Dimier – the Manufacturer
After being given a brief history of Bovet, to start my tour, I first had to understand how the pieces are made. Touring the workshops at Dimier (the trade name for the component maker), was like stepping back in time but, simultaneously, remaining in the 21st century. It is one of the very few watch manufacturers (other than Parmigiani Fleurier as an example) that produces all of its own components, other than the main spring. To do so, they use an expensively assembled machine utilising electricity to cut them, whilst they are under water, which ensures there is no mechanical pressure on the material thus allowing them to cut extremely delicate pieces. This permits the creation of fine components such as hair springs because, if there was mechanical force used, it would break them before they were completed.
Something else that marks Dimier, and ultimately Bovet, out is the quality of the dials they are able to create. Starting with a baseplate in brass (although it could be in precious metal), they then fix different elements to it by inserting the required pieces, like a puzzle. When they are using lacquer, they start with a large plate and complete the guilloché before going any further. It is only then that they put the lacquer on the big plate. All these features together with the layering of the components give their watches a visual depth few other manufacturers can muster.
The dials themselves are made of variety of materials, including mother of pearl, lacquer, carbon fibre and meteorite. The latter is particularly interesting because it’s only when the dial is complete that acid is used to reveal the structure of the meteorite and its characteristic markings. But perhaps the most arresting are those made of aventurine, a type of glass invented in the 17th century by combining glass with copper; it sparkles like moonlight on a clear evening and is a beautiful thing to behold.
To put things into perspective, just one guilloché’d dial can take up to a day to complete… And it takes four years of training for those working on the dials to be sufficiently qualified to do so. The next time someone questions you why your Bovet, or indeed why any other hand finished timepiece is so expensive, just let them mull that over . . .
Dimier is not just a manufacturer of watch components. In addition to the other watch brands that use their services, they also manufacture pieces for the medical and electronics industry. Whilst I was there, I was shown what tools they use to create the dimensions of new components before they are put into production. Each tool is made of exceptionally hard steel, is extremely expensive to make and individually designed for each piece required. They then use a stamp to create a mould of the necessary component, a process they have been using for 70 years and are one of the very few remaining manufacturers to do so. To add to the old school production feel, the gentleman in charge of this particular process was working with his two sons; mentoring them. It may sound obvious but the passion for watches in this part of the world clearly pervades all and they clearly take pride in what they have become known for.
Turning to the use of steel as components and the lengths they go to for perfection, if you look at steel with a microscope, the surface is never flat. Polishing it is not the answer because, instead of actually flattening it, you will simply round off the imperfections. Therefore, to ensure the surface of each axis, wheel and pinion is perfectly flat, they all pass through one machine that has been specially developed to ensure this is the case. This is particularly important for small components such as a balance wheel axis (the diameter of which is 0.08mm), because it cannot be chemically treated. This process not only makes each component harder than in their normal state, but also gains a polished ‘look’ as a result of the pressure exerted, without actually being polished. Yet another example of the painstaking lengths they go to to create the ideal piece for each movement.
For the final part of my visit to Bovet, I was given a tour of the assembly room, where all the watches manufactured at Dimier, are sent for a final inspection before delivery.