Founded in 1985 by Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese, the AHCI (Horological Academy of Independent Creators) was established for independents to express artistic watchmaking and craftsmanship without having to be confined to the big brands and their directives. The first exhibition took place at the Watch museum in Le Locle in 1985 and today has expanded to include 30 people from 11 different countries. All of these members were men, as watchmaking is mostly a patriarchal society. That is, until now. Saskia maaike Bouvier has the honor of being the first woman candidate in this prestigious enclave of watchmakers that includes Philippe Dufour, Beat Haldimann and Peter Speake-Marin, among others.
To become a member of AHCI, candidates need a sponsor and Bouvier caught the attention of Andersen and another member, Antoine Preziuso. Of this opportunity Bouvier said, “I am proud to be an AHCI candidate as it means to me that I am considered as a watchmaker.”
First job at Agenhor
Bouvier got her first job at Agenhor, which specializes in developing complicated movement modules. Some of the complications she worked on were retrograde displays, off-centered watch hands, day/night indicators, perpetual and annual calendars, two-time zones, double time equation, 24 hour displays, moon phases and large dates.
Agenhor proved an exceptional learning ground. “I spent my first year working at the watchmaker’s bench”, she said. “This company made me discover every step of a new product’s conception.” She started with prototyping new complications, which included producing pieces of the mechanism in collaboration with the technical department. She also worked on movement modifications, constructing and assembling for production and encasing of the finished product. Moreover she worked at after sale service and polished the watchcases, giving her an all around education on how to make and care for a watch from beginning to end.
While most watchmakers focus on creating pieces for men, Bouvier took a different route. She focuses on women, a very niche market yet one she feels has great possibilities. Women have different tastes than men and don’t want a men’s watch dressed up as an afterthought to the original purpose. It’s with this perspective that Bouvier designs. “One thing all women are looking for is a more or less discrete feminine touch. I also noticed that more and more women are attracted by the technical aspect, especially if it is visible from the outside”, she says. “I therefore targeted women interested in premium and complicated mechanisms, which until now were more oriented towards a masculine clientele.”
Technical and jewelry watches
Bouvier notes that women are more sensitive to playful or useful complications. The aesthetic and practical aspect of a watch is important to them. “But before all, they want a watch working properly. Moon phase indicators are of course very feminine and sensual complications,” she observes.
Just because Bouvier taps into the technical nature of watchmaking doesn’t mean she completely eschews the jewelry aspect. It’s a well-known fact that women enjoy watches not just as practical timekeepers but also as pieces of beauty on the wrist. “As a watch maker, my passion was always oriented towards technical and complicated watches,” she says. “As a woman, I am also attracted by jewelry watches.”
In her collection Bouvier has the summer & winter time watch, an upper dial giving the summer time and the lower dial the wintertime. This limited edition watch uses a large dial as a palette that reveals wheels that are decorated with flowers and snowflakes while being subtly supported by two bridges in the shape of tree branches. A special edition of this watch was also constructed by artist Bastien Chevalier incorporating marquetry, a wood inlay process. In this case a colorful garland of flowers represents Summertime with a ladybird flying above it; wintertime is represented in icy tones embellished with the figure of a penguin.
Plan to create her own movement
Her 8 moons watch represents women’s sensitivity to cycles. The starry watch face clearly displays the progression of the moon’s phases for each day of the week. It shows how the moon will appear at noon today, and its future appearance in its coming phases. Just as the moon lights up at night, so do the moons on the watch face. In stainless steel or white gold, all the cases are in a very modern 45mm size, which ironically would also suit the wrist of a man. In the works are also the yin time & yang time and the 8 moons jewelry watches, both by designer-artist André Meyer.
Though Bouvier has the wherewithal to produce her own movements, for now she utilizes an ETA 2892, a classical movement with hours, minutes and seconds and on top of this she develops an additional module. She chose this movement, as it’s reliable. However, in future she plans to make her own movement. She explains her reason for developing modules as opposed to refashioning an existing movement, which is the route many watchmakers go to express their creativity: “The fact that I am not modifying the base movement will allow me in the future to adapt my modules to other movements.”