In 2022 the House of Bovet celebrates its 200th anniversary. After the Geneva Watch Days, we spent a (mostly) sunny September day at the Château de Môtiers among beautiful timepieces, ambience and people. As a watch lover you couldn’t wish for a better closing of the week.
We started this site and our whole passion project around 2012 back in the Middle East. That time – through my marketing and communication jobs – I already saw a fair amount of watch and jewellery brands. Bovet has been among the companies that truly amazed me – that time they presented their timepieces in the ‘Impératrice Salon’ of Hotel Beau Rivage and allowed visitors to glimpse into the meticulous work process of the artisans who create the magnificent miniature paintings and engravings. Witnessing their craft makes you understand the ample differences between watches and truly fine watches.
At the outset both the timepieces and the atmosphere were rather special and Bovet proved my first impression when they kindly invited me to visit their facilities in Môtiers, Tramelan and Fleurier. The design and manufacturing is based in Tramelan, the assembly and quality-control in Môtiers while the watch dials are made in Geneva. The movements are created by Dimier 1738 Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Artisanale, the dials are made by the Dimier 1738 Manufacture Artisanale de Cadrans – members of the Bovet Group.
This year I had the opportunity to come back and celebrate the 200th anniversary of Bovet in the ‘Château de Môtiers-style’ with Mr Pascal Raffy, Audrey Raffy (his eldest daughter), the great Bovet team and no less great selected journalists and watch enthusiasts.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Éduard Bovet (1797-1849), a man from Switzerland discovered the Chinese market for himself with his reliable artisan watches. He soon became very popular; the Bovet name has become a synonym for the watch in China (transcribed ‘Bo Wei’). He, residing in Canton, establishes with his London based brothers Alphonse and Frédéric and his third brother Gustave, a watchmaker in Fleurier, a general partnership with its sights set on the watch trade with China.
The Bovet family was keen on innovations in fine watchmaking – Fritz Bovet, Alphonse’s eldest son, filed a patent for a flyback chronograph equipped with a seconds-hand, minute-counter, and hour-counter that featured measurements of up to 24 hours. This ingenious mechanism offered the possibility of using the chronograph as a second-time zone. Among other patents in 1939 Bovet filed a licence for the Easel watch, which allowed the use of a pocket watch as a table clock – it was a great inspiration later on for the Bovet signature’s Amadeo cases, launched in 2010.
Henri-François Bovet acquired the Château de Môtiers (a stone castle dating, in part, from the 14th century, overlooking the villages of Môtiers and Fleurier) in 1835, while his great grandchildren gifted the castle to the state of Neuchâtel.
At the onset of the 21st century another man, Pascal Raffy, revived the Bovet brand, not only with significant investments but by infusing it with a spirit that celebrates perfection, precise details and artistic design. In 2006 Mr Raffy also bought back the Château de Môtiers, classed as a historic monument, from the Neuchâtel State and set up the Bovet workshops there.
To commemorate the history, heritage and the blossoming present of Bovet, a private museum collection of key timepieces is set in the ground-floor of the castle.
Bovet timepieces are on display in auction previews and in museums all around the world in London, New York, Beijing and Switzerland, but this collection is rather special. It includes some 19th century Bovet pocket-watches with extraordinary miniature paintings, engravings and different decorations techniques, alongside Mr Raffy’s personal collection (a Virtuoso 3, a Rising Star and a Braveheart), other outstanding haute horlogerie models like the Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter Two or the Récital 20 Astérium and the ‘Bovet By Pininfarina’ line, which combines the best in design and fine watchmaking techniques.
After this amount of artistic inspiration, we had the chance to try our hands with the help of Bovet artisans at handling teeny-tiny screws, hand engraving and miniature painting (of which I already made a first attempt at the Dubai Watch Week last year… ).
The amazing talents of the manufacture create exceptional miniature paintings with butterflies, fans and other motifs for example on the Bovet Fleurier Amadeo® Fleurier 39 pieces – please discover a few here.
As the 200th anniversary social media hashtag of the brand goes #Bovet200yearsyoung, Pascal Raffy has the clear aim of keeping the manufacture innovative and attractive to the new generations of collectors and at the same time honouring the heritage of Bovet. Earlier, his eldest daughter Audrey embodied the young and feminine side of Bovet in an advertising campaign and in 2020 she joined the North America offices as Vice President and General Counsel. The addition of Audrey to the House of Bovet is another reiteration of the House’s principal value: family. Audrey explains that after graduating from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law she was curious to know how they can work together with her father and how she can add real value to the company. As a family business, her involvement with the brand has many facets – sometimes even with some design suggestions like bright colours or new materials.
Bovet’s story is an exciting revival in which centuries of the past are merely the beginning… The brand not only has a distinct character and style, but there is a heart beating in every watch. The company has a kind of unique personal charm, which they infuse into every piece they create. It keeps on ticking on every wrist, neck or pocket that is adorned by Bovet.
Photo credits: Loupiosity.com
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