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Bovet 1822, the pinnacle of the watchmaking arts

Bovet 1822, the pinnacle of the watchmaking arts

Filled with 200 years of rich heritage, Bovet 1822 represents the pinnacle of watchmaking, yet it is a brand that very few know. It was almost like a rebirth of a phoenix from its ashes when the pharmaceutical Raffy family followed their heart and passion, and acquired the brand back in 2001.

Braveheart / Photo: Bovet 1822
Braveheart / Photo: Bovet 1822

They embarked onto their unexpected journey to create a veritable preeminence. Whilst Bovet 1822 may not be one of the most famous brands, it is certainly one of the most prestigious one.

The owner of the House of Bovet, Mr Pascal Raffy gave us an exclusive interview alongside with his eldest daughter, Audrey.

Récital 27 / Photo: Bovet 1822

Founded in 1822, Maison Bovet was met with immediate success all over the world. The Bovet brothers brought decorative arts like miniature painting, enamelling, engraving, and gem-setting to an unprecedented level of excellence that remains unrivalled today. The presence of Bovet timepieces in the most prestigious art and watchmaking museum collections, illustrates their veritable preeminence. 

Over the past decades, Maison Bovet has set itself apart with its numerous innovations, both technical and aesthetic. The Bovet brothers are also recognised as the first to use transparent case-backs. The generations that followed were to thank for a great many technical patents, including chronograph mechanisms that are still taught in the most prestigious watchmaking schools, and a pocket watch that holds the absolute record in power reserve with 370 days with a single barrel. 

This alchemy of the traditional and the modern distinguishes Bovet in the watchmaking industry. Limited to less than 1,000 timepieces a year, with 30% of its production bespoke, Bovet 1822 can lavish this kind of attention to detail on each and every timepiece.

The history of the Bovet dynasty

Edouard Bovet was born in 1797 in Fleurier, a municipality in the district of Val-de-Travers in the canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland. He was the son of the master-watchmaker Jean-Frédéric Bovet and Edouard followed his father’s footsteps.

Artisanal work at the House of Bovet / Photo: Bovet 1822
Artisanal work at the House of Bovet / Photo: Bovet 1822

Edouard studied the art with his father in Fleurier, but in 1814 left home for political reasons with two of his brothers, Alphonse and Frederic, to study watchmaking in London.

Edouard discovered the potential of the Chinese market as a student of Ilbery in London. Reaching his twenties, he left London on April 20, 1818, aboard the Orwell, ship of the “Compagnie des Indes,” on a voyage to China. He arrived in Canton, on August 16, where he quickly sold four watches for the sum of CHF 10,000 in gold, representing the equivalent of one million dollars today.

At that time, Edouard Bovet was residing in Canton, while his brothers, Alphonse and Frederic were in London, and Gustave was managing the workshops in Fleurier. Together, they established the House of Bovet on May 1st, 1822, to be a leader in watchmaking for its exceptional level of decorations and chronometry. 

Edouard Bovet is recognised as the founder of the transparent case-back. The transparency revealed the peerless expertise of the Duplex escapement that equipped the Bovet movement until the arrival of the first Swiss lever escapements.

By the mid-19th century, Fleurier produced watches almost exclusively for the Chinese market. Bovet was neither the first nor the last company to target the Chinese watch market. Notwithstanding their high price, the popularity of Bovet watches in China meant that the company had to contract with other Swiss manufacturers to help them meet demand.

It was about this time that the company created a Chinese name to more effectively market to the middle class. The Chinese name for Bovet, “Bo Wei”, became a common noun for watches in China for many years.

Artisanal work at the House of Bovet / Photo: Bovet 1822
Artisanal work at the House of Bovet / Photo: Bovet 1822

In 1835, Henri-François Dubois-Bovet purchased Castle of Môtiers (Château de Môtiers) in Switzerland from the state. The castle, originally named Vauxtravers was built in the 14th century, by Rodolphe IV, Count of Neuchâtel, and it is overlooking le Val-de-Travers and Fleurier. 

As an interesting turn in history and thanks to Pascal Raffy, the castle remained the home of Bovet, even if Henri-François Dubois-Bovet’s great-grandchildren donated back the ownership of the Castle of Môtiers to the state of Neuchâtel back in 1957. It is the place where Bovet’s master craftsmen unite under one roof with the entire range of skills required for the various stages of developing and producing Haute Horlogerie movements, including the rarest and most demanding in terms of expertise.

In 1840, Frédéric Bovet left London and returned home to Fleurier, where he managed the watchmaking workshops that at the time employed 175 people.

The founder of the House of Bovet, Edouard Bovet died in Fleurier at the age of 52, in 1849, leaving his legacy in China. At that time, Bovet was a synonym of watch for the celestial Chinese people, and used as a trade currency.

One of the key elements to his success was the refined miniature painting featured on his timepieces. Often depicting floral designs such as Champlevés and Paillonnés on engraved surfaces, the meticulous art form was a hallmark of hand-crafted watchmaking. The exquisite artistry was so successful that it even attracted the Emperor of China who ordered a pair of identical award-winning pocket watches.

Following on its Chinese legacy, during the Universal Exhibition held in Paris in 1855, Bovet won the gold medal in the category “luxury” for a pair of enamelled watches commissioned by the Emperor of China.

Fritz Bovet, Alphonse’s eldest son, filed a patent in 1889 for a flyback chronograph equipped with a seconds-hand, minute-counter, and hour-counter that featured measurements of up to 24 hours. This ingenious mechanism offered the possibility of using the chronograph as a second-time zone.

In 1939, Bovet filed a patent for the Easel watch, which allowed the use of a pocket watch as a table clock. Another patent was filed for the Mono Split-Second chronograph, which today remains highly desirable among collectors.

Virtuoso V table clock / Photo: Bovet 1822
Virtuoso V table clock / Photo: Bovet 1822

The dark age of Bovet

The Chinese watch market collapsed around 1855 due to competition from France and the United States along with the tremendous number of Chinese-made counterfeits. By 1864, problems caused by the Opium War caused the Bovet family to sell their interest in the company.

Another seemingly bigger problem was counterfeiting. Chinese-made fake Bovets were often found in circulation and this proved to be an obstacle that would regularly undermine Bovet’s integrity. 

Bovet continued to manufacture pocket watches, though at a much reduced rate, and would frequently offer its manufacturing services on a contract basis to other watch companies. The family also introduced certificates of authenticity and hallmarks to fight against counterfeiting problems.

As the business continued to decline, Landry Freres purchased Bovet in 1888 but did not invest in it further.

In 1901, the Bovet trademark was sold at auction in Paris to Cesar and Charles Leuba, sons of Ami Leuba.

Jacques Ullmann and Co., another successful producer of watches for the Chinese market, purchased the Bovet brand in 1918. 

After Jacques Ullmann went out of business in 1932, the Bovet name was acquired by Albert and Jean Bovet, who were successful watchmakers and registered several patents for chronographs, such as the mono rattrapante: a device that would pause the second hand for reading while the mechanism continued to run.

The company Favre-Leuba purchased the name and manufacturing facilities from the Bovet brothers in 1948.

Favre-Leuba stopped producing Bovet branded watches in 1950 and manufactured only its own branded watches from the facilities it acquired from the Bovet brothers. Favre-Leuba sold the Bovet brand and facilities in 1966 to a cooperative of individual watchmakers.

In 1989, Parmigiani Fleurier purchased Bovet and registered the trademark for “all watchmaking products, mechanical watches and clocks and naval instruments, of Swiss origin”, but no Bovet branded timepieces were produced.

Parmigiani sold Bovet in 1990 to investors, and Bovet Fleurier SA was established. However, no watches were actually manufactured by the company until after it was acquired by Roger Guye and Thierry Ouelevay in 1994, who opened a branch office in Geneva.

The once glorious brand struggled, desperately looking for a second chance to shine.

Change of ownership

Pascal Raffy - Bovet 1822
Pascal Raffy / Photo: Bovet 1822

At the dawn of the 21st century, the House of Bovet needed an investor with a clear vision to restore its grandeur. This was the time when Mr. Pascal Raffy was introduced to Bovet, who soon became the unique owner of it. His tremendous energy, paired with his long-term strategy and vision have enabled Pascal Raffy to turn his childhood passion into watchmaking excellence and raise Bovet 1822 to the pinnacle of the watchmaking arts.

Pascal Raffy discovered the fascinating world of Haute Horlogerie during his childhood when Sundays were spent with his grandfather, a watch connoisseur who used to show him the timepieces from his collection. He would review the specific features of each one, along with their history or their influence on the technical or artistic evolution of fine watchmaking. 

That was enough to ignite an ongoing passion for Haute Horlogerie and even more importantly, instil the human values and awareness of authentic luxury thus passed on to Pascal Raffy.

Interestingly, Pascal Raffy originally hails from the French Ardennes region from a family line originally named Raffin until the 17th century, settled briefly in Switzerland before Pascal Raffy – eager for independence at the age of 18 – set off for Paris where he studied law. It was during this period that he met his wife and acquired the first timepieces in his collection. 

When I started my career, I began my own collection based on the knowledge he had imparted to me,” – starts Pascal Raffy. – “I was a collector of vintage Bovets, as well as modern timepieces. That’s why I was approached to acquire the brand in 2001.

During the 1990s, Pascal Raffy withdrew from the family pharmaceutical company that he directed at the time to spend time with his family and in particular with his eldest daughter, Audrey. 

Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter One, red quartz dial caseback / Photo: Bovet 1822
Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter One, red quartz dial caseback / Photo: Bovet 1822

After a few years, his banker suggested that Pascal Raffy invest in the Bovet 1822 Manufacture. 

The timepieces of Bovet 1822 and the history of the Maison could not be closer to my taste for beautiful timepieces and the values according to which I define true luxury. I therefore, became the owner of the Brand in 2001.” – said Pascal Raffy.

Pascal Raffy established his wealth by working at the family pharmaceutical company, an entirely different field of business area. So we were curious to discover whether he had any previous background in the watchmaking world which qualified him for this investment.

I discovered high watchmaking as a child. My grandfather possessed a magnificent collection of pocket watches that he would show me every Sunday. That is how I got my education, and that is what forged my passion for these unique, refined vectors of the noblest traditions,” – smiled Pascal Raffy.

Pascal Raffy acquired the Maison as the sole owner in 2001 to protect and sustain this treasure trove of expertise that can be found nowhere else. 

The prestigious history of the House dating back to 1822 along with its iconic timepieces, distinguished by their crown at 12 o’clock and their classic bow, immediately appealed to Pascal Raffy. When we asked him what was it that he saw in Bovet that made him want to buy it, he replied:

The history and heritage of the House, as well as the identity and excellence of Bovet timepieces immediately attracted me when I was approached to become its owner. My prior knowledge as a collector had already given me a very clear vision of the direction in which I wanted the House to go, with particular focus on the very long term. Sustaining the independence of the House on a lasting basis through the vertical integration of our activities in order to improve still further the quality of our timepieces was at that time one of my major objectives. The course of events allowed me to attain that objective more quickly than envisaged.

Was it easy to shift your business focus from the pharmaceutical company to the world of watches?

I was so busy in the family business, and then I heard my eldest daughter, Audrey, lament that she never had time with her father. This hurt my heart, so I decided to retire and spend more time with all my children. Then, I was approached by Bovet and the time was right to devote myself to bring the brand back to its full glory.

At the time, Pascal Raffy already had a precise long-term plan of the destiny he envisioned for the company. Perpetuating the peerless expertise of the in-house artisans, achieving vertical integration and the return of movements made entirely in-house were the main springboards to success that Pascal Raffy wished to instate at Bovet 1822. 

The effort necessary to rebuild the Bovet heritage is based on tradition with a deep concern for every detail with good taste for the most beautiful expression of time as well as its unique watchmaking skills. Bovet innovations and the over 20 patents filed since 2001, illustrate my constant quest of perfection,” – tells us proudly Pascal Raffy.

In record time, he brought together all the professions and procedures that go into producing timepieces, all with total respect for the traditional craftsmanship of high watchmaking. Cases, dials, hands, movements, including hairsprings, are produced in-house.

What has been the biggest challenge since acquiring Bovet?

Staying true to the vision of the founding Bovet brothers is my greatest challenge and inspiration — to combine innovation with strikingly beautiful aesthetics and the best watchmaking. I consider this every waking moment. I never want to disappoint our 200-year tradition nor our valued collectors,” – concludes Pascal Raffy.

Château de Môtiers, home of Bovet / Photo: Bovet 1822
Château de Môtiers, home of Bovet / Photo: Bovet 1822

Returning home

2006 was a year brimming with positive developments for Bovet 1822 and Pascal Raffy.

The 5,800 square-metre Château de Môtiers, which is a listed historical monument and which also included Bovet’s birthplace in the village of Fleurier was offered for sale, by the Neuchâtel state authorities. The up-keeping of the castle was proving too expensive for the state. 

Pascal Raffy was the only potential buyer in a position to ensure the long-term preservation of this unique heritage site so fondly cherished by the people of the Canton.

He was thus able to acquire the Château de Môtiers, and in doing so to fulfil his dream of offering Bovet the opportunity of returning to its birthplace. An idyllic setting, it is no mere coincidence that Fleurier and the Val-de-Travers experienced the early 19th-century boom in watchmaking activity that was to ensure the region’s prosperity for almost two centuries.

The formerly isolated Val-de-Travers remains the perfect setting for inspiring the creative expression of its watchmaking artisans. This was motivation enough for Pascal Raffy to decide that he would set up again Bovet’s watchmaking and engraving workshops in the Castle of Môtiers, thereby helping to give the local watch industry the new lease on life that the region had been eagerly awaiting for 30 years.

In the same year, Pascal Raffy successively added the Manufacture de Cadrans and the DIMIER 1738 Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Artisanale to the House of Bovet. These acquisitions ensured the complete independence of Bovet 1822 and positioned it to raise its quality standards even further. 

The Manufacture DIMIER 1738, renamed to BOVET 1822, currently employs 73 people exercising 41 different professions. This diversity enables Bovet to unite under one roof the entire range of skills required for the various stages of developing and producing Haute Horlogerie movements, including the rarest and most demanding in terms of expertise.

While the manufacture is focusing on technology, the Manufacture de Cadrans has the opposite goal, to safeguard the traditions. 

Since the 17th century, master craftsmen have trained new generations of skilled crafts apprentices in Swiss villages. These bold new apprentices sought wisdom and the development of a craft while being innovative. Bovet’s artisans continue to incorporate modern technology and precision to traditional craftsmanship.

These two divisions are working together in perfect harmony to elevate the excellence of the Bovet timepieces.

Collectors, specialists, and keen observers of the watch industry have ever since saluted the technical advancements introduced by Bovet, while remaining in complete harmony with the tradition of watchmaking arts that have made the House so successful for almost two centuries.

Becoming the pinnacle of modern watchmaking

Virtuoso VII / Photo: Bovet 1822
Virtuoso VII / Photo: Bovet 1822

Pascal Raffy’s business example perfectly proves that a successful business needs more than just education, it requires passion and persistence above all.

Alongside his rigorously organised and methodical nature, Pascal Raffy is a highly intuitive individual and this intuition undeniably guides him to the right choices – a fact that has led him to be widely considered a modern-day visionary. He is the kind of man whose innate charisma immediately wins over an entire audience. A remarkably gifted speaker, he expresses himself with equal ease through each of the five languages in which he is fluent. 

While Pascal Raffy is undoubtedly a man skilled with words, he is also and above all else a man of his word. Endowed with the ability to get the best out of everyone and every situation, he manages to orchestrate the cohabitation of numerous paradoxes within an astonishing harmonious whole. Thus, just as state-of-the-art technologies rub shoulders with time-honoured artisan-style gestures in its Manufactures, Pascal Raffy guides the House by using modern management techniques along with the kind of paternalistic approach. His tremendous energy, paired with a long-term strategy and a vision have enabled Pascal Raffy to raise Bovet 1822 to the pinnacle of the watchmaking arts.

As a true watch connoisseur Pascal Raffy also shared his suggestion for choosing a unique watch:

The ones which make you smile and bring you emotion. Do not be a follower. Try always to become an opinion maker. Choose the Timepiece you wish but choose it to showcase your level of watchmaking, of knowledge and education rather than your bank account or as a follower of exclusive massive marketing in this globalised world.

Currently, Bovet’s movements manufacture employs 65 artisans in 43 different roles. This concentration of expertise makes it possible to produce each component, like the traditional hairspring that only a handful of companies around the world have mastered. The artisanal methods, in many cases dating back to the 18th or 19th century, guarantee the excellence that has marked Bovet timepieces for nearly two centuries.

Contemporary horology notably owes him the introduction of the Amadeo® system enabling the conversion of a timepiece into a table clock, a pocket watch, or a reversible wristwatch – and to do so without any tools. This combination of roles is all the more legitimate for one of the most prestigious tourbillon movement manufacturers, given that the tourbillon was invented in the age of pocket watches to counter the effects of gravity when timepieces are in a vertical position.

Interestingly, Pascal Raffy named this brilliant system after his son, Amadeo, creating the first step of his son’s future legacy in the history of watchmaking.

How would you distinguish Bovet from other high-end watch brands?

We have brought as many operations in-house as possible, so we can control the quality and attention to detail of every component. We are among only a handful of companies in the entire world that manufactures our own hairsprings and regulating organs, which certainly makes us stand out. We don’t use the term ‘Swiss Made’ because the barrier is too low for us. Since we produce nearly 100% of the components in our timepieces, we use the term ‘Swiss Handcrafted.’

Entirely handcrafted in Switzerland, the House of Bovet 1822 is dedicated to honouring the collectors by crafting only 800 timepieces per year. The implemented philosophies by Pascal Raffy affords Maison Bovet a unique place in the watchmaking world by defining the measure of time in its finest expression, as witnessed by more than 40 awards and prizes the Maison has received over the last 21 years. Moreover, ancestral, artisanal traditional watchmaking does not exclude the keen sense of innovation demonstrated by the over 20 patents since 2001, when Pascal Raffy became the owner of the House of Bovet.

With Pascal Raffy, the sleeping Beauty became a ravishing Lady. Resting on a prestigious history, the innovative future of Bovet 1822 has never been so bright.

Some of the limited edition modern Bovet watches can cost more than US$1 million. The purchaser of such a watch is usually flown out to the manufacturing facility in Switzerland by the company to witness the production process and meet the artisans.

The brand also introduced the Dimier Collection Récital 29. Do you think it is important to offer affordable watch pieces?

We strive to offer timepieces that have great value. We have a very limited production, so we can pay attention to every detail of our timepieces. No matter the price of any of our timepieces, they all go through the same process of production, including being handled by our artisans every step of the way. 

The Récital 29 timepiece you mention is a great case in point — it is hand-finished just like our highest complications. We do not have assembly lines in the Bovet manufacture, every timepiece is hand-finished and hand-assembled, with an incredible level of attention to detail. This is something that will never change. We are a family watchmaking house and the ‘human touch’ is vitally important to Bovet.

In 2010, to celebrate their mutual respect and admiration, the House of Bovet and the iconic Italian design company, Pininfarina established a partnership to create luxury sports timepieces that unite their passion for design and engineering brilliance.

In a luxury world where conglomerates and big groups dominate, it’s rare to find two independent, family-owned Houses, at the pinnacle of their respective fields, collaborating.

Poised to reinvent modern luxury, the passionate car lover Pascal Raffy designed the Battista Tourbillon timepiece from Bovet 1822, alongside the development of the pure electric Pininfarina Battista hypercar. These ground-breaking objects of art share the same design vision based on legendary styling and innovation. 

Bovet Battista Tourbillon / Photo: Bovet 1822
Bovet Battista Tourbillon / Photo: Bovet 1822

The Pininfarina name is characterised by its rich history in design excellence and craftsmanship, creating automotive artwork for more than 90 years. Many people recognise the brand also from their iconic design work for Ferrari.

Bovet echoes this ethos in horology, with generations of artisans over its 200 years of history-shaping incredible, meticulously detailed timepiece artistry. Therefore, the mutual expertise was apparent from the very beginning.

At Bovet 1822, the human element is essential, and so it is for Pininfarina,” – explains Pascal Raffy. – “Cars and timepieces share the same values: design and performance. When you start a project and there is no interest other than the pursuit of perfection, passions do not just add up – they multiply.” 

This shared vision and expertise become apparent in every aspect of the collaboration. The completely in-house development and manufacturing of this hand-made masterpiece of horology, constructed by the world’s most skilled precision artisans, offers the freedom to create highly bespoke parts and decorations with utmost precision while assuring that the highest quality standards can be met. 

Bovet Battista Tourbillon / Photo: Bovet 1822
Bovet Battista Tourbillon / Photo: Bovet 1822

The creation of a client’s Battista is a process of virtually unlimited personalisation, with more than 128 million combinations for the interior colour and materials alone, ensuring the only limits are the dreams of the client. Because of the expertise between Bovet and Automobili Pininfarina, this can be taken a step further, giving clients the possibility to express their own personalities and that of their bespoke Battista through the Battista Tourbillon as well. 

The construction of the Battista Tourbillon results in a highly three-dimensional appearance. With a focus on lightness and purity, the timepiece extends Battista’s design philosophy and brings it to another dimension. Detailing inspired by Battista’s most characteristic design features can be found in every part of the timepiece, including the movement’s mechanical components. 

The exquisite craftsmanship of Bovet made it possible to design remarkable details that only the most skilled artisans can manufacture by hand. Box sapphire crystals on both sides ensure that the inner beauty of this mechanical masterpiece can be enjoyed and admired, opening up the view of the movement visible from all sides. In addition, the sapphire crystals are shaped at 12 and 6 o’clock to integrate the specially- designed Vegan rubber straps. 

The Battista Tourbillon features a brand-new movement using Bovet’s patented double face tourbillon, running at 18,000 vibrations per hour, with an incredible 10-day power reserve with just a single barrel. 

The Battista Tourbillon truly represents the pinnacle of haute horlogerie. It has some extraordinary finishing and inspiration coming from Battista’s most recognisable features, like the exterior curves and design details. The Automobili Pininfarina and Bovet design teams took these shapes and created watch hands, bridges, dials, and other structures that connect the design of Battista to that of the timepiece. The design features more fluid, Pininfarina-style shapes compared to traditional timepieces. As an example, the flying bridge above the two main dials of the timepiece has a subtle three-dimensionality that is unique and reflects the curves of the Battista. 

Throughout the entire timepiece, references to Battista can be found. Subtle background characteristics such as the Triangolo pattern on the dials or the top of the Battista, reimagined in miniature and viewed through the sapphire crystal exhibition case back, marry the timepiece and the hypercar. 

The two-tone blue dials on the face of the timepiece, for the first time in the 200-year history of Bovet, are asymmetrical, featuring Battista’s Triangolo pattern and shaded from light to dark blue, while together forming the shape of the number “90,” a reference to the Battista Anniversario and Pininfarina’s 90-year heritage. 

On the power-reserve dial on the left, the famous Pininfarina collaborative flags icon can be found, with the “F” for Pininfarina on the left and the Lotus Flower for Bovet on the right, where on the right dial the big date complication takes pride of place. 

Finally, the signature of Battista “Pinin” Farina, the legendary designer who started it all, graces the dial above the date display. Battista famously said, “Above all, it must be beautiful.”

And the Battista timepiece and car certainly meet and exceed this expectation. 

What is the part that you most enjoy in your work?

I love the back and forth of developing a new timepiece. When the ideas flow between me, the conceptors, and the watchmakers, it’s a true pleasure. I also like fine-tuning the details, so that when collectors see the timepiece, they are overjoyed. And then when they are living with the timepiece, they discover new things, small details, every time they wear it.

Elevating one step further his innovative thinking in 2021, Pascal Raffy and his team at Bovet created two, 100% bespoke Bovet timepieces for the utterly unique coach-built Rolls-Royce “Boat Tail”.

This partnership with Rolls-Royce represents another extraordinary milestone in the collaborative exploration of luxury, design, and culture.

Rolls Royce collaboration / Photo: Bovet 1822
Rolls Royce collaboration / Photo: Bovet 1822

Born in the mind and heart of a Rolls-Royce and Bovet 1822 collector, the concept was to design and produce a bespoke Rolls-Royce and two unique Bovet 1822 timepieces that go hand in glove. Three years in development, Bovet 1822 and Rolls-Royce accomplished something never realised before in either industry. 

As a long-time Rolls-Royce owner and lover, I am particularly pleased to have an opportunity to work on such a special bespoke project,” – starts Pascal Raffy. – “The entire journey started from a very dear friend, who collects Bovet timepieces and Rolls-Royce cars. Four years ago, he approached both Houses with the aim to build a bespoke Rolls-Royce, the Boat Tail, and two entirely bespoke Bovet timepieces that, using the Amadeo system, would be mounted into the dashboard of his car.

Rolls Royce Boat Tail / Photo: Bovet 1822
Rolls Royce Boat Tail / Photo: Bovet 1822

In a move that further demonstrates the clients’ visionary approach to contemporary patronage, two great luxury Houses with a common pursuit of perfection have been brought together at the clients’ behest. 

Since the beginning of motorised vehicles, time and the automobile have been inextricably linked. Timepieces have always had a place in the world of the automobile, either to measure speed over distance or to ensure that the owner always had the correct time.

Using the revolutionary and patented Amadeo system, these two fine reversible timepieces, one for the lady and one for the gentleman, have been designed to be worn on the wrist, used as a table clock, pendant, or pocket timepiece, or placed front and center within the Boat Tail’s fascia as the motor car’s clock. As the mechanical tourbillon timepieces are meant to be mounted in the car as dashboard clocks, this changed the development completely as now they had to be considered part of the car. 

However, a mounting system for the timepieces in the dashboard has never been done before and required years of research, as well as extensive testing (vibration, temperature, humidity, and even automotive crash tests). Bovet 1822 was challenged to develop timepieces that could be worn on the wrist and instantly converted into dashboard clocks without any tools necessary.

The collaboration with Rolls-Royce was remarkable, and both our teams worked together to find solutions to vibration, noise, temperature, magnetism, and even crash testing. It was a spectacular partnership and the result has been so well received by lovers of exceptional timepieces and motorcars. The system to mount the timepiece into the dashboard is a triumph of engineering and was developed by my extraordinary team of engineers and watchmakers,” – says proudly Pascal Raffy.

Bovet has a long history of creating pair timepieces for worldwide collectors. Conceived to be completely original, the two tourbillon timepieces, one for the husband and one for the wife, use newly-designed 18K white gold 44mm cases, precision tourbillon movements, and special dials on both faces. 

The gentleman’s timepiece is high polished while the lady’s timepiece is ornately engraved then filled with blue lacquer, entirely done in Bovet 1822’s in-house artisanal workshop.

Both timepieces feature a Caleidolegno hand-applied wood marquetry front dial, using the same wood from the Boat Tail, with the name of each owner on the dial, along with a hand-sculpted and hand-engraved statue of the Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Ecstasy” on the tourbillon bridge. This statue represents several weeks of work from the artisans in Bovet, fashioning the 18K gold by hand every day. The wood marquetry is accomplished by one expert artisan who has worked with wood his entire life. 

On the reverse side, the dials are even more personalised. The masculine timepiece features an aventurine dial with the owner’s sky chart overlaid on top. 

The feminine timepiece features a miniature painting of a flower bouquet on a mother-of-pearl dial, done by one single artisan who specialises in this métier d’art. The flower bouquet theme is a historical hallmark from Bovet 1822’s long history making ornate and highly-decorated pair watches, and this concept was chosen by the owner and personalised by Bovet 1822.

In addition, both reverse dials have hand-engraved bespoke sculptures of the coach-built Boat Tail, lacquered to match the colour of the car, with miniature painting for the details (wheels, door handle, mirrors, and more). 

Getting the colour exactly right was difficult, but Bovet was aided by the relationship between Rolls-Royce and Bovet. The sculpture of the car is amazing in its detail and is a true and accurate representation of the coach-built car – a true work of art accomplished by Bovet’s artisans. As a finishing touch for this side of the dial, the name of each owner’s “better half” is engraved on the tourbillon bridge. 

Weight was a real concern for this project, as there were restrictions from Rolls-Royce from the start – Bovet was given a maximum weight for the timepieces and the holder which could not be exceeded. In watchmaking, weight is rarely an issue for a complicated timepiece, so the decision was made to reduce the case size as much as possible, to 44mm, which necessitated creating an entirely new case. 

The conservative estimate of the total number of hours that went into this entire project is 3,000 hours, including the design, the engineering, the sculptures, the miniature painting, the marquetry, the development of bespoke movements and cases, and more. But in an act of tireless endeavour and genuine collaboration, the result is an accomplishment never before realised in either industry. 

19Thirty / Photo: Bovet 1822
19Thirty / Photo: Bovet 1822

Do you think Bovet is more inclined toward the feminine or the masculine?

We certainly have more masculine timepieces and male collectors, but at the same time, we are increasing the number of feminine timepieces we offer, including the ground-breaking Miss Audrey Sweet Art, which uses real sugar on the dial. We will be introducing additional complications for women this year and in the future. In addition, there is a move to not classify timepieces as male or female but rather based on size. In this regard, I think our 19Thirty collection is really a gender-neutral timepiece, as at 42mm in diameter and 9mm thin, it fits every wrist beautifully.

Bovet often uses striking colours, such as red, yellow, or even Halloween orange. Is this to attract a younger generation?

Even though Bovet 1822 has 200 years of history, we are a modern watchmaking house with cutting-edge complications and modern materials, colours, and designs. The world is full of colour and I am inspired by the nature surrounding the Bovet castle, so I incorporate these colours into our timepieces.

Which watch would you recommend for a first-time Bovet client?

I have crafted our collections so that there is something for everyone, from the 19Thirty all the way up to our highest complications, and everything in between. The 19Thirty is an elegant timepiece suited for just about every occasion, but it really depends on the lifestyle of the owner. 

If they are world travellers, perhaps a multiple timezone timepiece is best. Or if they admire traditional decorative techniques, a timepiece fully engraved or one with a miniature painted dial would be perfect. And for those who want something extremely personal, we can do a bespoke piece. 

30% of our production is bespoke, from simply changing colours or adding initials, all the way up to 100% bespoke timepieces like the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail timepieces we introduced last year.

Pascal Raffy - Bovet 1822
Pascal Raffy / Photo: Bovet 1822

What are your favourite women’s and men’s watch pieces from the Bovet collections?

The ones we are working on now to introduce later this year and in the next five years. Of course, I love our award-winning timepieces, like the Récital 22 Grand Récital which won the highest award from the GPHG in 2018 and the Récital 26 Chapter Two which won the GPGH’s Mechanical Exception Award in 2020, but I am always focused on the coming timepieces because I am always looking to push the boundaries of what is possible with my teams.

Since Pascal Raffy became the owner of the House more than 20 years ago, his commitment has been to honour watchmaking arts and continue to handcraft timepieces that fascinate and enthral the most demanding collectors.

What does Bovet mean to you?

Bovet 1822 is my life. It is my mission to keep this house, filled with its artisans, at the forefront of watchmaking. My goal is to make sure that Bovet is at the pinnacle of artisanal and hand-made high watchmaking. I will accept no compromises on quality.

Did you ever imagine as a child that you will be a watch connoisseur when you grow up? 

I knew that I loved timepieces, but my collection just grew naturally. As a collector, I approach timepiece design from a completely different perspective. I am proud that I am able to make an impact on the watchmaking world with what we have been able to do with Bovet 1822.

Pascal Raffy’s commitment and dedication to the highest level of Haute Horology was both acknowledged and honoured when the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève awarded the Récital 22 Grand Récital, its most coveted award, the Aiguille d’Or in 2018.

Pascal Raffy was also honoured to receive the 2020 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève award for Mechanical Exception for the magnificent Récital 26 Brainstorm®️ Chapter Two and the Ladies’ Watch award for the beautiful Miss Audrey timepiece.

In 2019, the UHNW Magazine asked Pascal Raffy about his greatest motivation and he surprisingly expressed that

Since becoming the owner of the Brand in 2001, my greatest motivation was to pass along that leadership to the next generation one day, since each one of my three children was already enthusiastic about beautiful timepieces and in particular about Bovet 1822,” – said Pascal Raffy.

Only one year later, in 2020, Pascal Raffy’s wish became a reality.

Miss Audrey – The new generation

Bovet has a tradition of employing women artisans, which is rare for traditional watchmaking companies in Europe. But the House of Bovet was never one of the many, it was always the ONE.

In 2020, Bovet welcomed Miss Audrey Raffy and her passion for Haute Horology, as she joined forces with her father Pascal Raffy to continue leading the pathway of Engineering Brilliance as vice president and the newest general counsel of Bovet. 

Audrey, the oldest of the three children of Pascal Raffy, graduated from Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law and she is leading the company’s North American office.

Pascal Raffy, once you said that you hope at least one of your children will follow you in the family business. How do you see Audrey as the newest general counsel of Bovet?

I am so proud of my daughter, who has grown into a brilliant, beautiful woman, and it is very gratifying to me that she is interested in timepieces and the House of Bovet. To have someone I trust so much in such an important position is a real boon to both me and the House,” – says Pascal Raffy.

The addition of Audrey to the House of Bovet is another reiteration of the House’s principal value: Family.

Audrey Raffy - Bovet 1822
Audrey Raffy / Photo: Bovet 1822

Audrey, from where does your passion for watches come from? Is it related to your father?

My passion for watches definitely comes from my father. You know, since my father took over Bovet, which was a little bit over twenty years ago now, I have been a true witness of what it means to be passionate about something. 

My father lives, breathes, and dreams Bovet ever since I can remember. It has been impossible for me not to grow passionate for the brand because his passion is truly infectious and I think most people who have met my father will tell you the same,” – says Audrey.

What does Bovet mean to you?

Everything. You know, when you grow up watching your father put all his living energy and passion into something it is very hard not to feel the same way.

Did you ever imagine as a child that you will be a watch connoisseur when you grow up?  

As a child and even a teenager, watches always seemed so complicated to me and to tell you the truth, between school and the fact that my father had to work excessively long hours, I never had a lot of time to truly sit down and interact with the makings of Bovet or my father’s work. I think that just like anything else in life that you are not familiar with, watches can be a little intimidating at first. 

And, as you might know, the timepieces we make, which are very limited, are for the most part, “des Grandes Complications.” This is because, my father being the creative mind and designer of our collections, takes his true pleasure in combining unparalleled mechanics and engineering with the decorative arts, such as engraving and miniature painting. 

Anyhow, I still don’t consider myself a watch connoisseur whatsoever. I have been working alongside my father for almost two years now and of course, I know more than I did when I started, but I still have a very long way to go before I can dare name myself a “watch connoisseur.”

Do your siblings also work in the watch industry?

My siblings are actually significantly younger than I am – Alexandra, my sister, is twenty-one and Amadeo, my brother, is eighteen years old – so no, they are not physically actively working in the watch industry yet, as they are still pursuing their academic formation. 

However, I find this question quite interesting because, in some way, you could say they are present in spirit thanks to what I like to call my father’s eternal romanticism. Ever since my father took over Bovet, he made it his mission to pay homage to his family by naming something after each one of his children, and so he did. 

My younger brother Amadeo for instance has our incredible and twice patented Amadeo System named after him. This is a technical feature proprietary only to Bovet, which allows some of our timepieces to be worn in at least three different ways. For the ladies, as a wristwatch, a table clock, and a necklace. For the men, as a wristwatch, a table clock, and a pocket watch. In addition, some of our latest models can be worn on both sides of the dial, meaning I can switch the strap to wear my timepiece either on its face side dial or on the reverse, truly transforming a single timepiece into four! 

Then, Alexandra, my sister, has the beautiful Miss Alexandra collection named after her. This collection is part of our Dimier line, which was created by my father to showcase a slightly more modern feeling with the crown at 3 o’clock. This collection, although slightly more modern because of the positioning of the crown, still conserves the identity of the Bovet house with some features unique only to us. The shape of the case, for instance, is trademarked by us. If you look closely at the timepiece from the side, you will see that the case is slanted. 

This feature was developed a few years ago as my father was suddenly inspired remembering the way the desk at which he did his homework with his grandfather looked, back when he was a child. Funny enough, even though the story behind it is already incredibly interesting, the shape of the case also has very functional aspects to it. First and foremost, it brings time to you so to speak. Meaning that when the timepiece sits on your wrist, the movement you need to make to actually see the face of the timepiece and read the time is minimal to none because of the inclination. 

Moreover, I also found that the shape makes it so that smaller wrists don’t look awkward when wearing larger diameter timepieces. I, for instance, love to wear more complicated timepieces and so automatically these are usually larger. Well, the writing slope desk case makes it so that I can wear a Récital 26 Chapter Two for example, which sits at a diameter of 46.8mm, without it looking strangely big on my wrist. 

Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy Only Watch Edition
Miss Audrey Sweet Fairy Only Watch Edition / Photo: Bovet 1822

Lastly, I, Audrey, have the Miss Audrey collection named after me. One of my favourite features of our Miss Audreys, is that these timepieces have the Amadeo system, meaning that they can all be worn as a wristwatch, a table clock, and a necklace. I really adore wearing this timepiece as a necklace because it is so unique that it just elevates any outfit. In addition, one of our most recent novelties, has been the Miss Audrey Sweet Art. This timepiece has the same functions as our other Miss Audreys but for the first time ever in the watchmaking industry, the dial of the timepiece is entirely made out of sugar! This has never been done before in the watch industry and it took us a few years to develop the right treatment to actually make this possible. Each sugar crystal is placed one by one, by hand by one of our Artisans in Switzerland.

How would you distinguish Bovet from other high-end watch brands?

I think I would make this interview an incredibly long one if I had to list all the things that make us unique,” – giggles Audrey, – “but if I had to name a few, those would be: 

  • A 200 Years Young Horlogerie House
  • True Facilities – Namely a Manufacture and a Castle with over 50 Watchmakers and Artisans
  • Independent Family House
  • Very limited, hand-crafted timepieces
  • 20 Patents – Including our unmatched Amadeo System and our never-done-before Sugar Dial.

The House of Bovet introduced a groundbreaking watch, called Miss Audrey Sweet Art in 2020, covering its dial with pure sugar. The invention and beautiful aesthetic immediately won the watchmaking Oscars for Bovet.

Miss Audrey Sweet Art / Photo: Bovet 1822
Miss Audrey Sweet Art / Photo: Bovet 1822

We asked Pascal Raffy if his daughter, Audrey influenced these creations?

I take my inspiration from many things, including the natural surroundings of the Bovet castle in Switzerland, but one of my prime sources of creativity is my family. Audrey is the inspiration for the Miss Audrey line of beautiful timepieces which use our patented Amadeo system. The Miss Audrey is the epitome of grace, beauty, versatility, and elegance, all qualities possessed by my Audrey.

Born in the mind and heart of Pascal Raffy, the Miss Audrey Sweet Art takes this sweet material and transforms it – all to capture the sweetness of love and the purity of a child’s carefree desire for confections.

The dial of a timepiece is its face, its window to the world if you will. Whether you are attracted and intrigued or not is often linked to your impression of the dial first, followed by other details. 

Over the course of watchmaking history, watch dials have been made of several different materials, all designed to stand out from the crowd. Precious metals, enamel, miniature painting, guilloche, engraving, mother-of-pearl, aventurine, skeleton – you name it and Bovet 1822, with almost 200 years of history, has probably used it for its dials. 

The new Miss Audrey Sweet Art, however, uses a completely new material and a new process to create a dial that has never been seen before in watchmaking.

Representing sweetness and purity, the sugar crystals covering the dial of the Miss Audrey Sweet Art represents a breakthrough in engineering innovation, materials, and miniature painting – all hallmarks of the House of Bovet. 

The process of producing this dial is extraordinarily complex. First, the pure sugar crystals are prepared so their structure will not change when exposed to light or heat (no the sugar crystals will not melt). Then the sweet crystals are chosen for size, then combined with special paints and hand-applied to the dial by one of Bovet’s miniature painting artisans. This demanding process, protected by a patent, leaves no room for error. One misstep and the entire process has to start again. 

Thanks to its artisanal and hand-made nature, each and every dial is in effect a unique piece. A variety of colours are available, including solid hues as well as gradients. The result is an intriguing mix of texture and sparkle, unlike any other dial ever produced in the watchmaking industry. 

Pascal Raffy, how did the idea come to create a watch with sugar in its dial?

Since my children have been young, I have always called them ‘Sweetie,’ or ‘Sweetheart.’ Also, when I was very young, my grandmother called me ‘my little sugar,’ so this had always been in the back of my mind. Then, one day I referred to my children as my sweethearts, and I started to think about sugar as a dial material,” – remembers Pascal Raffy. – “I talked with our artisans and after a long period of research, we found a way to keep the sugar from melting, freezing, or changing consistency, and patented the process. This is the first time sugar has been used in over 500 years of watchmaking history. The process of applying the real sugar crystals is very much like a miniature painting, with the individual crystals coloured and applied to the dial by hand, by a miniature painter. The response has been fantastic and we are constantly finding new designs, colours, and applications for this very artisanal technique.

Miss Audrey Sweet Art / Photo: Bovet 1822
Miss Audrey Sweet Art / Photo: Bovet 1822

The special hands of the dial of the Sweet Art are a whimsical, romantic touch. Uniquely shaped, they form a beautiful heart once every hour, as the minute hand catches up to the hour hand, reminding the wearers of the loved ones in their lives. 

Winner of the Ladies’ Watch category of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève 2020, the Miss Audrey model has captured the hearts of collectors all over the world. 

At Bovet 1822, the measurement of time is a form of poetry, and the Miss Audrey Sweet Art represents a romantic look at fine watchmaking.

Audrey Raffy - Bovet 1822
Audrey Raffy / Photo: Bovet 1822

What is your task as the general counsel of Bovet?

As general counsel, I streamline the treatment of most of our legal matters that arise out of our daily operations. Luckily enough, because of our line of work, we don’t come across any significant legal issues. On the other hand, things such as negotiations, drafting and reviewing contracts, conducting due diligence, and more are routine. My primary goal is to make sure we are taking care of these as efficiently and quickly as possible without the necessity of having to outsource these services to an outside law firm. This allows us to spend less time on more basic tasks and focus on what is truly important – servicing our collectors,” – says Audrey.

What has been the biggest challenge with your new position?

After I graduated from law school in May 2020, I immediately expressed to my father my desire to work by his side. Of course, at that time, we were already in the amid a global pandemic, and so while the Castle – our HQ – was in Switzerland, I couldn’t travel there from the USA. This fact made it so that I didn’t receive the one-on-one training from the Team at the Castle and the Manufacture that I should have received, or the day-to-day exposure of my father’s management.  This was all the more significant because apart from the fact that we are a 200-year-old house, we are also one of the only independent watch brands with true facilities, manufacturing almost all of our components in-house, and decorating all of our timepieces at the installations at the Château by our Artisans. Thus, the amount of history, information, and content that I was expected to master were huge!

Audrey knew that she needed to learn and develop her knowledge on the way. Luckily she had the endless support of her father, as well as the backing of the Bovet team to fast-track the secrets of the Haute Horlogerie.

Most people think that because I am my father’s daughter, I must automatically already know so much about watches and the industry, but what they fail to acknowledge is that I spent the last seven years of my life studying in the USA while my father was working in Switzerland. I didn’t have the opportunity to be by his side and learn. So, after spending four years studying towards my Bachelor in Business Administration and three more to obtain my Juris Doctorate Diploma, I hadn’t really been exposed to Bovet or the watch industry at all before I started working. In sum, I had no choice but to educate myself as best I could, reading articles online, learning our Masterlines, and having Zooms with some of our watchmakers to try to impregnate myself with everything that makes us a unique watchmaking house, and trust me, there’s a lot!

Do you think Bovet is more inclined toward the feminine or the masculine?

If you had asked me this question a few years ago, I might certainly have answered without a doubt that Bovet is more inclined towards masculine timepieces. Because of the way we have evolved since my father acquired the brand and because the inspiration behind the designs primarily comes from my father, you could have indeed said that since we are more focused on more complicated, larger timepieces, it is thereby automatically masculine. However, I strongly believe this has changed, and here is why. 

I think we are moving towards an ever more inclusive society, one where preconceived notions of what is feminine and/or masculine are starting to fade. It is not because a timepiece is large and complicated that it is automatically masculine anymore, and I must say I am very happy about that since these are my favourite timepieces to not only wear but also to admire.

Which watch would you recommend for a first-time Bovet client?

It truly depends on the personality and sense of style of the collector. I think we have something for everyone. From our 19Thirties in stainless steel with Fleurisanne engravings for the more classic collector to our 19Thirties in Black DLC coating and bright Super-LumiNova dials for our more modern and/or sportier collector. All the way to our Amadeo completely hand-engraved tourbillon pièce unique for the collector who wants to make a true statement of Art to our Récital 26 Chapter Two for the collector who wants to make a statement of what mechanical exception truly means. It all depends on what timepiece ultimately speaks to the collector.

Audrey Raffy - Bovet 1822
Audrey Raffy / Photo: Bovet 1822

Do you think it is important for Bovet to attract a younger generation?

Attracting a younger generation is definitely something we have had on our minds but I think the bright colour journey truly began last year with our Récital 26 Chapter Two Sunshine. This yellow dial limited edition of 7 timepieces worldwide, which movement won the 2018 GPHG Mechanical Exception Award, was thought of by my father a few weeks after the pandemic hit and the world started shutting down. My father wanted something that would exude positivity, light, hope, and the colour yellow had all those meanings. 

Funny thing is, when my father first went to our watchmakers and asked them to make a bright yellow dial, they told him it would look very ugly but the result could not have been farther from it! After that, several other bright colours have followed such as the turquoise, red, purple, orange, and more.

How about affordable watch pieces?

Offering affordable timepieces has always been something we have wanted to do. This is because we know many Bovet lovers truly appreciate our watchmaking and would proudly own one of our timepieces, but for whom the price tag can be problematic. 

The Récital 29 is definitely an example of our efforts to offer more affordable options. Our beautiful 19Thirties are another. A point I would love to make however, is that because we make everything in-house, meaning our watchmakers with their hands, create every single component that goes into the timepiece respecting traditional processes, and later assemble all these pieces into the final timepiece (which can often rise to over 400 components like in our Récital 26 Chapter Two), the amount of work that goes into every timepiece is monumental. This means that it is much more difficult for us to have more entry-level timepieces.”

What are your favourite women’s and men’s watch pieces from the Bovet collections?

Something my father always says and I have to admit, I have come to realise that picking a favourite timepiece is like picking a favourite child. I don’t have children yet but I can only imagine that it is impossible. You love them all the same! I feel the same way about our timepieces.”

You travel a lot. What is your favourite place to go to?

Home!!!” – replies Audrey with enthusiasm. -“Do not get me wrong, I love traveling and I’m very grateful that part of my job description requires it. But there is nothing that beats the warmth and love of your family and home. It’s funny that I find myself now saying this because my father has had the same answer ever since I can remember and now, I find myself understanding exactly what he meant.

Can you balance your private life with your travels and professional commitments?

You know, I think that when you truly love what you do the line between the personal and professional fades. In my case, Bovet is our family legacy so by definition it is both personal and professional. Moreover, as a young professional, I am hungry for work, so although I do love my private time with my family, my focus is absolutely on Bovet.

What was the most important advice you ever received from your father?

I wouldn’t say this was advice directly given to me by my father so to say, but rather a character trait or a behaviour that I have observed on him since I was little, namely, listening rather than speaking and thinking on something multiple times before making a decision.

What is the part that you most enjoy in your work?

Watching people’s reaction when they discover a Bovet timepiece for the first time. Before I started working, I hadn’t really been exposed to the end collector and I hadn’t ever been put in the position where I was presenting a collection to a watch lover. I’m not going to lie, at the beginning, I had my doubts about my capabilities, especially given the fact that I hadn’t had what to me would have been the proper training. However, I found out incredibly fast that our timepieces are so exceptional that most of the time I don’t even have to say a thing, I just watch them enjoy the journey and fall in love with Bovet.