In this second installment of our two-part look at Bovet 1822, Bovet owner Pascal Raffy tells iW why he loves perpetual calendars, Bovet’s reasons for making a series of complicated astronomical watches and why we can expect a few more astronomical additions to the Bovet lineup over the next three years. (You can read part one of Inside Bovet 1822 here.)
Why has Bovet created three astronomical watches in the past three years?
One night in the courtyard here at Château-de-Môtiers I was looking at the sky. I always follow the Orion belt, where to me the three aligned stars represent my three children.
Six years ago I wondered how the earth must look from the sky, and then how I can translate this in a timepiece. That’s when we decided to make the Récital 18 Shooting Star.
For the next step, it was about what we see above us at all times. The answer is a moon, and we made an annual calendar and an equation of time (within the Récital 20 Astérium).
So the third chapter (the Récital 22 Récital) is about what three things we need every day: The Moon, the Sun and the Earth.
The Earth will be turning in 24 hours, there is a tourbillon cage for the sun, and the moon has to turn on its 29-day, 51-minute schedule. For the Earth, we utilize Bovet’s specialty in enamel arts.
On the back, to drive all of this, is a perpetual calendar retrograde, plus we have a perpetual date on both sides of the movement. Miniature painting mixed with LumiNova is a technique that took us years to develop. In its display case, the back can be seen through the mirror so the collector can always check that his perpetual calendar is functioning.
The idea of an astronomical series has to be about five things. This latest Récital is the third chapter. Still, we are going to present chapters four and five. Knowing that in 2022 we will have to pay tribute to Bovet’s 200-year anniversary.
The first watch is the Shooting Star. The second one is the Astérium, and then this latest is the Grand Récital. When you put them each side-by-side, I asked that each timepiece speak with its own charisma. They are truly three brothers. The next timepieces will actually double the density of this timepiece. It’s heavy.
Have you always enjoyed calendar features in your watches?
I enjoy the perpetual calendar. On the Récital 22, the upper bridge of the tourbillon is the ultimate in hand polishing. On the Moon you will find depicted the actual topography of the Moon. The face that you see there is the face that receives light from the sun.
If you are traveling, you’ll come back after thirty days and press the pusher at 12 and it re-indexes it all. This is the feature that took us one year to prototype, and it is now patented. This type of innovation is in our blood at Bovet, as is miniature painting and decorative arts. This is a big achievement.
What were some of the challenges Bovet faced when making the Recital 22 Grand Recital?
There is a lot of dense watchmaking involved here. The adjustment of the perpetual calendar, a double-face tourbillon with the balance wheel and the hairspring on one side and the escapement on the other side. The upper bridge of the tourbillon is titanium. Nine days power reserve. Turning the crown only four times for each day’s winding—only thirty-six times for the full nine days. This is a patent and pure craziness.
I need to see the cage of the tourbillon, not because tourbillon is in fashion, but because I need to see that heart beating. Why a big power reserve? Because we have a big heart. This is readability, symmetry, finish and a high watchmaking proposal.
The case itself is a writing desk because we "write time." Many people think that the diamond at the top of the tourbillon bridge is a yellow diamond. But it is a white diamond. The high level of finish reflects the yellow and makes it appear like a yellow sapphire.
Are Bovet collectors assembling the trio of these astronomical pieces?
Fifty people have a Shooting Star and sixty have the Astérium. Thirty-eight of those also have the Shooting Star. For the Grand Récital, many with a Shooting Star or an Astérium will be positioned for a Grand Récital.
The buyer will have the choice of the case material. The only true limited edition is the movement, limited to sixty pieces. The heart of the timepiece. After that, cases in red gold, titanium or platinum do not matter. It is the essence of the house to be bespoke. Of all of the orders we now have, twenty-percent of them have the side of the case hand-engraved.
What are the typical characteristics found in Bovet watches?
Bovet is not made for followers of marketing, or for people looking for recognition.
It is for people with human depth. It is for people who have a high level of watchmaking education. Every globe on this newest piece takes one week to make. As a result each one is unique.
Why use a perpetual calendar? Because the more complicated it is, the more we love it. I think this is absolutely in the genes of the house. If you can reach that level, why not do it. Then you push forward. Look at the sapphire disc making the retrograde jumps. Was that necessary? No, but that is Bovet.
Are there historical Bovet elements maintained in new pieces?
You have the same high mechanical skills. The longest power reserve is a Bovet pocket watch, at the La Chaux de Fonds Museum, with 365 days power reserve.
Has renovating the historic Bovet castle been worth the time and expense?
It was a very good decision. The state of Neuchâtel knew that this castle belonged to the Bovet family (since 1835), so if they knew I was going to say yes (to buy it), they were right. It then took three years to make it habitable for the company. I opened up all of the different rooms.
Very few watch companies can say that they are at the same home address where they started. This is a human size castle with 3,000 square meters. After visiting here, nine out of ten guests return with at least one timepiece. I am very lucky that all of my children know what this means.
We’ll any of them join you at Bovet?
I cross my fingers. Because you know when parents insist, children will do the opposite.
Where do you find Bovet historic collections?
I had thought that Bovet was concentrated in Switzerland, London and China. In fact there are many private collections in the United States with Bovet timepieces. There are collections in many countries around the world, much wider than anyone had thought.
What should a new collector know about Bovet?
A collector in 2018 who wants true watchmaking connected to a true watchmaking history should consider have a Bovet timepiece. I met a collector at the airport recently, and he told me he enjoys not seeing a Bovet timepiece on every wrist. I love uniqueness, authenticity and luxury.
The beauty of the American watch collector is the ability to be surprised. This is a big asset for anybody. Many people think they have seen everything. You transmit a timepiece, you share values, and you explain it. It is an important market. You have many 19th-century Bovet pocket watches in collections in the U.S. Artists, big businessman, the U.S. collectors are a diverse group.