‘Naissance d’une Montre” (‘Birth of a Watch’) brings together craftsmen in an endeavour to preserve horological knowledge; the result is an alliance of talent and expertise characterised by cooperation and sharing.
After having unveiled the fusée-and-chain mechanism and the machine tools that will be used to produce ‘Naissance d’une Montre 3’ timepieces, the third act of the project highlights the depth and breadth of the watchmaking community – and the players striving to make this initiative a success.
As the saying goes, the journey is as important as the destination – and that is very much the spirit in which the ‘Naissance d’une Montre’ project has been carried out since its inception in 2009. The adage also frames the undertaking entrusted to the teams from Chopard and Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud headed up by Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Now underway, the third phase aims to secure the long-term future of traditional watchmaking knowhow.
The heritage aspirations of the ‘Naissance d’une Montre 3’ project are now becoming clear, as is the strong emphasis on collaboration. The challenge is to promote what used to be known as the ‘common weal’: reviving the collaborative network that formerly extended from Geneva to Jura via Neuchâtel. For three centuries, this arc served as the backbone of watchmaking expertise, embodied not only in specific crafts and workshops but also in tools and books located throughout combe and valley.
‘Naissance d’une Montre 3’ seeks to perpetuate this culture of sharing. Reaching beyond watchmaking museums and associations, the initiative aims to draw together the talents of today and yesteryear, collating notes and sketches and harnessing this collective wisdom for a common purpose: not just the resulting timepieces in and of themselves, but above all the preservation of every aspect of the knowhow that is bringing them into being.
The Time Æon Foundation was established for this purpose in 2005. Bolstered by the experience built up during the ‘Naissance d’une Montre 1’ and ‘Naissance d’une Montre 2’ projects, the Foundation is now making its network and knowledge available to ensure the successful completion of the third phase.
Another result of this collaborative spirit is the emergence of a fully-fledged watchmaking guild, founded on the principle of knowledge-sharing, in which all the stakeholders are pooling their expertise to create an exceptional timepiece which will bear the Chronométrie Ferdinand-Berthoud name.
Among those playing an active role in the project are Greubel Forsey, with the firm providing its in-house experts through the Time Æon foundation, and independent watchmaker Vianney Halter, offering his expertise in the traditional construction and finishing of the fusée and chain mechanism already revealed as being part of the ‘Naissance d’une Montre 3’ project. Another independent contributor is Sylvain Pinaud, providing invaluable advice on the use of the highly specialised lathes used to machine shafts and pins.
Institutional players who serve as the custodians of watchmaking’s archives have also supplied precious resources. The Geneva Watchmaking School has lent its support to the project, too, selecting and releasing a number of historical documents revealing details of the legendary ‘tricks of the trade’ used by leading local watchmakers in times gone by.
Handwritten notes, freehand sketches, and watchmaking treatises by Ferdinand Berthoud and Louis Moinet are also among the raw materials being studied by the watchmakers involved in ‘Naissance d’une Montre’. The International Museum of Horology at La Chaux-de-Fonds has opened up its inventory registers, providing valuable context that sheds further light on our understanding of a number of traditional machines, particularly those used to fashion the fusée. New tools based on the findings of this archive work are presently in the design phase.
“We’re working together, not just for the cause of a particular watch, but above all to promote the collaborative approach that underpins it”, explains Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. “We have a duty as the heirs to such a great legacy, and we’re delighted to see these watchmakers working with a common aim in mind: ensuring this legacy continues to be handed down and that the historical record is preserved”.
Together, Chopard’s technicians and expert craftsmen are currently working with the artisans at Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud, moving forward with the prototype design phase. The first watch in this limited edition of 11 pieces is expected to be completed in 2024. Collectors will be won over by its entirely new regulating organ, designed in the finest watchmaking tradition.
About “Naissance d’une Montre”
Begun in 2009, “Naissance d’une Montre” is a joint undertaking to reverse the loss of traditional watchmaking knowhow. The initiative brings together a select group of leading independent watchmakers and Fine Watchmaking firms within the Time Æon Foundation, established with the specific aim of ensuring this heritage is passed on through documentation, preservation, and training for the next generation.
One practical outworking of this mission is the production of hand-made, hand-decorated timepieces using historic, manually operated machines without the use of digital technology. Each piece is the fruit of the labours of multiple watchmaking experts – and the apprentices who will one day inherit the responsibility of sharing this knowhow.
Known for his particular commitment to preserving watchmaking heritage, President of Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud and Co-President of Chopard Karl-Friedrich Scheufele has been keen to support the Time Æon Foundation by being part of the “Naissance d’une Montre 3” project. Eleven Ferdinand Berthoud timepieces will be made as part of this initiative; the first watch will be sold by auction, with the proceeds going to the Foundation.