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By Chris | May 7 2008
Dubey & Schaldenbrand
Like many Swiss watchmakers, Dubey & Schaldenbrand has an interesting history. For the past 13 years the company has been helmed by one of the few female watch company owners—Cinette Robert (whose watchmaking ancestors include both the Meylan and Lecoultre families). Working in the industry since the tender age of 15 (starting at the now defunct Martel brand factory in her home town of Les Ponts-de-Martel), she has brought Dubey & Schaldenbrand to over 40 countries while still calling her birthplace home. Recently Elite Traveler traveled to Les Ponts-de-Martel to talk with Cinette Robert at her home and headquarters.
ET: Tell us a bit about your career.
Cinette Robert: I started at 15 working in the Martel factory (which was eventually bought by Zenith), and I ended up managing the factory. I was already interested in split-second chronographs! Then I moved to Zurich and worked for UBS; but banking was not for me. I then joined Mathey Tissot and managed the factory for 15 years, and in January 1985 I started Horlogerie Cinette Robert, a vintage watch business.
ET: How did you come to own Dubey & Schaldenbrand?
Cinette Robert: I knew Mr. Dubey since 1965. We both had a passion for complicated watches, and I had given him a watch to repair. We knew each other and had a good relationship. In 1995 Mr. Dubey called me and told me he wanted to sell Dubey & Schaldenbrand to me, but he only gave me 24 hours to make a decision.
ET: How long did it take you to decide?
Cinette Robert: Between one and two hours.
ET: Did you have any second thoughts?
Cinette Robert: If he asked three years before I would have said no. But my business was good, and I could afford to buy the company. I was sure if I did not say yes, somebody else would have said yes, so I stopped my antique watch business and put all my efforts into Dubey & Schaldenbrand.
ET: What was your vision for Dubey & Schaldenbrand?
Cinette Robert: When you take over a company you think know about the company. But you always learn more once you start running it. I decided not go for quantity, I’m going to make quality complicated watches. From day-one the company never produced a quartz watch and never will. One of our features is exquisite hand-engraved movements.
ET: What are some of the watches you have created since owning Dubey & Schaldenbrand?
Cinette Robert: A list would include the Parade, GMT, Dual, Dual-Date, Trial Fly-Back, Moondate; Diplomatic Calendar, Doctor, Martel, Isadora, Caprice 03; Aerodyn Chronometre, Jumping Hour, Regulateur and Grand-Chrono, Sonnerie GMT
ET: You seem to be a bit of a traditionalist. What is your stance on that?
Cinette Robert: I believe in Swiss craftsmanship, and we use only 100 percent Swiss components and Swiss craftsmen. During the quartz era I could not believe or accept that centuries of Swiss fine art, hard work and ingenuity could just be left behind and forgotten.
ET: Dubey & Schaldenbrand is known for its hand-engraved movements. What makes them special?
Cinette Robert: A distinguishing feature is our hand-engraved movements. It requires a high level of skill and artistry and is done by local artists and craftsmen right here in Les Ponts-de-Martel. As a matter of fact, the coat-of-arms of the village of Les Ponts-de-Martel decorates on of the bridges of each movement. Other designs include birds, leaves and flowers. Unlike in the past when movements were hidden from view, now the movements can often be seen and admired. The Spiral-Verso Cheval moves in three dimensions so you can actually rotate and wear the watch with the back exposed.
ET: It seems like the tourbillon is the complication that is becoming the most popular with haute watchmakers, but you are not producing tourbillons. Is there a reason?
Cinette Robert: I don’t like trouble. Trouble is expensive. I don’t make a tourbillon because for me it is only trouble. I choose to only to make what I know I can make well.
ET: When you bought Dubey & Schaldenbrand was it difficult to be a female owner of a watch company?
Cinette Robert: No, it was difficult to be a woman when I started in the factory in 1960. That was much more difficult.
ET: Were you nervous when you started?
Cinette Robert: For our first Basel show we were lucky because we found out we were getting a stand because somebody else didn’t pay. But right away we received orders from Italy, Japan and Germany.