Bovet's Pascal Raffy on making art before money
Many watchmakers decide to either stay very classical or embrace contemporary design. Bovet does both. Why is that?
I don't see those concepts – staying classical versus contemporary – as an either/or. At Bovet, we embrace both expressions: one is purely conservative and classical, while the other is modern. What ties them both together is the DNA of the watch, the structure, the architecture, the finishing. As long as you stay true to that, you'd be surprised at how free you can be when it comes to making watches. And this is very important.
I put on a timepiece every morning depending on my mood, and things like the weather or what I am wearing. I pick one or the other. Sometimes I change my watch every day, but other times I wear the same one for 15 days. In that way, having both these expressions in the same watch brand, it makes us even more relevant. But one thing stays the same, no matter what. At Bovet, our watches are art.
You've said previously that you want more people to be familiar with the brand. You're going to promote it more in the years ahead. By doing that, are you not afraid of watering down the exclusivity of Bovet?
I don't think there is anything wrong with more people becoming familiar with the brand. Just because more people can name a Bovet timepiece, it does not mean that we will produce more of them. I am very stubborn on this. We produce no more than 2,000 timepieces per year. Why? Because if we were to produce more, there would be no way to guarantee the same quality and uniqueness of each piece. That means we are protected. Greater awareness does not mean we have an obligation to increase quantities. Not at all.
You have been present in the UAE market for a lot longer than some of the more mainstream brands, and you often talk about your fondness of the Seddiqi family. Does this mean you'll be coming back to Dubai this year to participate in the Dubai Watch Week?
Absolutely. I have been invited, and I am honoured to have been invited by the Seddiqi family.
What is your impression of Dubai Watch Week, as both a brand and as yourself, someone who is passionate about timepieces?
You know, I hate people who show off. I hate followers. I hate people who don't have charisma. That's not to say I hate people, I just hate certain behaviours. To 'show off' is not something I am familiar with. With watchmaking, I think there is a tendency for some people to have events purely to show off. Dubai Watch Week is not one of those events.
When I visit Dubai Watch Week, what are the feelings I get? Respect, support, understanding, and a feeling that we are all sharing one message; that watchmaking is art. It's a huge challenge, you know. As the event is not about selling watches, it's about educating people on what watchmaking is.
Then you go there, and walk in and out of all these art galleries admiring the beautiful timepieces. And everyone is very inclusive, everyone welcomes you and there is so much respect for each other, for each other's tastes in watches. Dubai Watch Week is elegant, it celebrates the art of living.
Last year we saw Bovet timepieces feature Arabic script. Are we going to be seeing more of that over the next year?
Yes, because customisation is in the very soul of the Bovet house. We love making specific timepieces for different cultures. But, the idea of putting Arabic on the dial did not come from Bovet. Oh no, it came from Mohammed Seddiqi. He loves watchmaking and knows watchmaking, and he said "you know what would work for the 19Thirty? Arabic". So we tried it and it was beautifully balanced. This is the essence of our house, interacting with your partner to create beautiful timepieces.
An awful lot goes in to the making of each watch. Is it a challenge to find people with enough skill to continue making them?
If you visit our manufacture, you will see this amazing mixture of generations. We have craftsmen in their fifties and sixties sitting next to people who are twenty. By doing this, we are preparing one generation to take over from another.
Many watch brands have decided to bring their prices down, to hit a new demographic of watch lover. Will we ever see Bovet doing something similar?
No, never. Because I cannot bring the prices down without compromising on the quality and uniqueness. If you were to look at any one of our timepieces, let's use the 19Thirty for example, under a magnifying glass, you would see not a single compromise. The movement has been finished to a very high level. If you open the case back, you'll find proper sapphire glass – not synthetic – but real sapphire. To bring the prices down we would have to compromise on something. We would have to. I would rather increase awareness like we talked about before, then sell my soul for a few extra dollars.
You can see the latest collection from Bovet at Dubai Watch Week. Under the Patronage of Shaikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice Chairman of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, Dubai Watch Week returns for a third consecutive year in November 2017. Organized by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons in partnership with the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), The five day cultural and educational event (16-20 November) will once again host key industry spokespeople and the leading names in the world of horology.