HIGHLY PER­SONAL

A watch col­lec­tor turned brand owner on build­ing a house that cre­ates the haute-cou­ture equiv­a­lent of watch­mak­ing.

The Peak (Singapore) - - Watches View -

Bovet watches might seem like a bit of a cu­rios­ity, with their distinc­tive elab­o­rate, al­most­baroque fin­ish­ings. But for the brand’s owner, Pas­cal Raffy, that is the point: “In our ev­ery­day lives, we have a lot of ready-towear clothes. But when it comes to a spe­cial out­fit, we want it to be unique. Bovet is the haute cou­ture of watch­mak­ing.”

It’s a state­ment am­ply il­lus­trated by the Recital 20 As­terium (pic­tured), the lat­est block­buster by the Swiss high-end horol­ogy brand that Raffy re­cently pre­sented to col­lec­tors and jour­nal­ists here in Sin­ga­pore. While it has a size­able price tag of over half a mil­lion dol­lars, the As­terium of­fers plenty of watch for ev­ery dol­lar. The highly dec­o­rated model in­cludes a mul­ti­tude of astronomy-cen­tred fea­tures such as an ac­cu­rate sky map, a fly­ing tour­bil­lon, and a 10-day power re­serve.

Dur­ing our in­ter­view with Raffy, it be­comes clear that much of Bovet’s unique value propo­si­tion springs from its owner’s un­usual per­spec­tive as a watch col­lec­tor-turned­brand owner. Says the 53-year-old French­man: “As a col­lec­tor, I in­sist on a high level of watch­mak­ing. This might be some­thing neg­a­tive for very fi­nan­cially minded peo­ple. But I pre­fer this to mak­ing any com­pro­mises.”

Raffy’s in­volve­ment in his brand goes be­yond gen­eral ab­strac­tion; it per­me­ates ev­ery as­pect of it. A lit­eral case in point: that of the As­terium, which he whips off his wrist for us to ex­am­ine more closely. Avail­able in gold or plat­inum, the As­terium’s case is asym­met­ri­cal, with a thicker pro­file at the top, near 12 o’clock, that ta­pers to­wards the bot­tom. When asked if there is a name for this case shape, he says with a smile: “You can call it ‘Mr Raffy’s writ­ing desk’. My grand­fa­ther used to let me write at the writ­ing desk in his of­fice. That desk was shaped like this.”

This deeply per­sonal ap­proach has guided op­er­a­tions at Bovet since Raffy bought a ma­jor­ity share in the brand in 2001. Around that time, the for­mer phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal chief, then in his late 30s, was in early re­tire­ment. Know­ing that Raffy was an avid watch col­lec­tor, a friend con­vinced him to in­vest in Bovet by show­ing him one of the mod­ern-day time­pieces by the brand, which had been founded in Can­ton in 1822 by Swiss watch­maker Edouard Bovet.

Be­fore Raffy came on board, Bovet was owned by two en­trepreneurs who had bought it in 1994, fol­low­ing a long pe­riod of in­ac­tiv­ity that had be­gun in the 1950s. While the watches were highly dec­o­rated with tra­di­tional tech­niques such as minia­ture paint­ing and en­grav­ing, they were pow­ered by mod­i­fied third-party move­ments. By 2003, Raffy had bought out the orig­i­nal own­ers, and over the next few years, he cre­ated a ver­ti­cally in­te­grated man­u­fac­ture in Switzer­land by ac­quir­ing Bovet’s sup­pli­ers of move­ment com­po­nents and di­als, as well as a share in its case sup­plier.

Raffy’s goal is “to keep Bovet unique, rare and ex­cel­lent”, an aim that largely stems from his first-hand knowl­edge as a col­lec­tor. Pro­duc­tion of the As­terium, for ex­am­ple, will be lim­ited to 60 pieces, in­clud­ing spe­cially com­mis­sioned mod­els. (An­nual pro­duc­tion at Bovet is kept low, and typ­i­cally lies be­tween 2,000 and 2,800 pieces.) In be­tween puffs on

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