Best known as co-founder of Renaud & Papi, a company that has left a lasting mark on the luxury watch sector. Dominique Renaud now with his own brand, is known in the industry for his innovation and technical skill.
1. Describe briefly your childhood
I was born in Besançon and it may be a sign of destiny but I spent my entire childhood on Avenue Observatory .... Besançon! I had a happy childhood: the only boy, surrounded by three sisters, Joëlle, Danielle and Isabelle, with loving parents.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
At around 10 years old, I wanted to be a forest ranger. I wanted to register early to get my Forest ranger certificate, but I was told that we must have parents that were farmers or already working in this field to have a chance of being accepted. My parents were watchmakers, so I turned to the watchmaking school of Besançon. I must say that I also liked the mechanics and watches. I spent my days off, going to the forests ...
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
Maybe I should have talked to a psychologist but my first day of school, I had an incredible and excessive fit when I was separated from my mother.
The teacher put my head under a cold shower to calm me down and it did calmed me down... I even liked the school. But I was good at the things that interested me, for the rest I was rubbish: drawing 20/20, dictation 0/20. Today, I take full advantage of the automatic spell checker, for young people, this is not an example to follow! It may be excusable because I think I was dyslexic, back then that was not taken into account as it is today and now I just live with it.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
No other trades, I just did odd jobs, such as unloading truck loads of potatoes or operator at Stanley-Mabo where I assembled meters ribbons, etc. It only lasted a few months after I left the watchmaking school in 1976. There were few job offers in watchmaking in France. So, after a time of horological experiments in Besançon, I made the choice, at the end of 1979, to work in Switzerland, at Audemars Piguet in the Vallée de Joux.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
My love for mechanics and meticulous work, later that of independence and the freedom of creation.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
The worst would have been to make me work in a gulag, fortunately, it was not the case. I was always satisfied with any opportunity to get a job, even if it was a boring job. I always learnt something from it, but knowing of course deep inside of me, that it was a stepping stone.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
There are of course the deaths and the suffering of our loved ones that mark our lives.
In business, I have known periods of doubt, but we must hold on. For me, these difficult times have often resulted in opportunities.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
I have a family and watchmaking, which is in me and I feel like a real force of influence ...
First of all, my father, Michel Renaud, who was a clockmaker at Cluses, was an exceptional watchmaker who gave me the love of an organized tidy job. He was employed for several years at Vacheron Constantin in Geneva, where he met a technician from the Vallée de Joux technical school. This is my mother Marie-Lise, born Meylan-Aubert.
Then my father was to get a wonderful job in Besançon, at the technical center of the watch industry (CETEHOR), as head of the metrology and standardization department. Here he participates in watchmaking standardization at the international level. He then helps, in early retirement, at the beginning of Renaud Papi and will be a key man in this startup. He leaves us much too soon, at the age of 68, in 1998.
There is also my grandfather Charles Meylan, whom I knew well, who died when I was finishing my last year of watchmaking school. He worked as a clockmaker Pierre Lecoultre for more than 60 years, until the age of 80 because he was not entitled to retirement at the time.
He is himself a descendant of watchmakers. He was standing at his post office at the factory, an old postcard, which represented his grandfather Henri Meylan, at the bench around 1900. At the very end of our career, we were able to discover the map. And we recognized with amazement a famous postcard, which illustrates many books of horology and history.
On the side of grandmother Aubert, who was also working at home for the Lecoultre factory, there is direct lineage with the last descendants of the Lecoultre family, the so-called "captain" branch who kept the forge on the Trail. This is my grandmother, the mother of her grandfather Elie, Françoise Lecoultre called "Fanchette" the lineage identical to that of her nephew Antoine Lecoultre, creator of the famous watch manufacturer. A magnificent book: "From Forge to Manufacture" tells the story of the origins of the most famous Lecoultre branches.
And here Fanchette is mentioned...
9. What are you most proud of?
If the question is related to my watchmaking professional life, then I would say without hesitation: "RENAUD & PAPI".
A book is currently being written, which will give the details of this wonderful adventure that started in 1986. Just as an example: in 1990, 4 years after start-up, we were still only a handful of collaborators and we already had firm orders for the realization of all the most difficult complications: Minute repeaters, Grande Sonneries, Chronographs, Fusées, Tourbillons, QP’s, etc.
So many beautiful complicated watches would be made and will mark the high-end watch industry ...
And what exceptional characters, women and men, have accompanied us throughout these years! Great friendships have been forged, I can still count on their support nowadays. I thank them from the bottom of my heart, they know who they are.
I also remember the pride, after 1992, for Giulio Papi and myself, to have our two names inscribed and juxtaposed in the new name "Audemars Piguet Renaud Papi (APRP)". When we met at Audemars Piguet, we were small anonymous watchmakers at the bench, and barely 6 years later we were at the top of the bill, side by side with this prestigious brand ...
I can only pay tribute to Mr Günter Blümlein from IWC, without whom Renaud and Papi would not be what it is. He was the first to have faith in us in 1986, giving us the development of a modern minute repeater that had to adapt to an existing caliber, lead to the IWC’s “Grand complication”. He entrusted us soon after all the production of the first calibres to relaunch Lange & Söhne, including the famous Tourbillon with fusee. He is one of the great visionaries of the contemporary history of watchmaking, on an equal standing with the likes of Nicolas Hayek or Jean-Claude Biver ...
I left APRP for a break of a decade, in the early 2000s, in the south of France.
Today, I am back in Switzerland and it is the beginning of a new adventure, for 4 years, with the company Dominique Renaud SA and my partner Luiggino Torrigiani (in particular co-founder of Solar Impulse SA).
I am proud to be able to express myself, this time, through a watch that bears my signature. The "DR 01 Twelve First" is a form of prototype, a real test laboratory, which partly finances our research.
These watches are sold as a subscription to pioneers who participate in the adventure. I thank Eric Freymond, our first underwriter pioneer, who understood the meaning and scope of our exploration work. It is about opening new avenues that touch on certain fundamentals of watchmaking and which already lead to many patents tested on prototypes.
Moreover, as part of the Time Æon Foundation, which surrounds the magnificent projects "Birth of a watch" a co-creation looms with Greubel Forsey, on a direct anchor escapement, derived from the DR01.
It is with great pride for me to have recently been admitted as a member of this family. I salute his philosophy of transmitting to the younger generations, the know-how and passion of the work of excellence.
So we often keep the best for the last, and always the question "What am I most proud of? ".
All categories combined, this is my dear and beloved wife, Alicia, whom I met at Renaud et Papi and who has shared my life for almost 30 years, and my children.
We have two wonderful girls, full of characters: Gaëlle, future midwife and Pauline, who studied communication.
I'm counting on grandchildren coming to have more watchmakers in the family. Hope brings life ...
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
A certain amount of innocence, even naivety at the time, allowed us with Giulio Papi, to dare the unthinkable. There is a famous quote saying, "They did not know it was impossible, so they did it".
I think you have to be guided by your dreams and your intuitions first, but keep a basic logic, then be tenacious and make your own luck, because you will also need it to succeed.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
... what life has given me already satisfies me ...
So if we had to quote at least one thing, it's a simple desire. With my wife, we said to ourselves: "Why not, after my 70 years and if the health allows us, a motorhome to move from north to south according to the seasons by fleeing if possible the periods of tourist peaks? "
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years’ time?
With the arrival of quartz as a time base, in the 1970s, mechanical watchmaking, previously considered as craft, became useless and logically, was to disappear, replaced by the electronic industrial watch.
And that's what many believe but the beautiful mechanical watchmaking has survived.
By the force of things, in spite of everything, she was brought to an art form, and art is eternal ....
To learn more about Dominique Renaud