Bovet’s Chinese Connection
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