Chris Aebi – General Director of Rodania

November 2008

Following the success of Europa Star’s ‘80th Anniversary Portraits’ column that we ran in 2007, we have decided to feature an exceptional portrait section in this issue as part of our special glamour section. The particularity about these portraits is that there isn’t a man among them. From Germany to Japan, Italy to Australia, France to the United States and the United Kingdom to Switzerland, there are some incredible women moving and shaking the watch business. Europa Star’s network of international correspondents decided to talk with some of the industry’s most talented women to find out how they have succeeded in the male dominated world of horology.

“The day my father retired, I had nothing to prove,” says Chris Aebi, the General Director of Rodania. Originally created in Switzerland in 1930, this watch company today has its headquarters in Belgium—more precisely in the Brussels neighbourhood of Wemmel. “It is a simple story,” Aebi says about her company. “My father was orig-inally from the German-speaking part of Switzerland. He worked in Granges, at the Rodania company, but then moved to Belgium as part of the company’s expansion efforts. He learned French, and decided to stay there. We then made the decision to take over the brand. It has now been 33 years that I am here.”
Rodania has 60 employees including six watchmakers. One part of the workforce is in France, at Moirans near Voiron, in the department of Isère. But it is at Wemmel where everything is decided—the brand’s strategy, marketing, sales, design, and fabrication. In terms of production, everything is conducted “with a rigour and a sense of quality that are typically Swiss,” insists Chris Aebi.
At the last BaselWorld show, Rodania presented a collection of Swiss Made watches and the company has now gone international. “We are currently present in more than 20 countries, notably in the former Eastern bloc nations,” explains the General Director. “We have also just opened a new office in Utrecht, in the Netherlands.”
Rodania is truly a family affair. “My father, Manfred, had a very strong character. Today, I work with my brother, Dany, and my sister, Belinda. I myself am not a watchmaker by training, although, of course, I understand the basics of the metier. My brother takes care of the technical side of things.”
Business is good and the company has taken on investors. While the Aebi family is no longer the major shareholder, it continues to hold the reins of Rodania. In addition to its own brand, the company includes another brand, the fashion label, Olivier Strelli, a Belgian couturier. Obviously a good move. (AM)

Source: Europa Star October-November 2008 Magazine Issue