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Agenhor gets playful
Point of View

Agenhor gets playful

Wednesday, 26 February 2014
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Anaïs Georges du Clos
Freelance journalist

“Nothing great has been accomplished in this world without passion.”

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

“All thoughts are permitted; writing demands reflection.”

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3 min read

Renowned for his award-winning complication movements, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, director of Agenhor, lifts the veil on the delightful details that are hidden inside the movements the company develops for Van Cleef & Arpels.

Your movements are unusual in that you give certain parts unexpected forms. Is this something you do just for fun or to enhance the mechanism?

Jean-Marc Wiederrecht: Although watchmakers aren’t artists, they do attach particular importance to the beauty of their movements. They put as much care into the outside of the watch as the inside, which they embellish with engraving, polishing and chasing, all the more so when these are exceptional pieces. At Agenhor, we carry on this tradition and make the invisible as elegant as the visible to create a coherent whole. For fun, but also for pleasure, we give them forms that tell the same story as the animation on the dial. Adding a touch of humour to the movement’s connecting parts is our way of not taking ourselves too seriously, and introducing a special touch to a rigorous, technical profession that leaves little room for fantasy.

When you cut shapes out of the parts, does this affect the functioning of the watch?

A watch movement is an object of great precision. All the parts – the hammers, cams, teeth, feelers – are designed to fit together and contribute to the proper functioning of the watch. Approximation is even more taboo given that each part is subjected to significant constraints, such as gravity. Hence why the forms we introduce have absolutely no incidence on the mechanism’s reliability or proper functioning.

Apart from being amusing, do these shapes serve a purpose?

These little details do indeed serve a useful purpose as a way to quickly identify parts among the hundreds of components in a movement.

From a technical point of view, how difficult is it to conceal these motifs and does it have a cost?

It is quite a feat of technique and one that we owe to Mimotech, which has developed an electroplating process that allows the requisite level of precision. Of course, this doesn’t result in any extra cost for our clients.

The Poetic Wish collection from Van Cleef & Arpels gives your engineers fabulous creative licence. How did this collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels begin?

Van Cleef & Arpels came to us in 2006 for the Maison’s 100th anniversary. They wanted to mark the event with the Quantième des Saisons, whose dial would represent the four seasons through some of the Parisian jeweller’s signature motifs. The term “Poetic Complication” immediately sprang to mind. This collection sealed the beginning of a partnership which has continued, uninterrupted, for eight years. Each SIHH is an opportunity to transpose the poetry of Van Cleef & Arpels into horological mechanics with the launch of a new watch. This year’s creation was Heure d’ici & Heure d’ailleurs.

A fairy secretly lives inside the Lady Arpels Féérie
Where does the inspiration for these shapes come from?

They are intimately linked to the watch itself. For example, the movement inside Le Pont des Amoureux conceals two lovers, while a fairy secretly lives inside the Lady Arpels Féérie. For Poetic Wish, we cut functional areas into an eagle shape and made a cam in the shape of a key. Both these motifs are inspired by the canton of Geneva coat of arms.

Does this playfulness extend to movements for other brands, or is it exclusively reserved for Van Cleef & Arpels?

We’re very happy to do this for other companies, but the unique microcosm of Van Cleef & Arpels lends itself particularly well to these decorative forms.

The movements in these watches aren't visible to the wearer. Do you wish they were?

On the contrary. It’s because of this that we can take such liberties!

Jean-Marc Wiederrecht

Jean-Marc Wiederrecht trained at the École d’Horlogerie de Genève. He has been designing and developing movements for watch brands since 1978. After a brief collaboration with Roger Dubuis, he set up Agenhor (Atelier Genevois d’Horlogerie) in 1996. The company currently employs 28 people, including Jean-Marc’s wife Catherine and their two sons, Nicolas (administrative officer) and Laurent (constructor in the design and development studio).

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