Unveiled at SIHH 2018 with a new fifth exclusive movement, the Galet Annual Calendar School Piece offers a useful complication that’s also user-friendly, thanks to fast adjustment of the central date hand and month by turning the crown forward or backward. As with all Laurent Ferrier timepieces, it is entirely designed, hand-assembled and beautifully hand-finished in-house to ensure visual balance, smooth handling, readability and performance. These are qualities dear to this son and grandson of watchmakers who, after nearly four decades heading the technical department at Patek Philippe, founded his own company in 2009. One year later, he launched his first timepiece: “the one I dreamed of,” he says. And what a debut it turned out to be. The Laurent Ferrier Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Hairspring with two head-to-tail balance springs won the Men’s Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2010. This was followed in 2015 by a second award, when the Galet MicroRotor Square with natural escapement took the GPHG’s Horological Revelation Prize. The smooth, rounded shapes and surfaces of the watches (galet means pebble) were unanimously acclaimed.
“A world-class architect”
This year is a busy one for the brand. Following on from the Annual Calendar in January, the Galet Minute Repeater School Piece was unveiled in March to coincide with Baselworld. Already sold-out, only three will be produced in 2018 and two in 2019, with no future deliveries possible before 2020. This School Piece created quite a sensation on social media by those who had seen its salmon-coloured dial and heard the clear sound of the two-pitched gong that sounds the hours, quarters and minutes. Others less familiar with the brand were critical of the fact that the movement is made by Geneva-based and Louis Vuitton-owned La Fabrique du Temps. Chief Executive Vanessa Monestel was happy to expand on this with us.
With a limited number of employees, we obviously do not make our own components. And have no intention to do so.
“All our watches are 100% designed, assembled, fine-tuned and finished within the Laurent Ferrier workshops, but with a limited number of employees, we obviously do not make our own components. And have no intention to do so because with his vast experience, Laurent (Ferrier) knows exactly where to go to get the best of everything, from case-making to enamelling. I compare him to a world-class architect who designs and oversees the construction of a magnificent building, using only the finest of suppliers to transform his plans into reality.”
She went on to explain how Laurent Ferrier has been working with La Fabrique du Temps “from the beginning and has always been loud and clear about this.” The Fabrique’s founders Enrico Barbasini and Michel Navas are two of the best-known specialists in complications and, like Ferrier himself, former employees of Patek Philippe. They also hold a minority stake in the Laurent Ferrier brand. The pair were first consulted in 2009 for the Tourbillon Double Hairspring and again for this year’s Minute Repeater. The three men had agreed that, for a debut watch, a minute repeater would be too selective. “So that was put on hold in favour of the Tourbillon Double Hairspring,” continues Monestel. “But the Minute Repeater movement design was there back in 2009, inspired by the original work of Abraham-Louis Breguet. The fact that La Fabrique du Temps was later bought by Louis Vuitton in 2011 does not affect our collaboration with Enrico and Michel.”
Laurent Ferrier works on the movement and the external parts in a single creative process. “My son Christian, who’s been with La Fabrique du Temps since 2008, and I are responsible for all the specifications. I have the overall picture and Christian begins the design. We call in Enrico and Michel, and sometimes their staff, for leverage. It has always been a team effort but ultimately we at Laurent Ferrier have full responsibility for our specifications and the final outcome. And of course, the shapes, main plate and all the bridges are fully designed by me.”
The brand expects to produce between 120 and 130 pieces this year. “Our customers come to us for exclusivity on several levels,” comments Monestel. “They know that each element of our timepieces is made specifically and exclusively for Laurent Ferrier, that each watch is hand-assembled and completely hand-finished by a single watchmaker at Laurent Ferrier and that, due to the time it takes to complete each piece, they have very little chance indeed of running into another of our watches.”
The Galet Annual Calendar School Piece comes with a slate grey or silver dial, and a choice of three metals for the 40mm case: 18k red gold, stainless steel and, for the first time, “pale” 18k yellow gold. The new manual-winding calibre LF 126.01 with Swiss lever escapement provides indications of hours and minutes in the centre, small seconds at 6 o’clock, date, month and week, with a push button at 10 o’clock to adjust the days of the week, and the fast date and month adjustment using the crown. The 80-hour power reserve is indicated on the back. Discerning collectors were delighted to see the piece in the metal.