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A Day at Bovet Part I: The History Of Artisanal Horology?

Ollie With Bovet Team

I first met Christophe Persoz at the VIP opening of Salon QP at the Saatchi gallery in November 2018. As the Project Manager at Bovet, he was on hand at the brand’s presentation to answer any questions one might have had about the incredible timepieces they make.

That evening I had my eyes on one of their watches in particular; the Edouard Bovet (I have written a separate review of that watch). I was awe struck. Christophe took the opportunity to explain in detail this particular piece and, although one might expect him to have in-depth knowledge of Bovet, it was clear this was a man with a passion for horology in its totality. I mentioned to him I was soon to be travelling to visit HYT in Switzerland and asked whether I might be able to also visit Bovet’s manufacturing facilities. Somewhat surprisingly, he accepted with warmth and without hesitation, so I took his details and thanked him for his time.

Fast forward two months and at 8am on a very snowy morning in Neuchâtel, the capital of the Swiss Canton, Christophe is outside my hotel with Bovet’s private driver. With the same warm greeting as I received at Salon QP, he welcomed me before going on to explain the schedule for the day ahead. “First we will visit Tramelan, where the components for each Bovet (actually made by a subsidiary called Dimier) are created. It will take around an hour to get there but this way we will have a more relaxed schedule. We will have lunch and in the afternoon we will go to the castle in Fleurier…

During the journey there was not a moment’s silence. He is an incredibly engaging individual, something I noticed purveyed throughout those who worked at the brand. We discussed many horological related topics, ranging from my visit to HYT and the design of my watch, to his career to date, as well as our original ‘grail’ pieces from when we were young. I hope he will not mind me saying, but he has an understated elegance, characterised by his original grail watch; a Jeager Le Coultre Master Control.

Arriving at Dimier, which is where Bovet watches are manufactured, I was given a brief history of the brand. How it was actually started in London by Edouard Bovet, along with his two brothers (Alphonse and Frederic) and how the manufacturing was managed in Fleurier, Switzerland by another brother, Gustave. It was Edouard Bovet however who was the talented salesman and, using his skills, they agreed to target the Chinese market. It took him four months to travel there, carrying four exceptional time pieces, all of which he sold in around 1818 for what would be the equivalent of $1m at today’s rates. It was as a result of this success that, in 1822, the first ‘Treaty of Bovet’ was signed. Eight years later, the construction of the Bovet House in Fleurier began; it is now known as the city hall and is where the Qualité Fleurier, an independent seal of craftsmanship started by four maisons, including Bovet, is headquartered.

In 1835, the 14th century Château De Môtiers was bought by Henri-Franҫois Dubois Bovet. It was then gifted to the state of Neuchâtel in 1957 before Bovet’s current owner (from 2001), Mr Pascal Raffy, purchased it in 2006. Upon doing so, he installed Bovet’s assembly workshop and administration there. Indeed up until Mr Raffy bought the brand, it was mostly a component maker for other watch manufacturers, instead of making watches in its own right (it made around 100 watches a year at this time).