Rebellion is a small watch brand that is as bold as its name suggests. Founded by Alexandre Pesci, an industrialist with a passion for watches, high technology and car racing, the brand is inextricably linked to all three fields. Many watch brands have links to car racing, through sponsorship or co-branding arrangements: Rebellion is the only brand to have its own private racing team, Rebellion Racing, which attains results rivaling factory teams Audi, Porsche, Toyota and Peugeot in the FIA World Endurance Championship. The company is based in Lonay, on the banks of Lake Geneva. We spoke to Calim Bouhadra, Senior Vice President of Rebellion Timepieces, during Baselworld in March 2016.
LUXOS: Could you give us a brief portrait of your company in figures?
Calim Bouhadra: Our company is relatively small, with 10 people, but our links with the company Lemo connectors, a large group with about 1,400 employees whose principal business is connectors for electronics and industry, gives us access to 300 CNC machines and a wealth of specialist experience. We make about 500 watches per year, with prices ranging from 8,000 to 1.8 million Swiss francs. Our most important markets are the Middle East, Dubai, Russia, we are growing in the USA, and we are hopeful for China. Our typical purchasers are financially very healthy, 99% men.
LUXOS: What is your major new product at this year’s Baselworld?
Calim Bouhadra: We have one special product, a unique piece, the 540 Magnum Sapphir, with flying tourbillon, and a case entirely in sapphire. Just carving the various components of the case required 800 hours machining. The watch has a total of 12 pieces of sapphire, including the watch glasses and the crown, and I think that it is the most complicated piece in sapphire in the world. There are two other contenders for this title, Hublot with their MP-05 LaFerrari, and the Big Bang Unico Sapphire. Ours is more complex to make. Of course it has a fairly high price tag, 1.8 million Swiss francs. If you want something more, we can add one of our race cars to reach a total of 4 million francs.
LUXOS: Could you tell us more about the relationship you have with your racing team?
Calim Bouhadra: We are passionate about high-performance cars, and our clients often share this with us. Our customers like to see the races, they can go to the paddock and meet the drivers, personalities such as Nick Heidfeld and Nicolas Prost. We recently signed up a new ambassador, Sebastian Buemi, former Formula One driver and 2014 FIA WEC World Champion. We try to transfer motor racing technology to our watches, using some of the materials such as carbon fibre, ceramics, titanium and aluminium. And our racing specialization, the World Endurance Championship, has something in common with our Gotham watch, with 1,000 hours power reserve.
LUXOS: 1,000 hours, that must take a lot of winding...
Calim Bouhadra: We worked with famous movement designer David Candaux, who developed the T2K movement used in this watch, with six mainspring barrels, three on each side, linked by a microchain which is the smallest chain in the world, with 186 components. To wind the watch, you pull back the lever twenty times. It’s surprisingly light, because it’s made largely from an aluminium alloy used in aviation, and the case is in titanium with finishes such as red gold PVD coating. The case is designed by Eric Giroud.
LUXOS: Which brands are your direct competitors?
Calim Bouhadra: Richard Mille of course, who works at the same high-end sector of the market, MB&F, HYT, Hublot. We try to be different, and in the world of watches there is room for everyone.
LUXOS: How does the design process work? Where do the ideas come from?
Calim Bouhadra: It’s a round table process of teamwork, involving the owner of the company who is very technical, plus the designer, myself, the whole team. Our ambition is to create different watches, that are not read normally, but that express a unique philosophy.
LUXOS: It’s not the easiest of moments in the watch business. Are you happy about your own situation?
Calim Bouhadra: We are happy! We are a small company, and the impact of the crisis on our small quantities is less than for larger brands. We want to invest so we can continue our work.
Read more at https://www.rebellion-timepieces.com/en/