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“Haute Horlogerie watches is a world of passion”
Point of View

“Haute Horlogerie watches is a world of passion”

Tuesday, 22 December 2009
By Meehna Goldsmith
Meehna Goldsmith

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5 min read

Under the tutelage of Philippe Dufour, master horologist and godfather of independent watchmaking, Romain Gauthier undertook the project of making his own watch. The result was the Collection Prestige presented in 2006.

Romain Gauthier’s Collection Prestige features watches with an off-center dial in a 41mm case offered in rose gold, white gold and platinum. Though the dial is elegant, the backside reveals a real stunner of a movement.

Is it true you aren’t trained as a watchmaker?

Romain Gauthier: Yes, it’s true I’m not a watchmaker. However, I was born in the Vallée de Joux and like Obelix in “Asterix & Obelix,” the famous French comic strips, I feel I have lived with watches forever.

What advantages does your background in engineering give you when creating watches?

Well, for me the biggest advantage is because I’m a precision mechanic and I know how to manufacture. I know the materials with their advantages and disadvantages, and I like the physics and mathematics. My background gives me the ability to concept and manufacture my own movement.

Since you went back to the drawing board with your movement, what refinements did you make?

The design of my pallet fork is completely different from the usual ones used in watches. I modified the shape: in my design, the arms support the function on the pallet and reduce the negative vibrations due to the contact with the escapement wheel.

Please describe the atypical winding system that places the crown on the back of the watch.

This system is not completely new; some big brands used this kind of system in the past. For me, however, it was a technical decision. The rotations of the wheels and pinions are on the same axle, giving a simpler mechanical execution. But, the main reason was a design question. The case shape is pure, symmetrical and in balance! The position of the crown on the back is unique, though, because the position gives you the possibility of winding the watch while you are wearing it on your wrist.

You apply industrial techniques in an artisan setting. Can you please expand on how you integrate the two?

Today the machines are fundamentally necessary to gave us the precision, repetitiveness and quality surface before the hand finishing can be done. I believe if the best watchmakers of the past had the same machinery like we have today, they would use them for sure. The complex CNC machineries allow me the possibilities for innovation and continuing to turn the wheels of Swiss watchmaking history. Certainly, a lot of finishing operations can be done with machinery, but you automatically get vibrations. To my mind, and from experience, I define haute horlogerie as using hand finishing and these are the techniques I use for my own watches.

What is the difference between milling and stamping in terms of process and quality of finished product?

What a good technical question! The best example is with the wheels in the watch. Practically all wheels are made by stamping, but if you look at the vertical shape on the arms on the wheels, you will see a lot of defects due to this process. Additionally, the tensions in the material after the process are very important. By milling, you don’t stress the material in the same way. You can obtain a perfect vertical shape on the arms and also be more creative because with stamping you have some technical limits.

What is your process for quality control?

We use the most advanced machinery to control and test the watches in terms of their precision. We also test them for at least one month before sending them to our customers. In terms of aesthetic quality, we use microscopes, loupes and, of course, our eyes to be certain of obtaining the best finish possible.

When you were designing your proprietary movement, you sought the counsel of Philippe Dufour. Can you please describe your relationship with him?

Philippe gave me the green light and vote of confidence that I could concept and create my own movement. He also shares with me the passion and the techniques of true haute horlogerie. Philippe lives very close to me. Several times a week we visit for a coffee and freely share ideas and knowledge about movement construction and finishing.

How do you distinguish and define yourself as a brand?

You know, this world of haute horlogerie watches is a world of passion and in French I say all the time “Le temps nous fixe des limites que la passion n’a pas…” (Time sets limits that our passion doesn’t have).

What is the most tantalizing reason to purchase a Romain Gauthier watch?

To get a part of the real Swiss haute horlogerie history. The 2206Hm caliber is totally unique and limited.

Romain Gauthier is putting the final touches on a new creation that he will present in 2010. The watch will be more advanced mechanically to highlight Montres Gauthier SA’s capability as a manufacture. Most intriguingly, he will debut a complication never before seen in haute horlogerie. Stay tuned.

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