Meet the maker
The Swiss master-watchmaker Bovet 1822 is celebrating its 200th anniversary safe in the knowledge that heritage is sustained by innovation
If time is the greatest luxury, the house of Bovet has enjoyed more than most. The Swiss watchmaker was founded 200 years ago and has used the intervening years to master its art, gaining recognition as one of the world’s most accomplished and inspirational makers of extremely complex and highly decorated watches.
Since 2001, the company has been owned by Pascal Raffy, who rapidly set about re-establishing the watchmaker’s reputation as a house for artisans whose imaginative and intricate decorative styles complement precise movements. Bovet watches, often featuring exquisite miniature paintings in fired enamel, are produced in strictly limited quantities to ensure the highest standards and maintain exclusivity. These are the traditions that made the company famous.
“My project was to create a very exclusive house based on the idea that humanity, emotion and passion are transported through the timepieces,” says Raffy. “I wanted to create something that I can give to my children one day, but my dream was also to pay respect to the house of Bovet and the true artisans who created it.”
Bovet was founded in London in 1822 by Swiss watchmaker Édouard Bovet, whose family had been master-watchmakers in Switzerland since the 18th century. Édouard pioneered the sale of luxury watches to China, creating pieces with distinguished decorative elements and a movement that could be observed through glass on the back panel. When Raffy, a watch collector, purchased the company he was determined to restore the house to its former glory. He bought a Swiss castle, Château de Môtiers, which had previously been owned by the Bovet family, to use as a head office, and then acquired suppliers that specialised in elements such as movements and dials, giving Bovet complete control over the watchmaking process. Bovet now produces watches in two collections: Fleurier, which pays tribute to the classic pocket watch by setting crown and bow at 12 o’clock; and Dimier, which places the crown at 3 o’clock. Bovet also produces bespoke one-off pieces for select customers.
“Now the house of Bovet is very proud to be making its own faces, dials, hands, movements and even its balance springs, so we are fully integrated,” says Raffy. “The idea is to defend the heritage of the house and, with wisdom, to push one step forward with innovation every year, not only with the mechanics but also the decorative arts. We will create more and more beautiful items, but the secret is quality not quantity, as well as uniqueness and humanity.”
Under Raffy’s stewardship, Bovet has won numerous prestigious awards, including “the Oscars of watchmaking”, the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, and has developed enriching partnerships, such as with Rolls-Royce, for whom Bovet created two, 100 per cent bespoke timepieces that can be mounted on the dashboard – an engineering and artistic feat that took 3,000 hours of manpower to perfect.
For Raffy, a collector of Rolls-Royces himself, this is an expression of kindred spirits. “Classic cars are a perfect match for our approach to watchmaking – the attention to detail, the comfort, the power, the smoothness and the magnificent engines,” he says. “The only difference is the size, but the will to do well and to achieve greatness, these stay the same. I am always telling people that if we keep firm in our principles, we will be protected. We have plans for the next 10 years, but the most important thing is the community of human beings who work with us and share our values.”