakers. We have set up quality control that is really state-of-the-art. We have created applications for iPhones, iPads, and so on. In short, we have totally changed our corporate identity.

When you are talking corporate identity, are you referring to the logo?
Yes, we have changed the logo. But, we kept the logic of the legends, because that’s our strength. We developed the air legend with the Moon Dust. The Moon Invader has become an enormous success. So far, I have delivered 300 pieces and have almost 1,700 in the pipe line. The first pen in the Moon collection, Moon Fighter, will hit the market soon. In the past year we have also increased the quality of our craftsmanship and decreased our prices by nearly 30 per cent to remain extremely competitive in the market.

Today, the brand seems far more competitive. Has there been a conscious effort to do so?
We have created products that are extremely competitive. Even if we take out the Titanic, the Moon Dust, or elements of Apollo 11, our products are still ultra-competitive and cheaper than the competitors’. I am aiming at touching 5,000 pieces in four years.

What exactly is the space Romain Jerome is occupying currently in terms of pricing?
Our price range is in the CHF 9,000 to 500,000 category. Our competition is obviously quite evident in this price range. We offer products of similar quality, if not better, compared to our competitors, and that too at a more competitive price. I would rather say we benchmark ourselves with few brands that we just consider them as competition.

How would you profile a typical Romain Jerome customer?
That is something I am still trying to fathom. From whatever I have seen in the last year, our customer is a young, independent, and iconoclastic individual, who is not part of mainstream professions. Our customer is definitely a person with a creative bend of mind and is quite passionate about things.

Would you say it’s someone who is not really into watches but could be collecting them as part of acquiring art?
Exactly. We have people who collect everything connected to Titanic or the sea in general. We have people who collect everything connected to the conquest of space. One refreshing aspect is that they never ask me about watch movements, the way watch buyers normally do.

Do buyers actually see this as an extension of art?
Yes, they do. As extension of art or as an extension of automatic collection.This is what I like a lot in this brand. For me it’s a refreshing feeling that almost everything about our watches is Swiss made, including the mechanical movements and the craftsmanship. The rubber strap may be made in Italy, but everything else is made in Switzerland.

In terms of new products, what is the highlight this year?
I love all the watches I have been designing. I am very sensitive to the Octopus, because it’s one step ahead, compared to the Steampunk. The ‘Octopus’ name is actually part of the ‘octo’ theme which involves the number 8. The watch is marked by special 8 sided screws in parts of the case, is water resistant to 888 feet, and will be part of a limited edition of 888 pieces in a few varieties. But more than that, my favourite is the Moon Invader, because I think it can become a new reference point, along with our pens.

What is so special about the Moon Invader?
The Moon Invader is an extension of the Moon Dust DNA collection of watches. On the back of the watch is a metal plate meant to look like the moon but actually has dust from the moon baked into it. What we did was connect the ‘lander feet’ to the straps and have them move with the movement of the strap. That little feature was a pain to accomplish because of all the friction on the parts. We needed to work with a specialist to come up with a Teflon coating on the inside of the ball-joint to keep it operating smoothly.