Anyone who has met Laurent Ferrier will probably agee that his watches are created in his image: harmonious, open-faced, and smoothly rounded on the outside, with vibrant energy and movement within.
In Paris earlier this year for a dinner with collectors organized by French retailer and watch restorer Antoine de Macedo, Laurent Ferrier seems to have been born to create and develop his own watchmaking brand. Son and grandson of watchmakers and deeply attached to the excellence of traditional watchmaking crafts, with as much attention given to horological design as technical performance and innovation, it is, nevertheless “the aesthetics of a timepiece, more than 50%” he says, that makes him tick.
For those not familiar with Laurent Ferrier’s background, after a training course at the Geneva Watchmaking School he began his watchmaking career at Patek Philippe, starting in the movement prototype workshop. Thirty-seven years later, in charge of creative development for the prestigious brand, “and three years before I was to retire”, he adds “I decided to found my own brand dedicated to fine watchmaking”.
His parallel career as an amateur racing driver, which led him to a third place overall ranking at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 1979, also indirectly led him to the setting up of his company. “I had a friend – a former motor-racing partner” he confides, “who proposed to finance me for as long as it would take to create the watch of my dreams. I wanted something simple, precise and pure, something with uncluttered beauty, in both design and technical characteristics”.
The first model was officially presented at Baselworld in 2010. The timepiece – the “Galet Classic Tourbillon Double Hairspring” immediately captured world attention with its smooth, rounded, “pebble-like” (galet in French) appearance and touch. Equipped for the first time in watchmaking history with a tourbillon complemented by two balance springs mounted ‘head-to-tail’ to keep the centre of the balance aligned with its axis for high precision and improved regularity, this first watch, designed and constructed by Laurent Ferrier, was acclaimed as much for its technical innovation as its shape and clean easy-to-read dial. It went on to win the Men’s Watch Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève later that year.
Five years later, Laurent Ferrier unveiled the “Galet Square” that featured the same appealing tactile qualities in a new square “cushion-like” shape, equipped with a new movement — a Micro-Rotor with a natural escapement that makes two direct impulses on the balance – “much like pushing a swing back and forth from both sides for a maximum of transmissible energy” says Ferrier, winning the Horological Revelation Prize at the GPHG 2015.
Since then, with the additions of a sector dial and dual-time display, that you can see here, the collection has developed into four movements driving five watch lines. Impeccably hand-finished, approximately 130 timepieces are developed, assembled and adjusted each year at the Laurent Ferrier Manufacture in Geneva, and while the company has grown to 15 people including 4 watchmakers “plus my son Christian in the technical bureau”, Ferrier insists that “we are taking the time it takes to develop”.
Things may go faster however, now that the brand exhibits at the SIHH. “Last January was our first time at the SIHH, and presenting our new timepieces there enabled us to open a point of sale in New York and meet people from all over the world. And from a financial viewpoint, it is easier to estimate early in the year what our production level will be.” If for many watch brands business was challenging in 2016, Laurent Ferrier enjoyed higher sales this year than the two previous years.
Monsieur Ferrier’s passion for the creative process of watchmaking is ever ongoing. When we met, he told me of his objective to create a new movement upon which “we can build a perpetual calendar, an annual calendar, a chronograph…”. The brand is currently finalizing two novelties for SIHH 2017, with a new caliber foreseen for “sometime during the new year”. Personally, I can’t wait to see them!
More information on www.laurentferrier.com