Before the whirlwind of Watches and Wonders, I had the pleasure of speaking with Romaric André of Seconde/Seconde: an independent brand that cleverly plays with vintage and modern watch design. In the brand’s early days, Romaric focused solely on vintage, swapping out hands with custom replacements: a pixelated mouse cursor on a Patek 2509; a bright yellow hourglass on an Omega 2536; and a Zelda sword on a Rolex Oyster Royal. Today, Seconde/Seconde manipulates more than just hands, collaborating with watchmakers on new releases start to finish: packaging; storytelling; and in many cases, even the brand name and/or logo on the dial.
Image Source: ablogtowatch.com
The progression of Seconde/Seconde – purely on the basis of released products – is chronicled on Romaric’s Instagram @secondeseconde. I wanted to dig a bit deeper. During our conversation, I learned about Romaric’s taste in watches, the evolution of that taste, where he draws inspiration, and what he has planned for the future: Seconde/Seconde and beyond.
A Quick (Professional) Background
Before Seconde/Seconde, Romaric had a career as a financial auditor. After realizing that finance wasn't his path, he transitioned to Celsius: a brand that married high horology and mobile phones. With an exponentially lower upfront cost than tourbillon flip phones (yes – tourbillon flip phones), vintage watch modification was an equally fulfilling and passionate pursuit for Romaric. In the wake of Celsius, Seconde/Seconde was born. That's a great origin story, but what about the years before his professional career? How did Romaric become interested in watches in the first place?
How did you get into watches?
“Like many of us, I was into Swatches”, said Romaric. Around the age of 12 or 13, he was attracted to the vibrant and colorful design language of Swatch: a motif that feels familiar while admiring Seconde/Seconde’s modern creations. Swatch was a natural pairing with the surf-inspired lifestyle brands that Romaric was interested in at the time such as Oxbow. As he grew older, his appreciation for watches shifted in accordance with his brother’s interests.
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“When I was about 17, my brother considered [Breguet] as the top of the food chain”, he said. The André family – who are themselves French – connected with the Parisian-born brand. It’s safe to say they have good taste. With an intitial trajectory of Swatch to Breguet, I had to ask Romaric where his horological interests went from there.
How has your taste in watches evolved with time?
“I went the vintage route at some point”, said Romaric. As time went on, he grew to enjoy watches that lived before him: those that displayed their age with patina. “Not necessarily high end pieces, but pieces with character”, he clarified.
While character is unequivocal in older watches, it can be found in new watches all the same. Working with vintage and modern pieces has allowed Romaric to develop his appreciation for both worlds. This led him to describe a familiar phenomenon for many enthusiasts. When you become interested in watches, you have a broad perspective. Everything is new, everything is fascinating. As you learn more and establish your own personal taste, your perspective begins to narrow. “You think you know”, explained Romaric. You restrict yourself to a particular brand, style, size, etc. As time continues, that perspective begins to broaden once again. You begin to accept designs, brands, or stories that you once dismissed. Storytelling – particularly its role in watchmaking – is very important to Romaric.
Image Source: fratellowatches.com
“I value the creativity that someone brings to justify a product”, he explained. This philosophy is crystal clear in Seconde/Seconde’s brand communication and marketing. It’s one thing to sell a product; it’s another thing to sell the thought behind a product. The stories and inspirations behind Romaric’s releases are not only present, they’re well-described. Just look at the picture above: arrows point to the "insanely beautiful vintage watch that has been authenticated, properly serviced, and twisted by seconde/seconde" as well as the "container for the original watch-hand".
Where do you find inspiration for Seconde/Seconde?
“What I’m doing with watches, people have been doing in different fields”, said Romaric. He likens his work to the modification of road signs or classical paintings: both examples of playing with and/or distorting symbols of authority. In fact, authority was a common theme during our conversation. Watch brands that have existed for 250 years (like Breguet) naturally impose “a DNA of authority”, as explained by Romaric. His work through Seconde/Seconde is a playful way of displaying this authority in new contexts.
Image Source: revolutionwatch.com
Many of his collaborations include references to pop culture: the Zelda sword Rolex; baseball-themed Excelsior Park Out of the Park (pictured below); and Star-Trek-Inspired Vulcain Salute (pictured above). These references allow people to connect with so-called authoritative brands by way of popular media. I interpreted this as Romaric creating a universe of accessibility: inviting people to enjoy watches they otherwise wouldn’t have. When I asked him about this accessibility, he made it clear that my reading was a bit off.
“I need [watchmakers] to stay serious”, he said.
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Romaric doesn't approach the watch industry expecting/demanding modernization or cultural change. In fact, he embraces the stoicism and tradition exhibited by watchmakers. He appreciates it. He needs it. Romaric’s colorful, spirited modifications stand out in contrast to the seriousness of watchmaking. “Hollywood stars work on serious movies, but on a Saturday night, they go on SNL and just play for a few hours”, he compared.
What do you have planned for the future?
“I’m not a hands modifier”, said Romaric. Seconde/Seconde has already shown that its creativity spans beyond the seconds hand. Collaborations like the Louis Erard Petite Seconde Louis Horror include comprehensive dial design and colorwork. With that, Romaric would like to continue working on dials moving forward. His collaborations will evolve and advance with time, as we’ve already seen. Still, he’d like to keep Seconde/Seconde as the sarcastic, playful, ironic collaborator that we know and love, continuing to modify hands in the process.
Separately, Romaric wants to start his own watch brand. “For me, that’s the path. That’s the journey”, he said. Of course, this brand will be created in Romaric’s image; it will include his playful personality in one way or another. That said, he would like the brand to have a calm and traditional presence. This is consistent with his view of watchmakers exhibiting authority. Naturally, I had to ask: will your brand invite a collaboration with Seconde/Seconde?
“It’s feasible”, Romaric said, laughing. “If one day I launch a brand, there will be people trying to play with it and have fun with it. I will have to accept that because I’ve been doing that with others for years”, he said.
Image Source: thehourmarkers.com
When or if ever the brand is launched, I’m eager to see what their watches will look like. I’ll be first in line to get my hands on one. If this does happen, Romaric made it clear that Seconde/Seconde will live on.