Jean-Daniel Dubois is the General Manager of Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier and the Instigator of the Vaucher Private Label entity.
1. What did your father do? What did your mother do? Describe briefly your childhood.
My father was a watchmaker, and my mother counted balance-springs in the evening. So I have been immersed in watchmaking since my early childhood.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition? What did you want to be?
I got into sports really early as a kid, judo and gymnastics. And I had the luck to go skiing every Saturday with my father in the Fribourg Alps. I also did competition bike racing for a long time. I would have liked to be a champion at skiing or cycling.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
Well actually it is about a bike. I was 6 years old and I had just been given my first bike for my birthday, my father had to save up for ages to buy it for me. I went straight into a wall with it and bent the front fork. That made me really sad; I had just wrecked this emblem of my parents' sacrifice and love, and wasted months of waiting, in no more than a couple of seconds.
4. Have you ever had another profession? What did you do?
I taught skiing during the crisis years. To pay for my studies, I did gardening, I worked on farms, I sold furniture, photocopiers and welding equipment.
5. What made you choose to become a watchmaker? Who have you worked for in the past? What made you decide to go in the direction you have chosen?
Behind where we lived in Neuchâtel there was a watchmaking workshop. I often used to go and gawp through the window. My father worked in Peseux, so after school I used to walk the couple of kilometers there to meet up with him, and I always stopped to watch him work for a few minutes before we went back home by bike with me sitting on the crossbar. One of his colleagues was Gilbert Petit-Jean, who founded the company of the same name which specialized in assembly. Watchmaking has always been a presence in my life, my father’s father was a watchmaker, my aunt was a timer, my uncle was watchmaker-timer. After a while, my father went independent as a watchmaker-finisher, and hired a good part of the family. To make money when I was a teenager, I used to get on my racing bike and go collect parts to deliver to the workers at their homes. I wanted to do something technical, but not in watchmaking. I had the impression that my parents slaved at it much too much. Initially I chose to study electrical engineering, then engineering in microtechnology, and then watchmaking and engineering economics.
In 1973, I began my work career at Bulova; I was lucky to have the opportunity to contribute to improving manufacturing processes there to industrialize a mechanical lady movement produced at 3000 pieces per day. 5 years later, I moved to Nouvelle Lemania and took part in the development of calibers that have gone down in history: mechanical, chronographs, tourbillon amongst others, and multi-engine quartz. At the time, they had the complete know-how necessary to produce reference quantities of more than 300,000 mechanical and quartz movements per year. In 1995, I took a stake in Robergé as shareholder and director. In 1998 my wife and I together founded DTH Dubois Technique Horlogère SA. And since 2011, I have been CEO of Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
I haven’t had one. I have always found the positive in every job I have done.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you over-come it?
The different watch industry slumps that we have had to go through, I have always known how to bounce back...
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you? What are your greatest inspirations?
My parents, Breguet, and Charles-Edouard Guillaume for watchmaking, when I was making my graduation piece. It was a caliber 4908, with which I passed the tests of the Observatoire Chronométrique in Neuchâtel; the caliber had an autocompensation bi-metallic balance-spring. For sport, I was a great fan of Eddy Merckx, Jean-Claude Killy, Bernard Russi and Roland Colombin.
9. What are you most proud of?
My daughters, Laetitia and Ludivine.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
To love their job. To go through each of the practical steps: the workbench and technical drawing before starting the assembly. I would also tell them to learn about basic industrial concepts, and take inspiration from industrial processes before getting started.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
Right now, I am very satisfied with what I have achieved in life. I want to continue passing on the message of what the job has brought me and my enthusiasm, as I do at the ETVJ where I teach once a week. As for sport, win a gold medal in downhill skiing ... but among the senior category.
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 year’s time.
Version 4.0 of our industry already exists and we are all getting there. It will mean continual contact with our customers through digital platforms. Products will become fully-customized and cost-controlled thanks to our manufacturing processes.