Exploring the history of the House of Bovet with Pascal Raffy

The history of the House of Bovet is as interesting as the timepieces that the manufacture creates. The independent brand owes its present success and prominence to Mr. Pascal Raffy, the current owner and CEO. Horology Middle East had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Raffy on his recent visit to Dubai to discuss Bovet, and examine some truly spectacular horological art.

Mr. Pascal Raffy seen wearing a Bovet Récital 18 The Shooting Star piece unique.

Mr. Pascal Raffy seen wearing a Bovet Récital 18 The Shooting Star piece unique.

Our recent sit down was not the first time we met Mr. Raffy, that chance encounter took place in 2015, at Dubai Watch Week, which was  organised by Bovet’s UAE retail partner, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons. Since that time we’ve always viewed Mr. Raffy more as a guardian and steward of the House of Bovet, rather than as the sole shareholder and CEO. This is purely because you immediately get the sense that his connection to Bovet goes well beyond that of a business owner. In fact a short discussion with Mr. Raffy is all you need to experience his immense passion and respect for the values and heritage of Bovet, and that is remarkable when you consider that he did not create the brand himself.

Of course the House of Bovet has existed since 1822, it was originally founded in London by Edouard Bovet. The timepieces were also crafted in London for a short time, as the city was – at that time – a major watchmaking and watch/clock trading hub. Production moved to Switzerland, more specifically Fleurier, less than 10 years after its founding, since the brand experienced runaway success with its incredibly beautiful pocket-watches, most of which were destined for the Chinese market.

The 19Thirty Dimier is Bovet's most accessible timepiece, carrying a retail price of approximately US $20,000.

The 19Thirty Dimier is Bovet’s most accessible timepiece, carrying a retail price of approximately US $20,000.

Bovet actually has a long association with China, it was one of the first Swiss watch companies to export to China, and the brand’s timepieces were so popular in that market, that they were considered assets or could be used as currency. We’ve even heard that the Chinese brand name for Bovet – BoWei – actually became the accepted word for ‘watch’ in the Chinese language. The brand’s success in China continued for many years, though later challenges with the Chinese market prompted the Bovet family to sell their shares in the company, after which the company and brand changed hands several times.

2001 was the year that Mr. Raffy discovered Bovet through a long time friend, and decided to purchase it immediately. This would not be his only major purchase in the early 2000s however – following through on his commitment to ensuring that timepieces could be crafted almost entirely in-house, and to a high standard that would pay homage to Bovet’s rich heritage and values, Mr. Raffy then acquired STT and all its subsidiaries in 2006. STT was a movement supplier whose various subsidiaries and sister concerns developed and produced tourbillons, balance springs, and even maintained stamping facilities.

You can expect a high level of finish and serious attention to detail across Bovet's collection.

You can expect a high level of finish and serious attention to detail across Bovet’s collection.

STT and all its concerns were reorganised and moved into a renovated location (a castle that Mr. Raffy also purchased in 2006 due to its historical connection to the Bovet family), which now carries the name Dimier 1738. Today Manufacture Dimier 1738 employs 73 people who specialise in 41 professions. Mr. Raffy explained that at present Bovet crafts around 4,000 timepieces per year, and although there is capacity to scale up with relative ease, it’s not something that he wants to rush into.

In fact Mr. Raffy insists that the House of Bovet does not produce watches, rather that it produces timepieces. The difference, according to Mr. Raffy, is that whereas a watch just tells the time, a timepiece is something that embodies the emotions of its makers when it is created, and evokes emotions when the owner casts his/her eyes on it. Regardless of whether you subscribe to this differentiation, we think it perfectly capture’s Mr. Raffy’s attention to detail, and his emotional connection to Bovet.

Every Bovet timepiece we've examined makes us think of old world luxury and design.

Every Bovet timepiece we’ve examined makes us think of old world luxury and design.

The brand offers a number of timepieces today, with prices ranging from US $19,000 to well over a million, and each has the unmistakable aesthetics and emotion of old world luxury. As we said earlier, Bovet was well respected for its incredible pocket-watches in its early history, and today, you certainly get that same sense of aesthetic style and flair with the brand’s modern offerings. Keep in mind that you can quickly and painlessly transform several of the brand’s timepieces from wristwatches into pocket-watches, and desk clocks with ease (check out the video below).

Speaking of which, we reckon it’s now time to experience three incredible Bovet timepieces – the Récital 18 The shooting star, the Ottantasei and the Braveheart. We jumped at the opportunity to listen to Mr. Raffy’s presentation of these three magnificent creations, and despite some challenges with our camera gear, we reckon you’re in for an absolute treat. We will of course have our own hands-on impressions and pictures of these magnificent timepieces in the near future, so keep watching this space.

Let us know what you think in the comments below or via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We’re also on Snapchat, just look for @HorologyME.

To learn more about Bovet, click here.

Our thanks to Claire Liddell from TPG for organising our meeting with Mr. Pascal Raffy.

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