RJ Watches – previously RJ Romain Jérôme – has never been classical, conventional or traditional. Whether the watches or the communication strategy, things have always been “out of the box”. For over a year, the brand has a new CEO as well as a new name and, as expected, new watches. Today, we talk with Marco Tedeschi, CEO of RJ Watches, about this change and what the brand will reveal in the coming months.
What is your first horological memory?
I remember spending my free time in my father’s boutique in Geneva during my childhood, marvelling at the watches and how they worked. That’s where I probably caught the watchmaking bug (laughter)… watchmaking is a passion in the Tedeschi family!
What brought you to RJ?
RJ is a brand that really stands out from the crowd and one that I have followed closely for some time after it caught my eye. Despite being a young brand, it has a strong identity and distinctively recognisable designs. Being invited to head the company was an opportunity I simply couldn’t refuse.
The 2018 Basel Watch Week was a turning point for the brand. Can you tell us more about the “Just Raw” concept?
We have given RJ a more contemporary identity. Our visual appearance and retail environments have been entirely revised to make way for a purer and cleaner aesthetic, whilst still remaining distinctively RJ. The way we communicate is also changing by becoming more conversational. Ultimately, this transformation has been done without betraying our heritage. lt’s a question of evolution rather than a break from our post.
Why rename the brand?
As the brand has started a new chapter, the name needed to reflect that. Going from Romain Jerome to RJ is a move that embodies the new direction for the brand: sleeker, more dynamic and more contemporary. That being said, the RJ initials have always been there and the legal entity remains as ever, RJ Watches SA.
What are the biggest opportunities and challenges for RJ?
At the start of this new era, there is a wide range of different opportunities across the business. Perhaps the biggest of which is the development and launch of ARRAW, our first permanent collection and also the first ever for both men and women. This launch is enabling us as a brand to explore previously uncharted territory.
As part of this fresh dynamic, we have aIso taken up the challenge of further enhancing our models in several key ways. A new approach to ergonomics ensures an even more comfortable feel; the materials selected (SN+ rather than SN gold, titanium instead of steel and ceramic replacing black PVD) add an exquisite and more tactile feel; while the user-friendliness of our watches has been further improved with the introduction of interchangeable straps. We devote considerable effort to serving our clients and we have every hope that this collection will enable us to firmly showcase our watchmaking expertise and establish our reputation.
In terms of marketing, we want to engage more with our customers, especially via social media, where we are already extremely active. For us, as a youthful brand with a particularly well-connected clientele, digital communication lies at the heart of our strategy and our website has recently been entirely revamped as a consequence.
When it comes to distribution, we are also working actively on enhancing our network through opening new points of sale, both traditional and innovative. As far as e-commerce is concerned, there is of course potential for exponential growth. This is an ongoing project, but we want to do things differently, by involving local partners rather than competing with them. This development will comprise several stages and other announcements will follow in due course.
What are your priorities to develop the brand?
Our main priority is to develop our own movements, so we are currently hiring new personnel specialising in the creation of new calibres. In May, we created our own Manufacture, the RJ Forge. Our goal is to present the first RJ movement at the next SIHH.
We want to integrate our expertise in order to ensure full control of our creativity. This integration will also enable us to verticalise our production and to begin making the parts required for future RJ watches. ln fact, we’ve already begun making ARRAW chronograph cases at RJ Forge.
If there were only one RJ Watch?
Like with my children, one couldn’t possibly choose just one (laughter)!