Review: Romain Jerome brings Colours, Tetris™, Pac-Man™ and Pikachu to your Life and Wrist – Is this Luxury?

07/30/2016
Melvyn Teillol-Foo

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The quirky Swiss watch brand Romain Jerome has told the world to bring colours to your Life and wrist this summer. Then, they promptly disappeared for the annual shut down that is the Swiss “vacance” when all the industry goes on summer holiday.

I have to admit to being in two minds about Romain Jerome in general but also specifically about this “bright and bold move” of adding rich coloured straps to its existing Tetris™-DNA and Pac-Man Level II collections. Not only are the watch models in limited editions, but the new straps are announced as “Available in very limited quantities, these new straps are energized with colours”. So, does doubly limited mean doubly luxury? It’s like the Hermès Birkin handbag all over again.

Romain Jerome started with a controversial strategy in 2007 to offer controversial watches allegedly made of the steel or with dials made with coal from the doomed ship R.M.S. Titanic [or dials made from “dinosaur poop” that was erroneous, as you will read later]. As you can imagine, the global furore about desecration of a mass sea grave ensued but also attracted some watch collectors. What was not revealed was that the steel and coal used was mostly samples from antiquated batches at the shipyard and not actually retrieved from the ship wreck.

Later, they stated that only 1.5 kg of sunken Titanic rusted steel had been salvaged and purchased but it may have been too late. “The rusted steel horological creations in the ‘Titanic DNA’ series  features an oxidized steel bezel which is the result of an extraordinary blend of authentic steel from the wreck lying 3840 meters under the sea, and from the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, where the Titanic was constructed nearly a century ago.”

Romain Jerome Titanic-DNA 2007

Romain Jerome Titanic-DNA 2007

Despite that, it has taken many years and a change of CEO (Manuel Emch) to steer away from bad publicity. If you are wondering about the “dinosaur poop”, strictly speaking, the dials were made from fossilised faeces – coprolites  – stones with fancy patterns that make attractive dials.

To add to the confusion, the “dinosaur poop” dials were not even Romain Jerome products but watches from the ArtyA brand owned by Yvan Arpa (former CEO/Designer of Romain Jerome). He formed ArtyA after leaving Romain Jerome. As they say: “Shit happens and sticks”.

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What of the Romain Jerome today and why the fuss about coloured straps?

I think the key point about Romain Jerome watches today is FUN. Their thema are about the fun use of materials and design motifs and that is surely the ultimate in luxury consumerism. No matter how technical the production methods, the client is focused on the fun and design. This is not surprising if you knew that the original designer (Yvan Arpa) was also hot on “disruptive design and marketing”. Except that now, the provocative design is channeled into fun rather than manipulative arrogance. The new themes are AIR, EARTH, SEA and COLLABORATIONS (Generational Icons, Horological Icons, Historical Icons and Artisitic Icons).

The two new colour straps are for watches from the Generational Icons range, which also counts ‘The Batman’ as an iconic character.

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TETRIS™-DNA (Tetris™ & © 1985~2016 Tetris Holding)

TETRIS™-DNA

TETRIS™-DNA

The Tetris-DNA collection was launched recently to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Tetris® game and available as a limited edition of 84 pieces (The game was launched in 1984). Now, RJ-Romain Jerome is introducing a red rubber strap to complement the dial, which features a random sequence of the game’s signature Tetriminos, the famous geometric shapes composed of four square blocks.

A Romain Jerome iconic 46 mm Moon Invader case-style in black PVD-coated titanium on a black strap initially, was paired with Tetriminos that have been gem-set by hand in the centre of the dial. Each Tetrimino has been crafted as a combination of four “Clou de Paris” in anodized aluminium; a first for RJ-Romain Jerome. The complex process justifies their positioning as an avant-garde watchmaker.

I must say that the new red strap does make the watch “pop” more; as if the Tetriminoes did not already do that!

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PAC-MAN™ LEVEL II (PAC-MAN™ & © BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Inc.)

PAC-MAN™ LEVEL II strawberries

PAC-MAN™ LEVEL II strawberries

For our generation and the younger revivalists, Romain Jerome has been paying with the emblems of the 1980s: the PAC-MAN Level II collection features three models (20 limited edition pieces per model) on a black strap initially, is now freshly enhanced with a new yellow strap.

The famous PAC-MAN characters are housed in a Moon Invader-style 46mm case in black PVD-coated titanium, bringing the game nostalgia closer to the owner. The dial has been crafted with three different game-levels. Your favourite characters, PAC-MAN and the four legendary ghosts: Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde are in the midst of an epic game!

PAC-MAN™ LEVEL II ghosts

PAC-MAN™ LEVEL II ghosts

The characters and strawberries on the dial have been machined individually and then applied by hand or gem-set. Each character has been lacquered in its original colours, or with black superluminova “blue emission”, recreating the game sequences. Additionally, the collection features a frozen scene when our yellow hero has eaten an “Energizer”, temporarily turning the ghosts blue, and making them vulnerable!

PAC-MAN™ LEVEL II Energiser blue ghosts

PAC-MAN™ LEVEL II blue energiser

Blue and Yellow are complimentary primary colours so the new yellow strap is a stunning contrast to the “frozen blue ghosts”.

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Is this luxury?

On a base level, you could say that CHF 15,555 (US$15,760) is a luxury price for ‘time-only’ watches. But these are not just watches…they are encroaching as even pieces of mini Art.

Someone once said, “True luxury is the choice that it affords”.
If so, it is definitely a luxury to have fun with yourself and your memories of iconic games Past.
Finally, the additional choice of coloured straps to add “zing” to your fun Art watch can only be added luxury.

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Breaking News!   RJ-Romain Jerome X Pokémon

Pokemon_GO_logo

Perhaps coinciding with the global launch of Pokémon-GO, Expect the Unexpected with RJ-Romain Jerome!

After months of planning, RJ is ostensibly excited to tease us about its newest collaboration with The Pokémon Company.

Pikachu in Macy's Parade 2010 by traci lawson

Pikachu in Macy’s Parade 2010 by traci lawson

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the one and only Pikachu, the brand is releasing an exclusive collection of 20 timepieces, the Pokémon-DNA, this autumn.  it will be available in a selection of 20 RJ’s official retailers for a unique price of 20,000 currency units in CHF, EUR, USD and GBP.

Gotta Catch’em before they sell out!    PIKA PIKA!     🙂

 

Author’s Biography:  Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)

Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelog ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.

Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications.  He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).