Rufer has world domination in her sights for her women-only brand.
15 years ago Giselle Rufer realised her calling – to design timepieces exclusively for women, as women would want them. Today, with several accolades to her name and a worldwide customers base, she tells WatchPro that she is focused on making her company Delance a major global watch brand.
If there is one thing that stands out about Giselle Rufer it is her drive to ensure that, thorough her watchmaking, the fairer sex is well and truly celebrated.
In fact, Rufer created her watch brand, Delance, as a way of breaking through the glass ceiling of watchmaking and to show the market that a women’s eye can be a winning advantage.
Rufer’s business ethics have been shaped by a childhood spent in a small village in Switzerland, where she was raised single-handedly by her mother after her father passed away when she was seven. Rufer says that she looked up to the women around her in her village and admired how hard they worked.
When she was old enough she began to work with her mother in her shop, something she says she approached with “a great deal of responsibility” and that gave her a huge confidence boost.
Then, aged 22, she fell in love, got married and gave birth to two children. But soon after this whirlwind period of her life started to calm down, she felt the itch to get back into work and started by teaching herself English and German, spending most days with a child on a hip and a text book in hand.
By the age of 32 Rufer decided to go back to university, where she studied for a degree in computer science – and was the first woman in Switzerland to earn it. Soon after she joined Swatch Group and is recognised as the woman who launched Flik Flak into the children’s watch market.
Despite her successes at Swatch she soon hungered for more. “Being in this industry and meeting many people I realised that my destiny was calling,” Rufer recalls. “I wanted to create a watch for women.”
And so she set about laying the foundations of Delance, which takes its name from her father. Rufer travelled and contacted women all over the world to find out what they wanted from a timepiece, asking them to define the word time. What she found was that many said time was about life, and none said time is money, despite it being such a widespread phrase.
“I decided to create my own company rather than selling my soul [and my design] to a big company because the Delance timepiece is connected with who I am,” she explains. “Besides, I am the only woman in the Swiss watch industry with the stature to get it made.”
But, of course, Rufer hit a big hurdle once she had designed her timepieces, the one that befalls so many fledgling companies – money. “I realised that I was a woman and it was quite unusual for a woman of my age, 48 at the time, to start a business on her own,” she says. Not one to be deterred, Rufer turned the negatives on their head. “I decided that my femininity was an advantage and I wanted to engage women in the production and execution of my business.” So, armed with her idea for making an all-female work force, Rufer went in search of finance from other budding female entrepreneurs.
After securing financial backing, it was time to focus on design. The design of her timepieces take inspiration from the shape of a diamond, but are also reminiscent of a figure of eight – lucky in Chinese culture – an endless design that she also feels represents the curves and shape of life. The other advantage of the timepiece is that Rufer has ensured it is entirely customisable. “The Delance is very versatile and you could have one for every day,” she says as she gives a few examples.
To date, the brand has about 20 worldwide stockists and has just opened with a retailer in Thailand and was also part of a large exhibition in Moscow that took place at the end of last month. “I am now in touch seriously with the USA and Spain,” she says, “But I look forward to more. Delance is an haute couture watch brand and will remain a watch for very unique women.”
The watches are crafted in stainless steel or ethically sourced 18ct gold as part of a collaboration with company Transparence. Rufer has been working closely with Transparence’s founder Veerle van Wauwe to source gold from artisanal mines in South America. “The ultimate luxury is socially and environmentally responsibly luxury,” claims Rufer, and certainly the women wearing her watches can be satisfied in the knowledge that their timepiece has been made in support of local mining communities.
But Rufer has more up her sleeve when it comes to gold and has also created a jewellery line, which takes the same infinite, figure-of-eight shape and is led by a hero piece crafted in 18ct white gold and set with 165 white diamonds. “I have a beautiful collection of jewellery headed by my Infinity pendant,” she explains. “But I need a sponsor to help develop the whole collection.”
As a woman constantly on the lookout for ways to build her business and to continue to celebrate the female of the species, she remains in touch with female entrepreneurs all over the world – her method of choice to find support and finance to help grow the brand. “I want to have Delance China, Delance USA and so on,” she says. “My role is to be the president, the spirit of the company, a motivational speaker, a missionary who travels all over the world to say to women that now is the time for them to be all they can be.”
With a long list of testimonials on the Delance website, numerous watch industry awards under her belt and the determination to be a leading light among women in the watch industry, Giselle Rufer is leading by example, as well as fulfilling her own dreams, when she says: “I believe women need recognition. They also need role models and, very importantly, they need empowerment.”
The Delance Timeline
1994: Giselle Rufer decides to create the brand, with design help from Carol Gygax who creates the iconic style of the Delance.
1996: The brand makes its first appearance at BaselWorld and launches its website.
1997: Delance features in the International Museum of Watchmaking and is nominated as the Die Schweizer Illustriert Watch of the Year.
1998: The brand unveils its first mechanical watch and receives the 10th Annual Golden Award for Quality in New York.
1999: Delance watches are selected to gift the eight award-winning Working Woman entrepreneurs in the US.
2004: Rufer receives the Recognition Award from GWIIN – Global Women Inventors and Innovators Network.
2005: The American Biographical Institute awards Giselle Rufer the Woman of the Year medal.
2008: Rufer receives the Women Entrepreneur of the Year award in Switzerland.
This article was taken from the December issue of WatchPro, part of Professional Jeweller. To read this article and others in full, online, click here.