Meet the Unconventional RJ-Romain Jerome Watches12:36 pm
Today we will talk about a brand that doesn’t look back to an illustrious past, but looks forward to the future. This is unusual because the watch industry usually digs deep into their archives to release updates of older models, but this one brand believes in creating something new each time. We are talking about Romain Jerome, the watchmaker of the future. With so much emphasis being placed on ‘heritage’ within the horological world, Romain Jerome never had that illustrious history spanning decades and never claimed to have one either. Despite all that, it’s refreshing to see a young brand carving out their own niche in such an intensely competitive industry. Without a set template, they have managed to create one iconic timepiece after another; and the man behind this feat is none other than Manuel Ench, former CEO of one of the most historically inclined watch companies – Jaquet Droz.
Founded in 2004, Romain Jerome has made a huge impression on both watch connoisseurs and critics alike. Their watches feature bold, striking designs but their unique nature really comes through in the materials that they use for constructing these watches. The company gained popularity under current CEO Manuel Emch. Manuel spent 10 years building a new philosophy, identity and retail network to bring Jaquet Droz back on the map. He achieved his goals and decided it was time to move on. Due to certain reasons, he left the group and started work with Romain Jerome. When first approached by the brand, he was unsure about it and turned down the offer. Gradually the company grew on him as he thought about the proposition. He believes the concept to be the strongest one in the industry, one based on “The DNA of Famous Legends”. A concept which was brought to life by Yvan Arpa, a famous Swiss watch designer who started working with Romain Jerome in 2006. He created the controversial but highly successful Titanic-DNA watch.
Throughout their existence, Romain Jerome have worked with notions of air, earth and the sea, producing watches that are directly inspired by these elements of nature. They make up for their lack of history by utilising important pieces of historical artefacts in their watches, giving them a personality that’s completely unique to them. Below is a brief look at the concepts that got the world talking about Romain Jerome.
SEA | TITANIC-DNA
The first concept in the “DNA of Famous Legends” series was the Titanic-DNA launched in 2007. Paying homage to the grand ship that sank in the Altantic Ocean, this series gives you an emblematic figure of an inevitable end. There have been discussions on whether the concept and construction of the watch was in good taste. According to the brand, the watches were created not to harm any sentiments but were symbolic of the journey called life and how the most immortal objects also come to an end. The watches have a mix of the ship’s structural steel within the case or bezel hence preserving a piece of history in the timepiece.
2012 marked the 100th anniversary of the sailing & subsequent tragic loss of the Titanic. Romain Jerome added a special anniversary timepiece limited to 2012 pieces to honour the legendary ship. This 50mm watch is definitely something that takes one deep look into the heart of the legendary Titanic as the dial & case appear to be moulded from the ship itself. The dial is integrated into the movement and the watches have rhodium coloured bridges, with 4 steel pistons & rhodiumed bearings. The hands are shaped as the anchors of the Titanic. The unique mechanical self-winding Caliber RJ001-CS, designed specifically for Romain Jerome, has a 42-hour power reserve. The bezel is made of stainless steel taken from the Titanic, which is stabilized with rust. The lugs, crown and chronograph pushers are also made from these materials. A large Roman numeral XII is mounted on the dial. There are 4 pistons at the 2, 4, 8 and 10 o’clock positions and a rotating helix at the 6 o’clock position. The rotation of the screw provides an automatic winding rotor. The watch is moulded in a black rubber or Hornback leather strap. It is water resistant to 30 meters / 100 feet.
AIR | MOON-DNA
The second concept, born in 2010, was related to the conquest of space and composed of elements from Apollo XI and lunar sand. Romain Jerome bought a small stone from an astronaut, via an association, and nearly 510,000 euros worth of Apollo XI elements in an auction. Inside each moon watch is an actual essence from the Moon and Apollo XI. The watch is limited to 1969 pieces, commemorating the year man set foot on the moon.
This unique Moon-DNA watch comes with a case crafted from finely polished stainless steel and a bezel made from tiny fragments of carbon fibres gathered from the Apollo XI spacecraft. The strap is partially composed of materials gathered from an ISS spacesuit and is connected to the case with lugs that are a signature RJ style; ones capped with star screws. The dial is made from a mineral composite, including real fragments of material found on the moon. The RJ logo is found at the 12 o’clock position and small seconds are indicated at the 9 o’clock position by a metal structure. The hour and minute hands are made to look like sun sensors. This watch runs on a C22RJ51 caliber from the specialty firm Concepto and has a power reserve of 42 hours.
EARTH | EYJAFJALLAJOKULL-DNA
The third iconic watch, created in 2010, is the one related to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull. The timepiece incorporates the natural black stone effect of the volcano’s surface, featuring actual ash and rock from Eyjafjallajökull with an effect which gives the feeling that molten lava is bubbling just beneath the surface. According to Romain Jerome, the watch “conveys memories of fire and lava, swept over by powerful images of dust and winds, and testifies to primeval energies as well as human vulnerability…”. Obviously, the Institute of Iceland volcanic certified and authenticated the éruptée based material in the case!
This offbeat edition in the Earth series is limited to 99 pieces. It celebrates the fourth anniversary of the 2010 eruption of the Icelandic volcano. The base of the impressive dial is unconventionally crafted from lava stone ejected by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, with red fissures realistically representing the lava seeping from a volcanic fissure. The tips of rhodiumized hour and minute hands depict the aircrafts grounded during the six-days shut down of the European airspace. The dial is framed in a gorgeous 43mm round case made of PVD-coated stainless steel, designed by Daniel Haas, and complemented with satin-finished black PVD-coated stainless steel bezel. The stylish strap is made of black alligator leather with a black PVD-coated stainless steel tang clasp. The watch features the automatic RJ002-A caliber, 40 hours power reserve and is water resistant to 30 meters.
RJ | COLLABORATIONS – LIBERTY-DNA
On July 4th 2014, RJ-Romain Jerome introduced the Black edition of the emblematic Liberty-DNA timepiece. Following its initial launch in 2012, this new model pays tribute to the city that never sleeps and to the Lady of independence. This original collection was the fruit of a collaboration between Romain Jerome, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation and The Gold Leaf Corporation. The brand released this model to celebrate the 127th year of the dedication of Miss Liberty. The watch is a unique creation complete with a black PVD-coated bronze bezel, echoing the true nature of The Statue of Liberty. Housed in a 46mm black PVD-coated steel case, the bezel of the timepiece has been designed to perfectly sit over and protect the dial, as if it was wearing Miss Liberty’s famous crown.
The spikes of the crown, thought to represent our planet’s seven continents, are illustrated here as time indicators, replacing the numerals on the dial and allowing the tips of the hands to appear through the crown’s “windows”. The famous dial composed of copper from the Statue of Liberty is in light grey and has been oxidized to recall the statue’s famous aesthetic. The black Liberty-DNA is limited to 125 pieces as a nod to its big sister, the original Liberty-DNA model that celebrated Miss Liberty’s 125th Anniversary in 2012.
RJ | COLLABORATIONS – PINUP-DNA
The PIN-UP DNA watch is another one of the collaboration watches that has been inspired by the pilots of World War II. The nose-art collection called the Pin-Up DNA took inspiration from the famous Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress called the “Pink-Lady”, which is one of the only aircrafts still in flying condition from the WWII era. One of the main distinctive features of the aircraft was the pin-up girls painted on its nose. Those types of painting were done by the air force as it helped to boost the morale of troops. The watch is limited to 99 pieces only and is made in PVD-coated full-black steel, boosted with oversized pushers.
The dial consists of a full camouflage pattern available in green. The caseback has the beautiful and iconic pin-up lady, painted by hand. Each painting is a unique art piece, therefore each limited piece has a different painting. The painting is protected with a thin layer of sapphire crystal so as not to spoil it for years to come. An iconic watch from Romain Jerome, the movement is a Valjoux-based automatic chronograph with hours, minutes and seconds and has a power reserve of 42 hours.
By Disha Birdie
Sr. Features Writer, The Watch Guide
A budding writer and watch enthusiast with a passion for discovering Swiss watchmaking know-how.