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Genus - Ten Minutes With Sébastien Billières And Catherine Henry: Discover The Duo Behind Genus

Genus Ten Minutes With Sébastien Billières And Catherine Henry: Discover The Duo Behind Genus

"Proud parents" of Genus, Sébastien Billières and Catherine Henry tell us more about the brand they co-founded last year.

Established in 2019 - the year it also took home the Mechanical Exception prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) - Genus owes its existence to one heck of a duo. The mechanics are down to Sébastien Billières, a watchmaker, instructor and entrepreneur who has worked for the likes of Roger Dubuis, Urwerk and Harry Winston. He's joined by Catherine Henry who has worked for multinationals (finance, insurance, construction) and then accompanied start-ups and SMEs in their development. With a degree in economics and business management from HEC Geneva and the University of Savoie-Mont Blanc, in addition to having been a Mentor at the University of Geneva, she provides a solid professional expertise alongside the watchmaker. Want to know more? Read on.

Ten Minutes With Sébastien Billières And Catherine Henry: Discover The Duo Behind Genus

Catherine Henry and Sébastien Billières © Genus

What first made you interested in the watchmaking business?
Sébastien Billières (SB): The extraordinary mechanisms. I've always been fascinated by the wealth of creativity humans possess, and by our capacity for invention. There are many remarkable examples of this in watchmaking.

Catherine Henry (CH): I'm generally receptive to art and to beautiful objects, and appreciate attention to detail. Beyond precision, watchmaking carries with it a powerful representation of heritage and legacy, of countless skills carried on through time, all mixed in with innovation and creativity. There is a bond with history, where the past meets not just the present but a future that can take any direction, that has no limits.

Ten Minutes With Sébastien Billières And Catherine Henry: Discover The Duo Behind Genus

GNS1.1 RG © Genus

What unique quality do you think you bring to your brand? 
SB: An open mind, the desire to take the road less travelled and the joy of sharing this with others.

CH: I think it's more a set of qualities, geared towards this original time display complication, such as thinking outside the box or building a team environment. Then there is the wider capacity to carry a project forward by giving structure to the different elements surrounding the invention, to give it a form that people can discover. It's much easier to promote and sell something you're proud of. This level of Haute Horlogerie expertise isn't just marketing speak. It has true value.

Ten Minutes With Sébastien Billières And Catherine Henry: Discover The Duo Behind Genus

GNS1.2 WG and GNS1.2 RG © Genus

Tell us about an experience that defines your leadership style.
SB: As co-founders, we must get along intelligently. Catherine and I have learned to either lead or be led by the other, according to the situation and in the interests of the brand.

CH: I do a lot of mountaineering. Reaching the summit is always an accomplishment but what makes the greatest impact is the training, wanting to do it, and all the things you experience during preparation and the ascent itself. You have to observe and listen to your surroundings at every stage in the climb, and accept that conditions can change or complicate your project. A mountaineer reads all the signs and, if in any doubt, seeks the advice of those who know – in this instance, the mountain guides.

Everyone in the rope team looks out for the others and pays attention to what each person is experiencing, physically or personally. It's never about individual performance; there's no strongest or weakest. You must keep an eye on the sky, the ice, the wind and the altitude as they all provide valuable indications. If conditions change then you have to adapt, take a different route, even revise your objective or put it on hold. When you're in the mountains or on a glacier, nature is the boss. You have to be sure of what you're doing before putting one foot in front of the other. Mountains teach you humility and sagacity.

 

Which watch do you wear most often, and why? 
SB: A prototype so I can test the durability of the different technical choices, and also assess design options on a daily basis.

CH: I wear the GNS 1.2 TD. I love its freshness. A mechanism that keeps the eye enthralled inside a case that has been plunged into the forge, in a fusion of ancestral expertise and innovation.

Ten Minutes With Sébastien Billières And Catherine Henry: Discover The Duo Behind Genus

GNS1.2 TD © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido

What have you achieved as co-founder that you are most proud of? 
SB: Without a moment's hesitation, the Mechanical Exception prize at the GPHG. Especially as we started from nothing in every sense: production, finance, reputation.

CH: The Mechanical Exception prize - and remember, we started with a blank canvas - is the tip of the iceberg. This is how it looked from within: we kept the project secret right up until launching. A couple of months after that, we sold our first watch. Next thing, the GNS 1.2 WG won that incredible prize at the GPHG and from there everything snowballed: an invitation to Dubai Watch Week, an influx of orders and success!

Ten Minutes With Sébastien Billières And Catherine Henry: Discover The Duo Behind Genus

Catherine Henry and Sébastien Billières © Genus

What is the biggest misconception that people have about Genus?  
SB: They think we've been around for years.

CH: That we are part of a multinational with dozens of departments – export, marketing, PR, customer service, accounts, etc. – when we're just a tiny team.

 

On the other hand, what is one thing about Genus that is not well known, but super important, in your view?
SB: The patents we've filed. They will open up huge potential that we can explore.

CH: The genuine innovation of this new way of displaying time in Haute Horlogerie. We've filed two patents for this first model.

Ten Minutes With Sébastien Billières And Catherine Henry: Discover The Duo Behind Genus

GNS1.2 TD and GNS1.2 RG © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido

Give us a one-word (or one-phrase) hint about your future plans for the brand. 
SB & CH:  Métiers d’art and articulated body.

 

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The brand

GENUS, a singularity of time. Pushing back the limits of watch display, the brand has established its own watchmaking ethos. It resides upon on the experience of its Master Watchmaker, author of an unheard-of complication and its Manufacture movement, crafted of solid gold and enhanced by state-of-the-art Haute Horlogerie hand-finishings.

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