Seconde/Seconde: the most ironic outsider of watchmaking30 November 2023
On the home page of his site, we read: “I vandalize other people’s products because I failed at building mine”
It’s a disclaim, a motto or a pure provocation? We ask this directly to Romaric André, the creative mind behind the alias Seconde/Seconde/ with whom we had the pleasure of having a chat. Born in 1980, French origins and an initial career in the economic-financial field as an auditor. Romaric took his first steps into the world of watchmaking fifteen years ago cofounding Celsius X VI II with a childhood friend of his (and also with Edouard Meylan, now H. Moser & Cie CEO) a company specializing in luxury mobile phones boasting micromechanical components (like an integrated tourbillon watch movement). A company that also had the honor of having Richard Mille as a board member for several years.
This adventure came to an end and propelled the young Romaric towards the start of a new project, somewhat distant from his initial background. The project takes the name Seconde/Seconde/ and in the guise of “paleo artist/designer” Romaric reconquers the world of watchmaking. This time with a very material, instinctive and irreverent approach.
His “ironic” experimentation initially landed in the vintage world with an atypical operation: the replacement of the second hand with customized elements. Such is the case with a pixelated mouse cursor on a Patek Philippe 2509, the millennium falcon (from Star Wars) on a Zenith “Excelsior Park”, Link’s sword (from The Legend of Zelda) on a Rolex Oyster Royal or a yellow hourglass on a vintage Omega 2390.
The research for new inspirations bring Seconde/Seconde/ into the world of collaborations. Its ability to upheaval paradigms and leave its mark on the solid DNA of a brand is admirable. Among the iconic collaborations in which this occurs, it is impossible not to mention the one with H. Moser & Cie on the Endeavour Centre Seconds model, in which the hour hand has been replaced by a rubber that emphasises the concept of the elimination of the hour markers and logo (a typical and recurring feature of Moser’s watch dials). An equally emblematic example is with Louis Erard’s Le Régulateur and La Petite Seconde where there is a total “break from the mould” involving not just the hands but the entire dial (as in the mocking transition from Louis Erard to Louis Error/Horror). While with Timex and the #IYKYK series divided into six episodes, the experimentation is complete (from the study of the single seconds hand to the design of the packaging) and works in this case on the collective knowledge by tracing some of the most famous nicknames in watchmaking history.
The modern exploration is a further proof of Romaric’s ability to go far beyond the concept of customization and collaboration. And with this satirical approach, he reminds us that it’s possible to look at the world of watchmaking with different eyes, maybe in a more consciously or more lightly way.
Who is Romaric André and what guided you towards the creation of Seconde/Seconde?
I’m a French guy that basically failed during the first part of my career. I tried and managed to cofound a company, we raised funds, we operated a few years and we had to stop because we never achieved profitability. Then I was down and lost. Kinda lost faith in myself and my professional abilities. I tried to get back on tracks with a simple project. That did not require investors. That did not require a team. That did not require an office. That did not require much except my creativity that I had not involved enough in the beginning of my professional life. So, I started to buy a few small vintage watches and decided to change the faces of them.
Seconde/Seconde’s “Universe”. Tell us about the aspects that characterize your “stylistic signature” and what realities or references inspire you the most
My “signature” was not calculated. I did not really have a choice. I was bad (and I am still bad) with all the new drawing/designing tools and software’s. So, I could not compete with the trends back then (3D, cool videos, hyper-realism). So, I went for paper, cardboard, play on words, basic stationary tools and daily-life accessories. And I played with those. Call it minimalistic/paleo/normcore…because that was the cheap and quick way to do. Doing so I kinda differentiate myself in the watch community and then stick to that “universe”. Constraints were my actual advantage. When it comes to references, I don’t pretend to have deep knowledge. I guess I’m mainly playing with mainstream culture that I sometimes tend to elevate with some classical notions to pretend that I’m smart and properly educated.
As an “ironic outsider”, how is your manifesto received by the watchmaking world? Is it more welcomed or questioned?
I don’t really know. I know for a fact that I have fans in the watchmaking world. And I only guess that I also have people that don’t feel my work. Which is totally fine. I’m somewhat polarizing, and I cannot blame my haters if I have some. I am myself my first fan and my first hater, so I am empathic with all the spectra.
How are your collaborations born and what aspects you consider crucial for their start? Have you ever declined a collaboration with a brand or conversely?
I did not see the collaborations coming. I was working on twisting vintage watches and selling them direct to customers. When the first brands came, I guess they went because I showed some sort of singularity. After that, it is always about the concept. Concept, concept, and concept. Does it sound right to me and relevant at this moment? The rest (the fit with the people, the financial aspect, the coolness of the brand, and so on) is always secondary to me. If I decline, it is always because not finding a concept powerful enough.
On the technical side, what challenges have you encountered and still encounter in your work?
My ideas are usually pretty easy to execute on a technical and or manufacturing level. Changing the weight of a hand has to been done with caution, but this is not rocket science… So, for me the biggest challenge I’m encountering in my work is not technical but more communicational. Working every month with a new team, a different brand, a different brand culture, a different sensibility for shapes, colors, forms, visuals, words…That’s the tricky part I did not really expect…
Your ability to range from brands like Timex to H. Moser & Cie is admirable. What’s your point of view on the current issues of accessibility and usability in watchmaking?
My point of view is extremely simple. We don’t need watches anymore. I mean, watches are not a necessity. So, I’m interested by any creators or brands working on whatever style they want at whatever price range they want. Simple. I do love super serious watches. I love fun watches too. I love tough affordable watches. I love inaccessible and crazy fragile watches too. Then the people choose to buy or not to buy. Sure, I have a sweet spot for creativity when I see some. But I also can appreciate a “not-that-creative-watch” that performs on the market because of smart business moves of the brand or because a “behind-the-scenes” top-notch industrialization for instance. Creativity is not the only lens I’m looking the watch scene through.
In the scenario of your works (vintage customizations and collaborations), is there a watch you feel particularly attached to?
The next one. Classic response I’m sorry. But I guess that’s my mindset. Some sort of insecurity makes me want to prove. To prove I can do another one. Again, and again.
Let’s open a sliding door with Romaric. What do watches mean and represent to you and through which “lens” do you observe the world of watchmaking? Do you perceive yourself more as an enthusiast or as a collector?
I’m not a collector. And I have bad memory so I’m not good at talking about references and stuff. But I am an enthusiast. I’m obsessed with watches and regularly have goosebumps looking at watches. Even after all those years. That’s weird but I still vibrate for those products. They have the power of calming myself down and to reassure me. I fell they are like a little world, a highly condensed and compacted world, that I understand in its totality. They are bringing me many emotions but are also extremely rational. And rationality is something I like to encounter when I’m overwhelmed sometimes by the irrationality of the real world.
In what measure do you consider yourself an artist? And in this sense do you think it’s already possible to talk about collecting watches/creative works by Seconde/Seconde?
I keep repeating “I’m not an artist”. The word “artist” has been overused and I feel that you need a lot of “medals” before presenting you as one. But at the end of the day, constantly denying “to be an artist” sounds also a bit like a posture, like a pose… So, I don’t know. I let the people calling me what they feel like. Yet, I feel super proud when I meet and talk to people that are indeed collecting my works! I’m not a collector myself so it always sounds weird to me. But that is extremely pleasant to hear people collecting your work and explaining the impact those works have on them. One of the great (and probably egotistic) pleasure of my work, I must admit.
If you could choose a contemporary art or haute horlogerie reality to collaborate with, who would you choose?
I won’t answer specifically because for me the interest of what I’m doing is about doing different works, on different fields. Let’s say I’m a painter that cannot choose one color but who’s willing to bring lot of different colors’ touch to a big work. (Well, let’s say that this painter is not a monochromatic one).
The “Sturm und Drang” (upheaval and impetus) of Seconde/Seconde today and five years from now. New ideas, collaborations or projects on the horizon?
I’m extremely eager to work in new fields, on new scales, on new products, on new projects. Expand outside watchmaking will be my way of reinventing myself. If I don’t manage to do so within a few years, I’m pretty sure seconde/seconde/ will lack of oxygen.
A new brand full designed by Seconde/Seconde. Can this really be a possibility or only a utopia?
It’s an utopia. But an utopia I’m everyday working on to bring it from the clouds to the ground! Time will tell.
By Luca Barone