Roger Dubuis Bringing $60,000 Watches to More U.S. Cities

Roger Dubuis watch

A Roger Dubuis timepiece.

Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg
  • Pontroue says luxury brand planing moves to Los Angeles, Miami
  • Plan comes as Swiss watch exports to U.S. are declining

Roger Dubuis, whose watches cost an average of $60,000, is shrugging off a slump in Swiss timepiece exports to the U.S. by pushing ahead with a North American expansion.

The 21-year-old brand, part of the Swiss Cie Financiere Richemont SA luxury-goods group, opened its first retail store in New York in November and is planning additional locations in major U.S. cities such as Los Angeles and Miami, said Chief Executive Officer Jean-Marc Pontroue.

Jean-Marc Pontroue
Jean-Marc Pontroue
Photographer: Chris Goodney/Bloomberg

The move comes at a difficult moment for the timepiece business. Swiss watch exports posted the biggest drop since 2009 in the first quarter, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Shipments to the U.S., the world’s second-largest market for Swiss watches, dropped 33 percent, while they fell 38 percent in Hong Kong, the No. 1 market.

Against that backdrop, building the luxury brand in the U.S. is the division’s major priority, Pontroue said in an interview in New York at the TimeCrafters trade show.

About 45 percent of Roger Dubuis’s business comes from Chinese consumers, including tourists. While Chinese tourism has dropped, hurting sales, Pontroue said 70 percent of the brand’s business in the U.S. comes from Americans.

“That’s where our growth will come from in this country,” he said.

Excalibur, Velvet

Richemont doesn’t break out sales or profit for its watch brands, which also include Cartier and Piaget. Mario Ortelli, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein, estimated that Roger Dubuis has annual sales of 50 million euros ($56.7 million). Roger Dubuis, whose brands include its best-selling Excalibur line, Velvet and Hommage, has been hurt by sales declines in Europe, Hong Kong and China, Ortelli said.

Tag Heuer, a watch brand owned by LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, also has suffered from China’s economic slowdown. It sees the U.S. as a key market where more than 90 percent of customers spend from $1,000 to $5,000 on its timepieces, according to Kilian Muller, who runs the brand’s North American operations.

Kilian Muller
Kilian Muller
Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg

There’s always a temptation to sell higher-ticket items but the company will “concentrate on the price range where we are strong,” Muller said in an interview.

Tag Heuer has also intensified its sports-marketing efforts. Earlier this year, it became an official timekeeper of the Major League Soccer.

For Roger Dubuis, which has only a small presence in the U.S., any sales growth there won’t “offset the weakness in the core markets” in Europe and China, Ortelli said.

The New York store on Madison Avenue, its 25th global outlet, is a testing ground for expansion in the U.S., Pontroue said.

“Building a brand takes time,” he said. “We need to make sure it works before we go to the next stage.”

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