Hey watch fans – I am back in the saddle after a (very) extended weekend of vacation, only to return to a big brouhaha in the watch world! This one involving venerable watch designer Rodolphe Cattin and Franck Muller group CEO Vartan Sirmakes (among others who are surely entangled) in what appears to be a bitter dispute over myriad things including the future of the Rodolphe brand’s position and priority within the group . Most shocking to myself and others is just how public and personal this one has become!
Rodolphe Instinct Chrono 180 (2006)
What to make of all this? Well, I’ve never been too close to the Franck Muller group and so I’m not exactly sure. Except I can say with a reasonable degree of confidence that it is yet another “sign of the times” as the watch industry is undeniably suffering tremendously in certain corners and this is bringing pressure to bear and causing tempers to flare. I certainly see no need to get in the middle of the big egos who are fighting this one out.
Anyway, this subject has by now been widely covered across the watch blogosphere, in particular appreciated this nice bit of perspective from industry insider Alon Ben-Joseph of Ace Jewlers. Also, just for fun and because it is an interesting and provocative read, I’m reprinting below the statement that was issued just yesterday by Rodolphe Cattin himself:
Press Release from Rodolphe Cattin:
Founder of the Rodolphe Montres & Bijoux watch company and of the Rodolphe & Co design studio – two entities owned by the Franck Muller group – Rodolphe Cattin has decided to quit all his operational activities within the group as of the end of October. He will remain a minority shareholder in both companies.
Rodolphe Cattin made the following comments regarding his decision:
“It is with a mixture of sadness and relief that I am leaving the group with which we became associated four years ago, because I no longer sense that the group has any wish to develop the brand bearing my name. The same is indeed true of all the other ‘small’ brands within the Franck Muller group.
The early days of our cooperation with the Franck Muller certainly did not suggest such an outcome. For the past four years, I have poured all my energy into this magnificent adventure and our tight-knit and motivated team was able to accomplish some excellent development work during the first two years of the partnership, resulting in particular in the Watch of the Year award won in 2006 for the Instinct Chrono model, followed by a second prize in 2008. However, these tokens of recognition did nothing to consolidate the Rodolphe brand’s position within the group. On a more global level, conditions have steadily deteriorated and it is now quite obvious that the group CEO, Mr. Vartan Sirmakes, has chosen to devote his energy and his efforts elsewhere. Despite many discussions on this issue, there are no longer any signs of a will to improve matters. Worse still, the group is currently trying to support its allegations that the “small brands” are responsible for the difficulties encountered by Franck Muller Watchland. It will be up to everyone to draw their own conclusions.
This kind of negative comment is merely the latest episode in a series of disappointments endured over almost two years now. Due to a range of strategy, quality and delivery-related issues, the Rodolophe brand no longer benefits from an environment conducive to its healthy development. Not to mention interpersonal conflicts and broken promises that are detrimental to daily interaction and make it impossible to maintain a trust-based relationship.
In light of these circumstances, I prefer to withdraw and in doing so leave my associates free to make their own choices, non-choices, decisions and non-decisions. I am above all a creative designer with little inclination for corporate politics, plotting and U-turns. And I strongly deplore the attitude and behaviour of some of my closest associates who may well see in my departure a chance to grab the spotlight.
Nonetheless, even at the end of this troubled period, I am extremely satisfied with the concept developed and with the aesthetic work undertaken by the teams that have supported me. The work is done and it is up to our successors to decide whether or not to develop and enhance the achievements to date.
While remaining a minority shareholder in the two Rodolphe Montres & Bijoux and Rodolphe & Co companies, my professional path is parting ways with the Franck Muller group at the end of the month. I maintain my creative soul, my entrepreneurial spirit and am truly relieved to be regaining my freedom”.