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Bovet cultivates its marks of distinction (1/2)
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Bovet cultivates its marks of distinction (1/2)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011
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Marie Le Berre
Freelance writer and journalist

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A supremely distinctive brand, Bovet continues its way with remarkable coherency. From its wristwatches with bow attachment to the Amadeo concept, and of course the decorative arts, Bovet imposes its hallmarks with a superlative degree of quality. Fine Watches of singular beauty form the prelude to a new chapter of integrated movement manufacturing. (Part 1)

Established in 1822, Bovet claimed its place in horological history with pocket watches that were particularly sought-after in China. Revived in the late 1990s, the brand now stands out for its unusual wristwatch concept: a design with crown and bow at 12 o’clock, pocket-watch fashion, interpreted for the wrist. It was a case of love at first sight for Pascal Raffy, who bought Bovet in 2001 and has kept this unique connection between past and present alive ever since.

Bovet rose to fame in the nineteenth century for watches with intricate and exquisitely crafted decorations of precious stones, engraving and enamel miniatures. The company was first to transpose external decorations to its movements, and first to use a transparent case back to display these mechanisms. True to its origins, the marque carries on the tradition of decorative arts in watchmaking and develops a number of special techniques, beginning with fleurisanne engraving, named after the village of Fleurier – the birthplace of Bovet in the Swiss commune of Val-de-Travers – where craftsmen still sculpt raised patterns before engraving them on the surface of cases, dials, plates, bridges or oscillating weights.

Fleurisanne engraving, named after the village of Fleurier where craftsmen still sculpt and engrave raised patterns © Bovet
Fleurisanne engraving, named after the village of Fleurier where craftsmen still sculpt and engrave raised patterns © Bovet
Ancestral techniques

Bovet also preserves the art of miniature painting using a method that is exclusive to the brand. Scenes are painted in enamelled lacquer on a background of white or black mother-of-pearl. These tableaux can then be embellished with details cut from gold or silver leaf. This technique is an alternative to the “Geneva enamel” method of miniature painting which is close to being lost, not only for want of practitioners but also because the type of enamel it requires is no longer manufactured. Bovet makes use of its exclusive technique to produce limited editions and one-off pieces in sufficient number to satisfy a clientele of connoisseurs.

The Amadeo® concept, unveiled in 2010, takes the original construction of Bovet’s case to the extreme. From wristwatches that make allusion to pocket watches, a Bovet watch becomes wristwatch and pocket watch, but also table clock and pendant watch. To imagine this concept was one thing; it took seven years of reflection and development to transform idea into reality, and to the standard of excellence that prevails in Fine Watchmaking. The Amadeo® system was immediately introduced to every watch in the Fleurier collection, so seamlessly as to leave size and aesthetic unchanged.

An additional sophistication, it can be worn on the wrist with front or back showing.
A long-term partnership with Pininfarina

Two pushers, concealed by the cabochons on each side of the bow attachment, release the top half of the strap. Activating a pusher on the back of the case releases the bottom half and, at the same time, the bezel on which the watch in its table-clock version will stand. With the bezel closed, the watch can be hung on a chain and carried as a fob watch by a man or worn as a pendant for a feminine style. An additional sophistication, it can be worn on the wrist with front or back showing. Thus the wearer can choose to show off the engraved movement or the reversed hands, a characteristic of certain models. Each transformation is simple and secure, so there should be no risk of accidental damage.

The Amadeo® concept caught the attention of Pininfarina, the Italian design company which chose Bovet as a partner to celebrate its 80th anniversary. Their association gave rise to a “four-in-one” watch, revealed in 2010, in a striking modern style. This Ottanta® tourbillon would be the first model in what is destined to become a complete collection with the introduction, in 2011, of the Cambiano chronograph. Bovet and Pininfarina are thus continuing their journey together with transformable watches that are remarkable as much for their design as for their mechanics. Bovet’s status as a Manufacture had no small part to play in Pininfarina’s choice.

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