By Islay Robinson – Ennes Global
It doesn’t get much more scenic or storybook perfect than the site of the House of BOVET’s headquarters, an actual 14th-century castle in the legendary Val-de-Travers, Switzerland, the cradle of fine watchmaking.
Wait, it gets better.
The House’s founders, the Bovet family previously possessed the Chateau de Môtiers. The Bovet dynasty was founded at Fleurier, a village viewable from the castle’s ramparts.
Founded in 1822, BOVET was expert at producing highly decorated pocket watches that they sold around the world, from Asia to the Ottoman Empire, Europe, and the Americas. BOVET timepieces can be exhibited in museums around the world, including the Forbidden City, the Macau Timepiece Museum, the International Watch Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, MOMA, and many others.
BOVET wasn’t content to just produce beautiful timepieces — the House was keen to innovate, such as being the first brand to use an exhibition case back (a standard in high watchmaking today), holding the world record for power reserve (370 days with a timepiece from 1910), developing unique chronographs, developing an Easel Watch (which would lay the groundwork for the patented Amadeo convertible system used today), and much more.
Today, the House of BOVET blends the most advanced technologies with the best artistry, employing artisanal techniques such as hand-engraving, enamel work, and miniature painting. For nearly 200 years, the House of BOVET has been handcrafting the finest watches, allowing collectors to enjoy the true delight of time luxury. To achieve this perfection, Mr. Raffy, the House’s owner, has limited the House’s annual production of handcrafted timepieces, manufacturing all components in-house, honouring Swiss artisanal techniques, and reaffirming the House’s commitment to exclusivity and originality.
The Human Touch
In today’s industrialized world, the BOVET 1822 approach to high watchmaking is unique and distinctive. With its in-house manufacture located in Tramelan, BOVET adds the human touch every step of the way. Starting from the production of the parts for each timepiece, an expert artisan evaluates and controls every step of the production process.
And, in order to heighten the precision and beauty of the mechanics, every piece and part that goes into a BOVET timepiece is hand-finished – hardened, burnished, polished, angled, engraved, and more. This lengthens the production process, but the end result is a timepiece that is spectacularly finished, adding to the precision.
BOVET even manufactures its own spirals and regulating organs, which only a few businesses in the worldwide watch industry can claim. BOVET can ensure the quality of every step of production in this manner, resulting in incredible attention to detail.
In addition, BOVET 1822 is committed to keeping the traditional decorative arts alive, with engraving artisans in its own in-house workshop, and working with dedicated miniature painters and other artisans who are spread throughout the Jura Valley.
Once the components are produced, they are sent to the BOVET castle, where the watchmakers assemble, test, quality control, and ready the timepieces for shipping. The quality of light in the watchmaking atelier is remarkable, and the sense of tranquillity and quiet is wonderful for this precise work.
BOVET is one of the few firms that offers a diverse selection of timepieces, from simple to ultra-complicated, and everything in between. The Fleurier case, with the distinctive “Bovet Bow” at 12 o’clock, is its signature case, and it also has the Dimier case, with the customary crown at three o’clock.
The 19Thirty collection is the starting point for men, with a 42mm wristwatch that has a premium watchmaking mechanical winding movement and an astounding seven days of power reserve. Furthermore, the 19Thirty is finished to an exceptional standard, with every component and part meticulously polished and angled.
The Miss Audrey is the foundation of the ladies’ collection, with its 36mm case integrating the revolutionary Amadeo system, which allows the wristwatch to be transformed into a table clock and a pendant watch without the use of tools.
The collection then progresses up the horological ladder, with moon phases, jumping hours, perpetual calendars, dual-timers and world-timers, tourbillons and flying tourbillons – all conceived, made, completed, and regulated in-house.
BOVET in recent years, since Mr. Raffy bought the brand and the manufacturing facilities, has specialized in unique combinations of complications, like the Virtuoso VIII Chapter Two which combines a flying tourbillon with a big date and 10 days of power reserve; the Récital 26 Brainstorm® Chapter Two (flying tourbillon, precision moon phase, unique world time display – this timepiece won the GPHG award for “Mechanical Exception”); the Récital 22 Grand Récital, combining a double-face flying tourbillon with a precision moon phase, retrograde double-sided date, a fabulous 9-days of power reserve with a single barrel, and a retrograde perpetual calendar on the back (which won the GPHG award for “Timepiece of the Year”)
These configurations have never been seen before in high watchmaking, and people now expect this innovation and unique design from the House.
BOVET’s power reserve is also a key point. Today’s “normal” power reserve is 42-48 hours. The minimum power reserve for BOVET’s in-house movements is five days, and it can go up to 22 days.
BOVET also excels in incorporating métiers d’art into its timepieces, such as intricate hand-engravings of the case and movement, classic enamel work, miniature-painting, spectacular gem-setting, and more. The most expensive pieces in the BOVET collection are the most complicated, as the House doesn’t really go in for the use of a lot of gem-setting, focusing instead on hand-decoration and extraordinary, finely-finished mechanics. These include the Récital 22 Grand Récital, the Récital 26 Chapter 2, and the completely engraved Amadeo Amadeo Tourbillon.
Since BOVET 1822 has a history of travel, with its founder famously moving between Switzerland, England, and China, the House has a number of world time timepieces, like the Récital 27 and the Virtuoso V, while the entry price point for men, the 19Thirty, and for women, the Miss Audrey, are wonderful everyday companions.
When asked which timepiece is his favourite, Mr. Raffy inevitably replies, “the next one.” As the designs of the timepieces come from him, he is constantly living in the future, working on the new products for next year and beyond.
Speaking Bespoke Timepieces
Bespoke accounts for a sizable amount of BOVET’s business. The House is always willing to collaborate with clients to design the watch of their dreams, whether that means adding engraved initials or a message to a completely one-of-a-kind movement, case, and decorations, such as the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, and everything in between.
One of the most surprising and delightful reveals of 2021 was the collaboration between Rolls-Royce and BOVET 1822 for the Boat Tail bespoke car and timepieces. Developed in tandem, the pair of bespoke timepieces BOVET 1822 produced for this project are capable of being worn on the wrist, used as a table clock and a pocket watch/pendant watch, and mounted in the car’s dashboard. This is the first time a mechanical tourbillon timepiece has been integrated into the dashboard, and tested like any other part of the car.
BOVET loves when a collector pushes the House outside of its comfort zone, asking for unusual materials (like wood marquetry or meteorite), innovative engraving, totally new movements, and unique miniature painted dials of subjects like children, pets, entire families, and more.
BOVET 1822 Worldwide
As BOVET’s collectors are worldwide, so is its presence. There are currently BOVET boutiques in Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok, Moscow, New Delhi, and Riyadh, with more on the way this year and next. The House’s strongest markets are the USA, the UK and Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Russia. The collectors range from mature and traditional to young and adventurous, so the BOVET collection includes classic timepieces and modern complications, using new materials, new colors, new complications, and innovative technology.
The Future of The BOVET House
The House of BOVET’s future is secure: before purchasing the company, owner Mr. Pascal Raffy was an avid watch collector of BOVET and other timepieces. Educated about timepieces at his grandfather’s knee, he knows what collectors desire and will never disappoint. He is determined to maintain the House’s lofty position in high watchmaking moving forward.
“BOVET deserves to be where it is, at the highest position in watchmaking, and I will do everything in my power to push BOVET forward, optimizing my team and the artisans within,” says Mr. Raffy. “For this reason, I have verticalized the manufacturing so we have complete control and can be very flexible and reactive to our customers’ wishes. I am proud to have been at the head of BOVET for 20 years, and I very much look forward to the future. I love this brand and as a result pay attention to every detail and aspect of the creation of our timepieces.”
This year, BOVET celebrates BOVET is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year with a number of special events. A travelling display of historical and modern timepieces will visit retailers, museums, and other venues across the world. You can also expect bespoke timepieces that will both celebrate the House’s heritage and point to the future. Over its 200 years, BOVET 1822 has seen changes in taste and style, but one thing has remained constant – the love of beautiful objects. From the Emperor of China to heads of state and connoisseurs of fine timepieces, BOVET 1822 stands as a unique and highly desirable watchmaking house.
In many ways, the House of BOVET is the luxury watch industry’s best-kept secret. The celebration of 200 years is only the beginning of Bovet’s journey.