Portrait of a Living Legend
Deep in the heart of Switzerland’s Jura mountains lives an unassuming but extremely charismatic gentleman by the name of Philippe Dufour.
It is quite possible, and highly probable that the name does not ring a bell. He has no need to advertise his creations in any shape or form. He maintains an almost invisible online presence with no official website, and yet has a waiting list, likely a decade long, of customers eager to part with upwards of $50,000 for each single hand-crafted masterpiece.
Philippe Dufour is well known amongst watch collectors as simply the greatest living watchmaker in the World.
Dufour started his career close to 50 years ago having attended a watchmaking school in the Vallée de Joux. In 1967 he was picked up by la Grande Maison, Jaeger-LeCoultre and apprenticed under the tutelage of master watchmaker Gabriel Locatelli. In 1974 Dufour moved on to work at Audemars Puguet and Gerald Genta before turning independent in 1978. Dufour remained close to his ex-colleague and mentor Locatelli, indeed Locatelli was one of the first people he invited to his new Atelier. The very first watch to roll off the workbench was actually assembled by Locatelli, but unfortunately a few months later he lost his life in a car accident. To this day, Dufour often wears that very same watch, simply named Simplicity.
For decades, Dufour worked tirelessly on restoring old pocket watches and marveled at the complications contain within. In the early 1990’s, Dufour launched his brand and stunned the world of horology with the creation of a Grande Sonnerie. Incidently, it is extremely rare that Dufour watches turn up at auctions, but needless to say they perform extremely well when they do. In 2012, one such Grand Sonnerie achieved a hammer price of HKD 4.82 million (around $630,000) at a Sotheby’s Hong Kong auction.
With each watch taking close to 2,000 hours of work, production was extremely limited. In 1996 he launched the Duality, a world first double escapement wristwatch, once again produced in tiny numbers. By this time, Dufour enjoyed almost legendary status half-way across the planet following a documentary that aired in Japan. To cater to his growing fan base, Dufour once again shook the world of horology by presenting a basic 3-hand watch at a mere 34mm that was hand finished to perfection. Dufour initially only intended to produce a run of 100 Simplicity watches, but with so many people willing to lay down a deposit to get on a waiting list, he eventually expanded the line to a further 100 watches, increasing the case size to 37mm, in total producing a mere 200 watches over a 12 year period.
In order to appreciate the attention to quality of a Dufour masterpiece, one really needs an eye loupe, or better still a microscope to examine the movement. Finishing is done by the master himself using old watchmaking techniques such as chafering, anglage and black polishing. It is a meticulous attention to detail that makes the Simplicity perhaps the most perfect watch ever made.
To this day, Dufour can often be found at his workbench during time off from his children.
I leave you with a wonderful video glimpse into the world of Dufour brought to you by the guys over on Hodinkee.com.
The Road to Basel Episode 2: Inside the Atelier with the Legendary Philippe Dufour.
Dean Owen is Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment
Photo and Video Credits: www.hodinkee.com
This was far from a Bond scene. No black tie show ...
You have no groups that fit your search