Bovet’s Chi­nese Con­nec­tion

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t Bovet’s watch­mak­ing fa­cil­ity in the Chateau de Motiers, one can find a cen­turies-old sign­board of the brand in Chi­nese, as well as a few an­tique watches en­graved with its Chi­nese name. Bovet is be­lieved to be one of the first Swiss watch brands with a Chi­nese name.

The brand’s con­nec­tion with China can be traced back to 1818. Edouard Bovet, then 21, was sent to Can­ton by his Bri­tish com­pany as watch re­pairer. There, he set up his own com­pany in 1822, which sold lux­ury pocket watches made in Switzer­land to the Chi­nese mar­ket. Within a few years, Bovet watches be­came highly prized as­sets and were much sought af­ter by Qing dy­nasty roy­alty.

In 1855, the brand was awarded a gold medal at the world ex­hi­bi­tion in Paris for an iden­ti­cal pair of pocket watches or­dered by the Chi­nese em­peror. Bovet soon be­came a syn­onym for watches in China and the com­pany was tasked with cre­at­ing cus­tomised pocket watches for the Chi­nese roy­alty.

Four gen­er­a­tions of Bovets kept the watch­mak­ing busi­ness go­ing, but they even­tu­ally gave it up in favour of other more lu­cra­tive en­ter­prises. The brand name was sold a few times and re­launched in 1994, af­ter it was ac­quired by Roger Guye and Thierry Ouel­e­vay.

In 2001, avid watch col­lec­tor Pas­cal Raffy, who used to run a ma­jor phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal group, bought a ma­jor­ity stake in Bovet. He later bought out his part­ners and is now pres­i­dent of the com­pany. In­dus­try in­sid­ers have cred­ited his in­tu­itive and highly me­thod­i­cal vi­sion for restor­ing the legacy of Bovet, whose watches fea­ture an iconic bow atop the crown at the 12 o’clock po­si­tion. The French­man, 53, also plans to re­turn the watch­mak­ing house to its for­mer glory in China be­fore its 200th an­niver­sary.

As a child, Raffy used to spend Sun­days with his grand­fa­ther, a watch con­nois­seur who would show him his col­lec­tion of rare time­pieces. The young Raffy would then re­view the fea­tures of each, along with its his­tory or in­flu­ence on the tech­ni­cal or artis­tic evo­lu­tion of fine watch­mak­ing.

That fu­elled his pas­sion in haute hor­logerie and in­stilled in him the ap­pre­ci­a­tion of lux­ury and beauty, which Bovet watches epit­o­mise. Af­ter ac­quir­ing the brand, he quickly mapped out a long-term vi­sion, with the fo­cus on the skilled ex­per­tise of the

Bovet’s watch­mak­ing fa­cil­ity in the Chateau de Motiers

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