RJ-Romain Jerome CEO: “Video games remind me of a beautiful time in my life”

Our chat with Manuel Emch led to all things geeky, including Back to the Future, Deloreans and the smartwatch threat

One watchmaker represents the melding of popular culture and horology: RJ-Romain Jerome.

And you wouldn’t think its CEO Manuel Emch, decked out in his pseudo-corporate wear, is well-versed with Back to the Future, Pac-Man and Space Invaders lore.

Once we were done gawking at the pixels and felt the raw materials of the RJ timepieces, we checked in with Emch for the story and future behind the geekiness and emotional ties each RJ watch embodies.

Behind every RJ-Romain Jerome watch...

“...is something  that creates emotions. It tells a story and fits into our visual environment, cultural heritage and education. Obviously, on one side we focus on the classical thing that lets you wear something on the wrist. On the other, we look at bold and aggressive concepts like the conquest of the moon, which is the most important achievement of mankind. There’s also the retro-futuristic kind of machine room steam punk like the Titanic, and things like contemporary art and everything that’s iconic or pop culture.”

Video games...

“...reminds me of my youth, the good time when I didn’t have to think about building a business and taking care of people. It was a beautiful time of my life when I just enjoyed having fun. I have a very positive feeling about video games, and it has become an integral part of our contemporary culture. Even MOMA bought video games like Pac-Man to put into their collection. Our collection includes emotional background, cultural reference and artistic expression.”

READ MORE: Stuff’s 200 greatest games of all time

About that Delorean...

"It’s a cool car. I almost bought it, but because I live in an apartment, I don’t have a garage. I drove one, and it drives horribly bad, the brakes are the worst. But when I was in Paris, where it’s a competitive driving space with Ferrari and Bugatti, I was the guy who got the most people jumping in and leaning on the car for a photo.

I like the iconic aspect of the car, I would put it in my living room and use it as a couch. It makes people happy and puts smiles, makes them feel good about the past. That's our watches are about - that feel-good and emotionality aspect."

More after the break...

Behind the air, sea and earth series...

“History creates emotion and people connect to historical elements. Since we're a young brand without a history, we want to let you wear a piece of history on the wrist.

We started with the most provocative one, integrating steel from Titanic, which doesn’t please all cultures. Then we went with the most important and generally accepted, which is the conquest of space, integrating elements of Apollo 11 and moon dust for the Moon Orbiter Speed Metal.

We had one in the air, one in the sea, so we needed one in the middle, on earth. And there was a volcano that just exploded, and hey, that must be destiny. It shows the strength of Mother Nature and who’s in charge.”

READ MORE: The 6 craziest watches of Baselworld 2014

The threat of smartwatches

“It’s going to be a threat to the industry, not just to the high-end (watch) industry. The tech industry can help to build the business, but the fight for the share of wrist will be the most important fight for the next few years.

It’s not just smartwatches. You’ll want to wear a device that tells you when to see a doctor, when to sleep or run. It’ll challenge us, but I think it’s a good thing because we’ll have to reinvent ourselves and change our perspectives.

Maybe as a watch industry, we’ll not be as strong as we were 10 years ago, we’ll have to change people’s perspective. I see opportunities, but we have to get down from the ivory tower and see what’s happening.”

The next RJ-Romain Jerome watch

“I would love to integrate a stone from Mars. That was too easy, wasn’t it? (laughs). We have a few things in mind, probably the most unobtainable thing would be a bracelet from extra-terrestial skin. I’m kidding!

I could apply to go to Mars, but I definitely want to come back, which is not possible for the first mission. That wouldn’t help us to make the watches now, but maybe in 50 years or even 20 years, we can do it.”

READ MORE: 10 minutes with Urwerk’s chief designer and co-founder

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