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Independent Profile: Laurent Ferrier

A three-handed watch with simple Roman numerals or applied markers. A classically elegant case in a contemporary size of 41 or 42 mm. The absence of modern turbocharged complications. Does this sound like a new brand meant to capture an enthusiastic audience of contemporary watch lovers? Well…in a word: yes. The refined, elegant, classically timeless visuals of Laurent Ferrier’s timepieces are only underscored by a knowing look deep into the movement. While from the outside, the bulk of Ferrier’s pieces appeal to the more conservative type of consumer, their insides will blow away any fan of serious watchmaking.

What Laurent Ferrier has produced since founding his new brand in 2009 should surprise no one: this man, the son and grandson of watchmakers, who spent thirty-seven years in Patek Philippe’s movement prototyping and product development departments, not only has the skill and expertise to make some of the best watches currently available, but also the experience and wisdom to know exactly what he wants.

And one of the elements important to Ferrier is horological complexity, but in true Patek Philippe manner, not the kind visible from the dial. Rather the discreet kind enjoyed by the owner, not put on display for the world to see. But, you say, this goes against all that modern watchmaking has come to stand for. Why put a tourbillon in a watch when you can’t even see its fascinating motion?

Like the design of Ferrier’s whole watch, the composition of the movement is a subtle homage to observatory chronometers of the nineteenth century. Eminently observable to the trained eye is the incredible perfection in finishing: meticulously hand-applied Côtes de Genève and beveling of the German silver plate and bridges’ edges.

The arrangement of the bridges allows the observer to clearly see the winding system and the tourbillon, both of which are very classically designed—except for one detail: the Straumann double hairspring beating away at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour within the Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral, for example.

Laurent Ferrier was aided by his son—the fourth generation of Ferrier horologists—with the design and production of his eponymous brand’s gorgeous movements: Christian Ferrier worked with the innovative developer of complicated movements created by two of BNB’s original founders called La Fabrique du Temps; this company comprises technicians interested in pushing high watchmaking to its modern boundaries.

Often creating some of the most interesting modern movements by using new technologies, they have partnered with the Ferriers in their quest for horological perfection.

Such as the innovative escapement Laurent Ferrier introduced at Baselworld 2011 in the Galet Microrotor Entre Ponts. In search of better energy efficiency for the brand’s new micro rotor, Ferrier and his team, naturally led by Christian, stumbled upon a revised version of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s echappement naturel using a silicon lever and two nickel-phosphorus LIGA-manufactured escape wheels for improved calculation of angles and absence of lubrication.

It was both friction and the inability to make escape wheel teeth precisely enough—solved by these high-tech components—that saw Breguet give up on it in 1810. Ferrier decided not to patent his version of this escapement. Good watchmaking is about optimizing a lot of small things, he explained at the time of its launch. And this is something he continues to do. Every day.

This month, International Watch explores the independent watchmaking community. Smaller, easily adaptable and often founded more from passion than from a CPA-approved plan, smaller watchmakers inject the collector community–our readers–with exciting design and new technology not always seen among the existing industry giants. Discover other  independent watchmakers in this special series.

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