Who's Who, Roland Iten


If you're ever fortunate enough to meet Roland Iten, you'll no doubt be fascinated by his desire to solve any problem using mechanics. This approach to life is almost an obsession for him. Roland welcomes every new opportunity to develop new mechanisms for any everyday object, but he's best known for his interest in a very specific men's accessory – the belt buckle. 

This might appear to be a simple item. And so it should remain in the hands of its owner. Nevertheless, Roland Iten's mechanics are not just the epitome of perfection and precision. They attain a level of sophistication that leaves people speechless – before they invariably move on to asking a host of questions about how they work.

Laurent Picciotto had no one to answer the questions that besieged him one day in 2010: "I was strolling through the streets of Basel, on the phone and somewhat preoccupied. I went past a stand with a Roland Iten in the showcase. Quite honestly, when I first saw it, I didn't understand what it was. I went into the shop. I'd never seen anything like it. In a nanosecond, all the different belt buckles I'd ever seen suddenly appeared tasteless and commonplace."

Each Roland Iten buckle is made from dozens of components and is hand-assembled to form a completely new object. It's capable of awaking the sleeping child in every man, who never stops dreaming of mechanical toys. All the items are made using their own specific components made from precious materials. For Roland Iten, the craftsmen finish each item by hand, combining precious metals, mother-of-pearl inlays, exotic woods and precious stones. Each collection is produced as a numbered, limited series, with an individual serial number denoting very specific origins and authenticity. In a nutshell, Roland Iten is one of those designers who, one day, decide to magnify an everyday object and develop it to perfection.

At the end of the day, a Roland Iten buckle is an ultimate item; the epitome of perfection, or as Laurent Picciotto says, an "utterly crazy, unreasonable" object. As with top watchmaking, there are many, far less accomplished alternatives that can fulfil exactly the same function. However, as Laurent Picciotto concludes, "A Roland Iten isn't a buckle, it's THE buckle." That's all there is to be said. As an old advert had it, with a touch of irony: you'll find poorer quality elsewhere, but it will be more expensive!

Journalist : Olivier Mûller 05/2012