Image courtesy of TheTimeTV
Depending on how much of an enthusiast you are you may be familiar with Rodolphe Cattin, the world renowned watch designer and creator. He has enjoyed a highly successful career working within large corporates such as the Swatch Group, before going on to found his own companies, Rodolphe Montres & Bijoux watch company and Rodolphe & Co design studio, which he later sold to the Franck Muller group. More recently, however, he announced in a rather personal press release his decision to leave the Franck Muller group and regain his freedom. He talks to us today about his decision to leave, what he has learnt from his experiences and what lays ahead.
TWL: Recently you announced that you have decided to part ways with the Franck Muller group after four years of association. What have you learnt from the experience of working within a large group and what lessons will you take with you to your next ventures?
RC: Throughout the course of my career I have worked within several large groups, namely Swatch-Group/Longines and Rodolphe by Longines, and obviously more recently within Franck Muller. Each time I find that I come back to the same conclusion; there is a lot of politics and to a creative person (such as myself) the doors of sincere friendship were often closed.
To me it seems that the artists are not free to concentrate on creativity as they are expected to work on other issues and are often misused.
What I have learnt is that always be honest and politely direct with the people around you. This will allow you to stand on your own two feet and gain self confidence.
TWL: What do you feel was your greatest achievement during your time at the Franck Muller Group and what is your biggest regret?
RC: My greatest achievement is having created designs that I am proud of and which bear no resemblance to anything and even less to FM.
My greatest deception is that people from production and marketing didn’t follow through with their responsibilities, which was their role and not that of the creator.
TWL: Now that you have left the Group what do you think will be the future of the two companies you founded and are now majority owned by Franck Muller, the Rodolphe Montres & Bijoux watch company and the Rodolphe & Co design studio?
RC: Personally I am skeptical about their future and of their way proceeding forward…
TWL: What are your plans for the future now that you have regained your creative freedom? Are you determined to go back out and work for yourself again as an independent watchmaker straight away or will you take some time to consider your options?
RC: Above all I am a Creator and a Designer and not a traditional watchmaker. Now that I have my freedom I am optimistic and I am going to see what happens. At the same time I have a lot of projects and plans in my mind and would like to meet and bring people together who share this same vision and will connect with me to complete the jigsaw puzzle.
However, I am in no hurry and I have my eyes open. I need support and trustfulness around me, and again, above all, I have the thirst for creation, so we shall see…
TWL: Now that you are longer associated with the Group do you think you will ever design watches for another brand or will you focus only on your own concepts now?
RC: I like variety as it opens and broadens your mind, your intellectual and creative spirit. So, yes I would like to put other people’s ideas into creation and also enjoy working for myself and doing what I want. This gives you a balance and questioning yourself gives you a positive challenge. This is necessary for my creative muscles.
TWL: Do you still plan to make watches that are as complex and as stunning as those you introduced at Rodolphe or will you take a completely different path as Christian Bedat has with his new Red8 World collection?
RC: I am envisaging myself working with essential designs without superfluous details, based on elegance and simplicity but maintaining the same level of complexity and complication.
TWL: Do you think the luxury watch landscape is changing as a result of the recession and perhaps consequently consumers are now looking more to smaller, independent watch makers who focus on craftsmanship as opposed to mass manufacturing? Or have those days long since passed?
RC: I think the future of luxury watches lies somewhere between the mass manufacturer and the small craftsman. There are pitfalls for both as the mass manufacturer can become monotonous and dull whereas the craftsman risks becoming too complex and loses his spontaneity. All this can occur in any price range.
TWL: Finally, what advice do you have for aspiring young watchmakers looking to forge their careers in the world of luxury watches?
RC: To be frank and maintain their own personality and not allow themselves to be influenced by others.