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Value and variety
Point of View

Value and variety

Thursday, 14 July 2016
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Franco Cologni
President of the FHH Cultural Council

“Talent demands effort, dedication and hours spent perfecting a gesture which, day by day, becomes a gift.”

An entrepreneur at heart, though a man of letters, Franco Cologni was quick to embark on a business career that would lead him to key roles within the Richemont Group.

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2 min read

On his arrival in Italy in 1786, Goethe was struck by the light and colours of the Mediterranean, prompting him to make this observation: “It is evident that the eye forms itself by the objects which from youth it is accustomed to look upon; and so the Venetian artist must see all things in a clearer and brighter light than other men.” We perceive reality through nature, we understand art through technique; Goethe’s research is morphological, it spans poetry and science. His Italian journey would lead to the Theory of Colours that would influence artists all over Europe.

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.

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