BaselWorld 2014: Belles of the Fair: Speake-Marin Magister
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In conversation with Manuel Emch

by Robin Lim on July 2, 2014

Mr Manuel Emch is the man-in-command of Romain Jerome, a watchmaker which prides itself in making provocative and interesting timepieces. Deployant had the opportunity to catch up with the man himself, to find out more about his watches and the industry as a whole.

The Romain Jerome Moon-DNA 1969. The watches contains materials such as Silicium and Meteorite.

The Romain Jerome Moon-DNA 1969. The watches contains materials such as Silicium and Meteorite, and they are part of the DNA of Famous Legends series.

When Romain Jerome entered into the foray of watchmaking, they wanted to do something bold. Something different. This led to the creation of the DNA of Famous Legend.  The inspiration, according to Manuel, was derived from the fact that the company wanted to create an “emotional timepiece that tells a story”. And they did. Each model has got an unique story to tell.

The Romain Jerome Eyjafjallajökull Evo. This piece focuses on the Icelandic Volcano, and the dial is crafted from volcanic rocks that were ejected from the volcano itself.

Feeling the heat with Romain Jerome’s Eyjafjallajökull Evo. This piece focuses on the Icelandic Volcano, in which the dial is crafted from volcanic rocks that were ejected from the volcano itself.

As an independent watchmaker who focuses on radical pieces, we asked Manuel how his watches will stand against competitors such as Urwerk and MB&F.

Speaking with a bout of confidence, Manuel told us that he believes his watches has got what it takes to compete with the others. This is because of the philosophy behind the Romain Jerome. Romain Jerome does not only make just watches- they all have a story of behind them. Furthermore, the timepieces are priced competitively. Being in an unique position (they are an independent brand with not much boundaries or limitations) also allows them to venture into uncharted waters in terms of technology and design, which gives them an edge over the others. That is why they are able to give their competitors a run for their money.

The Romain Jerome Spacecraft, a watch that the Deployant team really likes.

The Romain Jerome Spacecraft. One of Manuel Emch’s favourite pieces, thanks to its unique design cues.

As the conversation deepens, we took things on a lighter side and asked Manuel which was his favourite Romain Jerome watch. Cheekily, Manuel told us that his favourite RJ watch would be the latest one. Upon further probing, Manuel conceded that his favourite pieces are the Spacecraft, the Art DNA, and the Moon Orbiter. They all have their own plus points, in terms of design, provenance, and technology. His choices are not surprising either; we are great fans of the Spacecraft and the Moon Orbiter thanks to its handsome good looks and the wonderful intricacies that goes behind the mechanisms of the watch.

The Romain Jerome Moon Orbiter. This is another uber-cool watch, which fuses both art (in terms of design) and technology (in terms of complications, such as the flying tourbillon) together.

Seeing the moon and the stars? The Moon Orbiter is another uber-cool watch which fuses both art (in terms of design) and technology (in terms of complications, such as the flying tourbillon) together.

Since we were on the conversation of the Spacecraft, we asked the man himself if we can expect something unorthodox once again in the future. Manuel told us that RJ will continue to focus on making conceptual watches at affordable prices, with less extreme design cues but with similar amount of complexity and surprise-element of the Spacecraft. Well, we are certainly going to keep our eyes peeled during the next BaselWorld for something that would wow us!

With regards to the future of the brand itself, Manuel mentioned that they are attracting many younger collectors. With this in mind, Manuel thinks that the crux to the success of the company would be to make a watch that is good and versatile enough to be a daily beater. The ethos of the company would remain, certainly. And in Manuel words, that is to make watches that are bold, young, hedonistic, and provocative. Moreover, “One step above technically, two step below in prices [sic]” is what Manuel thinks the company should strive for. With the 1969 Moon-DNA pieces, for instance, the company is certainly moving on the right track.

The conversation became more personal as we continued on. When asked about the his favourite watches, Manuel admitted that it would be the Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde. Not surprising, considering that this particular timepiece is his first piece of work when he first entered the world of horology. This is what makes watches special; it is not just a device that tells time, but rather, the emotional experience that goes behind a watch (in terms of manufacturing it to the process of owning it) is rather staggering.

The Romain Jerome Skylab, featuring materials from the Apollo 11 Space-shuttle.

The Romain Jerome Skylab, featuring materials from the Apollo 11 space mission.

Soon, the conversation culminated with our favourite question: “Which watchmaker would he like to collaborate with, if he was given an opportunity?” That question stumped him a little, but he gave us an answer after contemplating for a short while. Abraham-Louis Breguet for traditional pieces, and Alain Silberstein for the contemporary ones. His choices are excellent; they are both pioneers in various aspects of watchmaking. Breguet is an innovator, in terms of complications. On the other hand, Silberstein is a leader; he makes watches that are bold and fun at the same time, deviating from the norms in the watch industry previously. Interestingly, these qualities are what Romain Jerome is championing for.

Welcome to the Dark Side...

Welcome to the Dark Side…

We wish to thank Manuel Emch for taking his time to have this interview with us, as well as The Hour Glass for the various arrangements that made this interview possible. The team here wish Manuel Emch and his team all the best for their future endeavours.

 

Development sketch by the designer of the Spacecraft: Eric Giroud, showing how the concept shape is visualized and developed.

Development sketch by the designer of the Spacecraft: Eric Giroud, showing how the concept shape is visualized and developed.

 

 

 

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