This theory is based on the value, beauty and variety of our surroundings. Indeed, just a few years earlier, Montesquieu, ever attentive to the cultural, artistic and scientific aspects of landscapes, wrote that “since I have been in Italy, I have opened my eyes to arts of which I had no idea.” His essay on Taste for Diderot’s Encyclopédie is largely based on the “variety” he discovered in Italy. The French aristocrat postulates, for example, that Raphael is the very model of the “je ne sais quoi” which defies definition and is the natural manifestation of taste. Perspective, proportion, order and nature: an ensemble of extraordinary elements which give life to an enriching and, in certain ways, mysterious variety that is always perceived as something to be desired.
We can compare Italy’s cultural and geographic variety with the variety observed in Swiss watchmaking. Here too, the eye is accustomed to recognising that which is well made, that which has value, and that which lacks originality; here too, there is that “je ne sais quoi” that consecrates each watch; here too, the great manufactures (the word has its importance) and the small but inspired artisans endeavour, like the Italian artists and craftsmen, to produce masterworks that will go down in memory.
And so I wonder why Switzerland fails to perceive the value of diversity and variety. In watchmaking, there are still too many so-called experts who seek to belittle their competitors, look disparagingly on one or other’s work, and criticise diverging views. Ultimately, the customers are the ones who choose, and that they can choose among a wide variety of propositions can only bring them even greater pleasure. Diversity is the measure of a vital system and should therefore be preserved, rather than become the object of trivial and tedious diatribes. Watchmaking is the art of time and time is, by its very nature, “variable”. There is no point fighting what the universe has already made, and continues to make better than ever we can.