FEATURES:

Lord of the Castle: The Story of Pascal Raffy & Bovet


The Bovet company was founded in 1822 by Edouard Bovet with a focus on the watchmaking trade with China. The brand as we know it today was acquired by Pascal Raffy, a former pharmaceutical industry executive and passionate watch collector, in 2001. Shortly thereafter, Raffy began purchasing additional manufacturing sites in Switzerland – not only to ensure the company’s independence but also to have full control over the quality of all aspects of production.

Bovet minute repeater with tourbillon
Bovet minute repeater with tourbillon

Today, Bovet offers haute horlogerie watches that are unmistakably inspired by the brand’s pocketwatch history. The company makes its own hairsprings and dials in addition to having the movement design and production in-house. Some of the brand’s specialties are complicated movements (like the Récital 18’s five-day tourbillon with jumping hours, retrograde minutes with hemispherical universal time and hemispherical double moon-phase), decorations and, of course, the Amadeo convertible case system. This patented construction allows the watch to be used as a wristwatch, pocket watch or a small table clock. Bovet currently has more than 100 employees and produces around 2,000 watches per year.

WatchTime recently visited two of Bovet’s main manufacturing sites: its own Château de Môtiers and Dimier 1738 in Tramelan.

Château de Môtiers

Le Château de Môtiers (originally named Vauxtravers) was built in the early 14th century by Rodolphe IV de Neuchâtel. Henri-François Dubois-Bovet acquired it in 1835, but the descendants of the Bovet family donated the castle to the Canton of Neuchâtel in 1957. It was offered to Pascal Raffy in 2006 and now, after an extensive renovation, houses the assembly workshop of the brand. Raffy wasn’t interested in the property until he learned that the castle had once belonged to the Bovet family. “I thought, this is going to be a castle with around 6,000 square meters [64,600 square feet].” And he said to himself, “I don’t want this, it’s another headache – you know how it is to manage properties.” But when he saw the (much smaller) castle for the first time and learned about its connection to Bovet, he quickly decided to buy it. “If it belonged to the Bovet family, I am going to collect the castle,” he said. And, perhaps, he also made his decision because Edouard Bovet’s house in Fleurier was already being used as the Town Hall and today houses the Fleurier Quality Foundation, of which Bovet is one of the founding members.

Historical pocket watch movement decoration from Bovet (and a very early example of a transparent caseback.

Also in 2006, just two months after he committed to buying the castle, Pascal Raffy was offered another property – the facility that’s now known as Dimier 1783 Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie. “I know you can make very good decisions in a short time,” Raffy remembers from his meeting with the owner of the company. Dimier was already supplying movement parts for several haute horlogerie brands, including Bovet, and had 72 employees. And indeed, the decision only took a short time. Raffy went to Tramelan to meet the staff and decided to add the facility to his portfolio. “When I looked into their eyes, I said ‘Look, here it’s full of passion.’”

Bovet’s new assembly workshop at Château de Môtiers

Today, Dimier is mainly responsible for the development and production of the brand’s own movements, including tools, hairsprings, and balance wheels.

But Raffy’s quest for what he calls “true watchmaking” didn’t stop there. In September 2006, the acquisition of Bovet 1822 Manufacture de Cadrans (cadrans is French for dials) further increased the in-house capabilities of the Bovet brand. And, last but not least, Raffy also holds a minority share in the company that’s supplying Bovet with cases, which means that there aren’t many parts that are still being outsourced.

Assembly of a Bovet tourbillon movement (with blue protective cover)

For Pascal Raffy, these investments not only meant suddenly having to work with four different locations. “[In] 2005, we were 38 in the house of Bovet. December 2006, we were 143.” He adds, “I am doing what I love to do. I love my timepieces and the passionate people building them. It’s crazy and, at the same time, it fulfills your life.”

Balance wheels and hairsprings are produced in-house.

Click here to read about Bovet’s latest release, the Récital 22 Grand Récital.

This article originally ran in the April 2018 issue of WatchTime. Click here to purchase the rest of the issue. 

One Response to “Lord of the Castle: The Story of Pascal Raffy & Bovet”

Show all responses
  1. Debashish

    Enjoyed the article on Bovet as well as those lovely XL-sized pictures, immensely!

    Did not know that Bovet produced their own hairsprings, as it was done by only a few, really great!

    I would love to acquire one or two haute horlogerie timepieces created by Bovet, but haven’t had opportunity, till date.

    Reply
Leave a Reply