Walter Ribaga, Cyrus Watches
Walter Ribaga, Cyrus Watches talks to Angus Davies about his role as Managing Director of the brand. His answers reveal a company with much in-house expertise that wholeheartedly embraces innovation, groundbreaking styling and the highest standards of finishing.
Watches usually feature a round case paired with a black, white or blue dial. The display of hours, minutes and seconds typically relies on co-axial hands, often employing styles that have been around for generations. Furthermore, the addition of a chronograph or GMT function invariably heightens demand. These models account for a high percentage of new watch sales. Indeed, the tendency for large watch brands to deliver mainstream products is discernible when glancing in a retailer’s window.
The big name brands may be influenced by the feedback from focus groups or simply because they have traded for many years and become adept at predicting which models are most likely to sell. I do not denigrate established luxury marques for taking this approach. Indeed, many of them make models I would dearly love to own. However, there is a small percentage of prospective purchasers who crave non-mainstream products which deliver something fresh and interesting. Thankfully, several independent brands target said individuals with timepieces that break the rules and challenge accepted conventions.
Cyrus Watches is one such independent watch brand. The company, based in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva, is part of the Cyrus Watches Group and is enjoying much attention with its blend of breathtaking designs, unusual complications and much mechanical virtue. The brand subscribes to innovation while upholding fine watchmaking practise.
Image – Cyrus Klepcys Mars Red
Chronode is also a subsidiary of Cyrus Watches Group. It is the Manufacture responsible for the peerless horology found within each Cyrus watch. Chronode and its movement guru, Jean-François Mojon, have an enviable reputation within the watchmaking industry. Indeed, the firm has worked closely with Czapek, Hermès, HYT, Harry Winston, MB&F and Urban Jürgensen, to name but a few. It enjoys elevated status for realising the dreams of independent brands, creating ingenious movements par excellence.
I have reviewed several Cyrus models over the years and been impressed by the originality of each design and the palpable quality of each component used. Recently, I was granted the opportunity to interview Walter Ribaga, the Managing Director of Cyrus Watches.
Interview with Walter Ribaga, Cyrus Watches
What makes Cyrus Watches special?
Many details make Cyrus Watches special! We started with a blank canvas when we created what is nowadays Cyrus. Our timepieces have a unique design which makes them immediately recognisable. This includes the ergonomic cushion shape case and the unusual double crown design, both functional on most of our watches. Furthermore, our dials have a three-dimensional appearance, conventional functions in an unconventional way.
From a technical perspective, we are proud to have Jean-François Mojon, a master-watchmaker, as part of our team. He is one of the most talented watchmakers of our generation. In relation to our movements, our goal is to encompass cutting-edge technical innovations. Moreover, we also seek to impress the watch-buying public with contemporary, unconventional designs that deliver optimal legibility. Last, but not least, we always strive to uphold the highest standards of fine watchmaking, ensuring there are no compromises in terms of quality and finishing.
Can you tell me about your background prior to running Cyrus Watches?
I have worked in the watch industry for over 35 years. Over this period I have held a number of different roles, including production, supply, distribution, sales, marketing, after-sales service and administration. In 1981, I had my first taste of working within the watch industry, assuming the role of Head of sales in Europe and Latin America for the Swiss brand, Certina, a subsidiary of the Swatch Group. Thereafter, I worked for several other brands such as Omega, Zenith, Movado andTAGHeuer.
During my time with TAG Heuer, I was part of the management team that relaunched the brand internationally, leading to a considerable increase in sales, both in Latin America and Europe. Incredibly, we achieved this feat in just five years.
In 2006, I moved to Maîtres du Temps and assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer. Most pertinently, in 2017, I chose to work for Cyrus Watches. In August 2017, I became General Manager of the company. I love my job and embrace my role with enthusiasm and passion.
Chronode, the famous movement specialist, is your sister company. Does this provide any synergies?
Chronode is managed by Jean-François Mojon. It is part of the Cyrus Watches Group and it is our internal manufacture. Being independent affords Cyrus much creative freedom in terms of conception and production of timepieces.
Having watches fitted with two crowns is part of your company’s DNA. In some cases, both crowns serve a purpose, while on other models only one crown is functional. What was the rationale for adopting this unusual approach?
The double crown first appeared on the Kuros, which is no longer in production, and the Klepcys Moon. The double crown was adopted for practical reasons. Each crown was used for setting the model’s different functions. Thereafter, it became a distinctive design code which we chose to adopt for all our watches. With the exception of the Klepcys Alarm and the Klepcys Solo Tempo, the double crown is functional.
Image – Cyrus Klepcys Alarm
At Baselworld 2019, Cyrus Watches unveiled various examples of its Vertical Tourbillon. It is clear you have access to much technical know-how. Could you envisage producing other high-complications? For example, a minute repeater?
Cyrus is a practitioner of high-end watchmaking, creating exclusive timepieces, some with complications, for the enjoyment of connoisseurs and watch enthusiasts. Our company has the expertise to realise complicated watches. We are currently working on several future projects, some of which will be unveiled in the not too distant future. With regards to a minute repeater – why not?
My favourite Cyrus watch is the Klepcys Alarm. Unlike most other alarm watches, this model features a single gong and hammer to produce the chiming alarm. This is a very sophisticated approach to generating a ringing sound. What was the reasoning behind this?
It is always the same philosophy, ‘The Conquest of Innovation’. Cyrus is always innovative in terms of its movements and styling. The company never subscribes to accepted norms and always endeavours to satisfy the demands of those individuals looking for exclusive and original watches. Lastly, it’s also a pleasure to wake up to a harmonious sound.
A misconception some collectors have is that avant-garde watch design comes at the expense of traditional hand-finishing. Clearly, this is not the case. Indeed, Cyrus Watches is a venerated practitioner of haute horlogerie.
Image – Cyrus Klepcys Vertical Tourbillon, DLC
What types of finishing can be found on the movement within the Vertical Tourbillon?
We incorporate several forms of finishing. For example, the bridges feature a slightly curved sunray pattern, with alternating polished and opaque detail, as well as sandblasted surfaces. Screws have mirror-polished heads and the two barrels have black lacquered ratchet-wheels bearing the Cyrus logo.
Image – Cyrus Klepcys Vertical Tourbillon Skeleton, Gold
Can you specify how many hours are spent finishing this movement?
It takes 23 hours to decorate the bridges of the Klepcys Vertical Tourbillon,while decorating the bridges of the Klepcys Vertical Skeleton Tourbillon takes 28 hours. It takes longer to finish the movement on the latter watch as it features different decorations. For example, the upper part of the skeleton reveals two rhodium-plated barrels, embellished with the triangular motifs found on other Cyrus models. The bridges are microbillé with a dark grey NAC galvanic treatment, and the edges are bevelled and polished. The levers of the retrograde system are satin-polished and rhodium plated. The wheels are rhodium-plated and decorated with cerclage and the cams are mirror-polished. The jewels also add a touch of colour to the finished item.
While I appreciate Chronode make the movements for Cyrus Watches, I presume the dials, the hands and the case are sourced from external companies? What parts are made in-house?
Yes, you are right. For the quantities we produce there is no logic to producing cases, dials and hands in-house. With regards to the movements, each caliber is conceived and made in our Manufacture and a high percentage of the movement components are also made in-house.
How important is it for the brand’s Manufacture to be based in Le Locle?
It certainly provides strategic benefits being based in this region when making watches. Many brands and suppliers are located in Le Locle, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel … This area is rich in watchmaking know-how and artisanal craftsmanship.
Each Cyrus watch exhibits its own very distinctive style. Do you engage freelance designers or does your company have its own in-house design team?
We have our own in-house design team.
Image – Cyrus Klepcys Chronograph Titanium, steel with black DLC
When you are away from the world of watches, how do you relax?
When I eventually get some free time, I choose to spend it with my family.
What are your future aspirations for Cyrus Watches?
To consolidate the existing markets in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the USA. Furthermore, we strive to satisfy the increasing demand of watch enthusiasts looking for unique timepieces that convey their personality and style.
During my time with Walter Ribaga, I discovered that he has vast experience having worked within the watch industry for over 35 years. He has held various positions, working for both large and small brands alike in a variety of roles. This has inevitably provided him with the expertise and know-how in terms of production methods and provided sufficient insight on whether to source components externally or make them in-house.
Walter was very open and honest about the origin of the components used within Cyrus’s models. However, one thing is abundantly clear, the brand has incredible in-house expertise when it comes to making movements and creating fine watches.
Looking at some of the former winners of GPHG prizes, the name Chronode often appears. The prowess of this firm is beyond question. Likewise, Cyrus Watches has repeatedly shown an incredible capacity to craft watches of the highest order. Moreover, it does not subscribe to the mainstream or ‘play it safe’ but chooses to create distinctive and highly innovative watches that appeal to free-thinking horophiles.
Despite Cyrus models looking different from conventional paragons of fine watchmaking, they are beautifully made, encompassing the same high-end finishing found on traditional examples of haute horlogerie. Indeed, Cyrus Watches demonstrates that neoteric styling and blue-sky thinking can coexist with time-served artisanal craftsmanship.
The world of watchmaking is richer for having Cyrus Watches within its ranks. The company’s models don’t subscribe to the ubiquitous round, well-proven mainstream but take an alternative route to success. Indeed, this brand inhales air rich in innovation for discerning individuals who choose not to follow the paths of others. It is for this reason that I am an unabashed fan of this luxury marque based in the watchmaking enclave of Le Locle and I eagerly look forward to seeing the brand’s future creations.