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Independent watchmaking shines in Dubai
Economy

Independent watchmaking shines in Dubai

Monday, 09 November 2015
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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4 min read

The first Dubai Watch Week turned the spotlight on independent watchmakers. The very ones most likely to interest collectors.

Ostensibly, Bovet Fleurier and Christiaan van der Klaauw have little in common. One bears the name of a celebrated watchmaker who set up in business in the nineteenth century; the other is named after a contemporary movement-maker. One wrote some of the finest pages in the history of Swiss horology; the other is Dutch and a member of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants, a cosmopolitan group if ever there was. Little in common, yet both travelled to Dubai to spend time with the region’s watch enthusiasts, proof of a certain meeting of minds.

I personally believe that people must remain at the heart of watchmaking.
Pascal Raffy
Bovet Fleurier, a heritage in its hands

Pascal Raffy, owner of Bovet Fleurier since 2001, strides through the Dubai International Financial Center, the venue for the event, with the confident air of a man with a clear mind. Clear he made the right choice when he took over a brand with production of just 133 watches. Clear he made the right move five years later by equipping the brand with the manufacturing capacity it lacked, and transferring the business to Château de Môtier, a property of the Bovet family whose debuts in watchmaking date back to 1822. “Over fourteen years, we have gradually incorporated production of movements, balance springs, dials and cases without selling our soul,” he remarks. “At each point in this vertical integration, we have had one specific and clear idea in mind, which is to safeguard Bovet’s heritage. I personally believe that people must remain at the heart of watchmaking.”

Even at a time when numerous markets are in disarray, Pascal Raffy has the assurance that Bovet abides by the belief that solidity is more important than show. “Back in 2013 I sensed that the future would hold some surprises, and not necessarily of the good kind, so I calculated budgets based on zero growth for the years 2014 to 2016. This meant we were ready to face the situation as it stands today. Yes, circumstances are difficult but overall I can already say that 2015 will be a satisfactory year.” The recent introduction of the 19Thirty collection is doubtless one of the reasons why. By launching its first steel watch, inspired by one of its own pocket chronometers from the 1930s, Bovet widens its appeal while continuing to embrace the passion that has inspired Pascal Raffy, from the very beginning of the brand’s contemporary adventure, for “timepieces that have something to say.”

Our wish is to perpetuate this science by devoting ourselves entirely to astronomical indications.
Daniël Reintjes
Christiaan van der Klaauw, intelligible astronomy

When Van Cleef & Arpels unveiled its Midnight Planetarium, the public at large discovered a previously unfamiliar name: that of movement-maker Christiaan van der Klaauw. Established in 1974 by the eponymous watchmaker, a member of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants, the brand is unique as the only workshop to produce nothing but timepieces with astronomical complications. Originally specialised in clocks, next year the brand will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of its first ever wristwatch, the CVDK Satellite du Monde. “There is a long tradition of astronomy in the Netherlands, particularly since the work of Christiaan Huygens,” explains CEO and Creative Director Daniël Reintjes. “With our Christiaan van der Klaauw timepieces, our wish is to perpetuate this science by devoting ourselves entirely to astronomical indications.” After a decade designing watches for the brand, in 2009 Reintjes succeeded Mr Van der Klaauw at the head of the company, with three friends as fellow shareholders.

“Since then we have focused on modernising Christiaan van der Klaauw. The brand’s watches tended to be extremely complex and assuring reliability was sometimes an issue. Our first step was to look for ways we could simplify our watches and make them more easily legible, more intelligible, using quality automatic movements. We buy our base calibres in Switzerland and develop the additional astronomical modules ourselves, in-house. We currently have three watchmakers and sufficient capacity to produce between one and eight watches per module and per year. Obviously our objective is to grow not so much in quantity but in terms of creativity.” Collectors can but approve.

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