It’s official. Romain Jerome has been rebranded as RJ and made its debut at Baselworld 2018 with the new Arraw collection, its first line of men’s and women’s watches that will set the tone of things to come. A derivation of the Titanic DNA and Moon Dust models, the Arraw line is poised to become the building block for future developments and was assembled by the new RJ team in a record time of just two months. Having looked at the 45mm Arraw chronograph closely and strapped it on the wrist, the overall impression at MONOCHROME was that the watch is a less rambunctious, more contained and wearable offshoot of its predecessors.
Founded in 2004, Romain Jerome deployed successful ‘shock and awe’ tactics with its steampunk aesthetics and materials sourced from the oddest places on Earth including the hull of the rusting Titanic, fragments of Apollo 11, moon dust and even debris from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland. Playing the millennial card to great advantage, Romain Jerome incorporated icons from the world of popular culture and gaming (Batman, Hello Kitty, Donkey Kong, Pokémon, Pac Man, Spider-Man) and revelled in its polarising “love it or hate it” status.
‘Just raw’ is the new tagline of the brand and is based, I think, on the idea of turning raw elements into sophisticated watches. Speaking to Marco Tedeschi at Baselworld, the new CEO and former product manager at Hublot explained that the move behind repositioning the brand is motivated by RJ’s desire to “become a watchmaking brand (with in-house movements by 2019) and to move away from specific markets to more mass markets.” A first step in the direction of increased autonomy, RJ has acquired Playing Moment SA, a supplier of exterior watch components based in Nyon.
RJ’s new Arraw Chronograph
The new Arraw (not a typo, but probably a reference to the ‘Just Raw’ campaign) is RJ’s declaration of intent and it looks like RJ’s watches are going to be a lot less vociferous and rely less on pop culture thematics than their predecessors. On first inspection, the Arraw looks very similar to the Moon Dust models with its corpulent 45mm 18k red gold case offset with black rubber bumpers, curving lugs, steampunk piston pushers, an integrated rubber bracelet and the hallmark arrow hands of previous Romain Jerome models.
What did surprise everybody at MONOCHROME was the impression that the watch seemed smaller, less voluminous than its precursor. While it is just 1mm smaller in diameter than the Moon Dust chronograph, certain design tweaks have condensed the dimensions of the watch into a more wearable timepiece. Like a porthole, the bezel is thicker, rounder and more pronounced, and the satin-brushed surfaces of the red gold give the watch an attractive, matte finish. RJ has also turned down the volume on the incorporation of out-of-this-world materials and settled for an easier-to-wear – and decidedly Hublotian – combination of red gold and black rubber.
The gradient-painted black dial is sun-brushed and galvanised and is protected by a layer of transparent lacquer to give it depth. The black chronograph counters – with a 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, a 12-hour counter and date window at 6 o’clock and a small seconds at 3 o’clock – are offset with white Arabic numerals and framed by red gold-plated rings. The tips of the skeletonised gold-plated arrow hands and the arrow-shaped hour markers and numerals are treated with SuperLumiNova.
Developed in conjunction with Playing Moment (soon to known as RJ Forge), the bidirectional automatic chronograph movement (RJ2040) beats at 4Hz, has a power reserve of 42 hours, is water-resistant to 100 metres and has an RJ monogram engraved on the rotor.
On trend with the rise of interchangeable watch straps, the Arraw chronograph comes with an easy-to-change strap system. The deployment clasp, in a combination of red gold and black-plated titanium, features rubber inserts on the side in keeping with the spirit of the watch.
Available in 45mm and 42mm cases in titanium, combinations of titanium and red gold and black ceramic (with or without diamonds), the first watches will be available in June 2018. The price of the 45mm titanium is EUR 9,000 (excl. VAT) and the red gold version is EUR 24,000 (excl. VAT). More details on rjwatches.com.