Watchmaking runs deep in the veins of the Geneva. In 1760, 600 expert watchmakers worked for the city’s mere 20,000 inhabitants. Even the city’s most famous landmark, the Jet d’Eau, was originally invented in 1886 as a safety valve for water being pumped from the hydraulic factory to the craftsmen and watchmakers. Today, Geneva is home to not only many prominent watch manufacturers and independent watchmakers, but also a community of collectors and connoisseurs. A fine watch is a manifestation of exceptional innovation, pinpoint accuracy, and infinite patience: the pinnacle of excellence in craftsmanship – but for watchmakers and collectors, it can be so much more.
“Watches are the items that make me dream; when wearing certain watches, I can be a pilot, an astronaut, or even a famous hero,” says William Massena, an avid watch collector and Managing Director of timezone.com. A fine Swiss watch is a device to tell time in many regards. Each brand harkens to the storied legacy of Swiss watchmaking, while each timepiece holds the story of the watchmaker’s personal history. The personal touch is especially true when it comes to independent watchmakers, who defy quantity for the sake of quality.
Laurent Ferrier is one of these such brands.
A true Genevois, Laurent Ferrier spent 40 years working with the finest watchmakers and artisans before founding his own brand in 2010, just a few years before retirement. In his own words, a Ferrier timepiece embodies his horological values: “simplicity, precision, and pure, uncluttered beauty.”
“Laurent Ferrier is a poet of design; he creates elegant watches with a unique and personal taste,” agrees Massena. Ferrier describes the immersive experience he hopes for; “Wearing a Laurent Ferrier timepiece should be experiencing its soft winding and sound, its comfortable case, and the right reflection of the sapphires.” His watches are designed for watch enthusiasts and collectors from all walks of life. Massena explains, from a collector’s point of view; “One is not born a watch collector, you slowly amass a few watches and one day you realise that these eclectic watches could be considered a collection, and you proclaim yourself a collector.” Per his opinion, any watch is a collectible whether it is a Swatch, an Apple, or a Laurent Ferrier. Massena is the proud owner of a Laurent Ferrier Gallery Micro rotor prototype.
The personal relations between the watchmaker and the collector is a symbiotic one, each supporting the other and perpetuating the timeless craft. The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie says “collectors and connoisseurs represent the heart of Fine Watchmaking. They seek rarity and exclusivity, which are the distinguishing features of a Fine Watch.” Ferrier ascertains that his workshop’s success is, in part, due to support from his resilient customer base. Massena believes that independent watchmakers should not only survive, but also thrive and lead the industry with imagination and innovation.
As a 21st-century brand, Ferrier occupies a liminal space between technological innovation and heritage watchmaking. Ferrier strikes a balance in his approach. “Tradition doesn’t prevent innovation,” he explains. “In each of my creations there’s a finely crafted and technically avant-garde mechanism.” He has embraced Monobloc bridges, for example, to increase precision, but the core of his brand is deeply steeped in family and tradition.
Ferrier believes that technological innovations are constantly usurping their predecessors, rendering them obsolete. In today’s high-churn society, a fine watch is even more valuable because it is timeless. “I want people to look at their watch in 20 years’ time and still feel that it’s beautiful.” As the son and grandson of watchmakers, Ferrier firmly believes in the power of his family’s professional legacy. In fact, Ferrier says he would not have started the company if his son, Christian, did not share in the passion. He remarks excitedly, “The fourth generation is already involved in this new adventure.”
There are many challenges for independent watchmakers. The rigorous crafting process requires cooperation between a wide range of professionals with as many as forty different skills. Success in the workshop depends on cooperation across three different teams: movement production, external parts and decoration, and design and development. The three most prominent artisans in the process are the watchmaker, who brings the watch to life; the dial-maker who skillfully designs the face; and the beveller, who adds the immaculate finishing touches to the watch. A complicated piece like a watch with three hands can take up to 18 months to complete. Despite the difficulties, Ferrier’s brave initiative gave him the opportunity to create the watch he had always wanted to make: the Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral.
More recently, Laurent Ferrier unveiled three pieces at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève 2016: a super Luminova version of the Galet Square; the Galet Traveller with a sectorial dial featuring earth in a night sky with a more convex sapphire than on previous versions to give the globe more volume; and their bespoke piece, the Galet Secret, which has a dial that can be painted on canvas allowing for customisation.
Discreet luxury is what defines Laurent Ferrier’s watches more than anything else. His workshop creates timepieces one by one, and the brand prospers while producing only about 100 pieces each year. These precious timepieces are destined for those who truly understand and value the artisanship. “To me a watch is a real object of pleasure. [It is] a form of elegance, harmony in an object which is a paramount to craftsmanship and refinement,” says Ferrier.
Enjoy a private visit to Laurent Ferrier’s atelier with Gianna Loredan, one of Geneva’s most respected city guides, when you reserve the Insider Experience at InterContinental Geneva.