DeWitt’s pavilion at Baselworld is an instant head-turner, not so much for its layout as for the new communication campaign, which gives a disconcertingly modern slant to works by Hans Holbein (1497-1543) and Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641). Which is precisely the angle from which DeWitt is approaching this year’s fair, with timepieces that surprise while reassuring buyers in their choice of models that draw on watchmaking’s long tradition. “The perfect balance between centuries-old tradition and contemporary techniques,” in the words of the brand’s owner, Jérôme de Witt.
Integrate every watchmaking profession
Leaving visitors in no doubt that DeWitt intends making 2010 a great vintage, the brand has set the ball rolling with the Twenty-8-Eight collection, a reference to 28 Floréal, when Jérôme de Witt’s ancestor, Napoleon Bonaparte, was proclaimed Emperor of the French. It will gradually buttress the Academia range which has been the brand’s mainstay until now. The new collection currently comprises the Automatic with hours, minutes and seconds, with an ETA base, a dial with a double guilloché pattern and a softer DeWitt case and, more importantly, a Tourbillon equipped with DeWitt’s very first 100% in-house movement. So as to give these two models every possible chance of success, DeWitt has positioned them at entry-level: under CHF 20,000 for the Automatic and CHF 143,000 for the Tourbillon.
Until now, DeWitt sourced the majority of its movements from BNB Concept, which filed for bankruptcy in January. Was this a problem for the brand? Nathalie Veysset, operational manager at DeWitt, is categorical: “Absolutely not. Four of our calibres came from BNB. Granted, these were some of the most complicated, such as the Constant Force Tourbillon with Chain or the Antipode GMT Tourbillon Minute-Repeater, unveiled in 2009 but which join our official collections this year. However, we have always been closely involved right from the development stage and the movements were delivered to us in kit form. Hence not only do we have sufficient stock to satisfy demand, we also have the capacity to make most of the components in-house. For us, this is the assurance we can follow through both in terms of quality and after-sales service.” This shift in perspective is proof that DeWitt, which currently employs some 70 people, is determined to gradually integrate every watchmaking profession, as this first in-house movement shows.
Calibre DW 8014
Transforming words into deeds, DeWitt came to Baselworld with another ace in its pack: the Calibre DW 8014. This Regulator with automatic sequential winding is the second movement to come out of DeWitt’s own workshops. In addition to a Straumann balance spring and escapement, a further characteristic of this movement are the dead seconds which are directly coupled to the tourbillon, meaning one barrel is sufficient. The peripheral oscillating weight is connected to a sinusoidal rail which, via a disconnectable winding arm, sequentially winds the barrel. This maintains energy at a constant 40% to 60% for optimal, constant torque, hence the name Regulator.
This new calibre, for which the brand has filed its third patent, will require another year of testing before it reaches the required level of reliability, a watchword for Jérôme de Witt who is also unveiling, at Baselworld, progress made on the firm’s first “all-terrain movement.” Expect all to be revealed at next year’s Basel fair, at the same time as the first watches to be equipped with the DW 8014.
A year for redeployment
“For a company such as DeWitt, which produces between 1,000 and 1,500 watches a year, essentially complicated models, creating a simple movement isn’t as easy as it might appear” Jérôme de Witt says. “Of course we must take into account cost in relation to quantities. Having said that, we have every intention of keeping our promises as a manufacture.”
DeWitt – whose portfolio also includes two new Academia models, namely a Blackstream Chronograph and a Blackstream Triple Complication GMT3 – this year intends reaping the benefits of efforts made last year within its distribution network. “In 2009 we focused on the organisation of labour within the company and on our sales networks,” Nathalie Veysset concludes. “For example, we consolidated our North American subsidiary and appointed a new CEO at its head. We have a new partner in China, soon to be followed by Hong Kong. We have opened up the market in the United Kingdom and Benelux and multiplied our efforts in Germany, certain East European countries and Central Asia. For all these reasons, I believe 2010 will be a year of redeployment for DeWitt.”