As dozens of its peers proffer ultramodern interpretations of the complicated wristwatch, Bovet Fleurier has returned its focus to the decidedly old-fashioned pocket watch. These timepieces, however, have a novel twist. The company recently completed the second piece in its Edouard Bovet Collection of made-to-order complicated pocket watches, each of which easily converts to a wristwatch or desk clock. The 44mm cases facilitate the transformation to wristwatches, yet the large knurled crowns lend a pocket-watch flavor.
Pocket watches once were a Bovet specialty. During the company’s mid-19th-century heyday, it manufactured elaborate enamel-painted and jeweled pocket watches, often in matched pairs, for the Chinese market. The brand’s contemporary wristwatch collections have paid homage to that period with enamel-painted and carved mother-of-pearl dials, and crowns positioned at 12 o’clock in pocket-watch fashion. Yet such design idiosyncrasies have limited the brand’s popularity beyond the Far East.
CEO Pascal Raffy, who has been the company’s sole shareholder since 2001, intends to broaden Bovet’s appeal by producing watches with intricate complications, more traditional designs, and unique features, such as the new convertible concept. “I operate within Bovet as a collector,” says Raffy. “Collectors today know all about movements and techniques. When you show someone a watch with a surprise, such as the ability to turn it into a pocket watch, you see the real pleasure in his eyes, and this, to me, is most important.”
With each of the Edouard Bovet Collection watches, you can remove the case’s lugs and either add a fob or attach the piece to a mounting plate and use it as a desk clock. A specially designed screwdriver protects the watch case’s delicate threads by disengaging when you exert too much torque.
Raffy also has upgraded Bovet’s complicated watchmaking capacity. In late 2004, he invested in and formed a partnership with Aubert Complications, an old, obscure specialty house in the Vallée de Joux, a region where high-level watchmakers are more prevalent than they are in Fleurier. Raffy moved Bovet’s complicated watch manufacturing to the Aubert facility, assembled a staff of eight masters, and began producing such pieces as the 110-hour power reserve tourbillon and the tourbillon/Westminster chime minute repeater, both of which contain modified Christophe Claret movements. Bovet’s watchmakers completely assemble and tune these movements, and apply a striking and labor-intensive Fleurisanne positive engraving pattern to the plates and bridges.
Raffy plans to execute future versions of the Edouard Bovet Collection on a commission basis, just as Bovet created many of its 19th-century treasures. “My fundamental belief as a collector and a lover of watchmaking is that we will come back to the pocket watch,” says Raffy. “I don’t want to be another person without charisma wearing this brand or that on his wrist. I want to have a secret pleasure.”