Substance Over Flash
For 17 years, Pascal Raffy has been talking about one thing: true watchmaking. After he acquired Bovet in 2001, Raffy poured his heart and soul into the company. The story of how he came to be introduced to the company has made its rounds in the industry: Raffy was a fervent watch collector; he could identify any watch by touch alone except one with a bow at 12 o’clock – it was a Bovet; from that moment on, he was permanently in love with the brand. When the opportunity to acquire the company presented itself, he knew it was time to come out of (early) retirement.
Raffy runs the company not like the average watch CEO because he behaves not as a watchmaker, but a watch collector. Fiercely determined to keep Bovet independent, he owns his own movement manufacture, case manufacture, dial manufacture and assembly line, which is housed in a 14th-century castle that once came under the auspices of the Bovet family.
Bovet is one of only a handful of companies with the ability to produce its own balance springs.
From the inside out, every Bovet watch embodies Raffy’s vision and horological philosophy. To know the brand, one simply needs to know the man.
Welcome to Singapore, Mr Raffy. It’s nice to have you here.
Singapore for me is very special. You know if you have five friends in life you’re very rich. I have two of these friends living in Singapore. When you live in Switzerland, you come to expect a lot. Singapore is one place I love. Like Switzerland, it’s a small country but successful. If you asked me where I want my children to visit and discover, Singapore is one of these places.
What do you want them to learn?
The most important thing to transmit to children is the patrimony of education, to know that in life, what’s important is not to shine but to last. Wisdom is crucial; extremes will lead you nowhere. To build something, you must be organised, disciplined, clear-minded. I run my watchmaking house the same way I educate my children with these values.
What does Bovet mean to you?
Watchmaking for me has been a passion since I was 13. My grandfather taught me to understand that producing a timepiece has many components, you need the patience to bevel, chamfer, sink, snail. You also need to be educated, talented and innovative. Also, when the timepiece is finished it must be elegantly dressed; the mechanical skills involved have to be accurate, real, substantial. When these two elements meet, like two hands applauding, it becomes a timepiece and not a watch anymore.
What is your take on innovation in modern or futuristic watchmaking?
I hate extremes. They never lead to anything. I prefer wisdom and balance. The most important thing to me is sustainability. In everything: behaviour, collections, meaning. You see, I’m a collector, not a watchmaker. My views are not clouded by convention. Yet I hate fashion. Fashion is ephemeral; tradition lasts.
Can you elaborate further?
Why did we make the Shooting Star? Is it because it’s trendy? No. It’s because of Edouard Bovet. Think about how he travelled from his village to London and then to China. This was a six-month-long journey. Putting myself in his shoes, the trip involved boats, trains, horses. You have the time to look, you have the time to think. He travelled half the planet, so with this watch I want to show a view of the planet as seen from the sky.
Did Recital 18 The Shooting Star lead you to the Recital 20 Asterium?
In 2016 I was already developing the Asterium. After looking to earth from the sky, I would like my clients to suspend time by looking to the sky. We don’t take the time to appreciate time.
What are your beliefs when it comes to luxury?
Luxury must be three things: clear identity, small quantities and the human touch.
What do you think the industry needs more of and less of?
Less excesses, more charisma.
As an independent brand, what could Bovet do that a similar brand belonging to a conglomerate cannot?
Bovet succeeded in watchmaking integrity. We have always been able to stay honest and sincere, and also able to push every year a little further the boundaries of watchmaking excellence.