Lausanne, from the Dust up at the Foundation of Haute Horologie
by Terry Betteridge on November 18th, 2015
This week, I’ve had the privilege of attending the 7th Forum de la Haute Horlogerie held in Lausanne, as an expert for the Americas to the Cultural Council. One of the main topics of discussion: What it means to be High (“Haute”)?
In the millenarian arts, it’s an atelier painstakingly hand-embroidering, stitching and crafting one of a handful of dresses for only the greatest of fashion’s well-heeled followers. Is a Richard Mille, made of space age stuff, its hundred case parts quickly carved by CNC and innovative programming, high? All the complications achieved, but the hand of a craftsman pretty much ignored?
So then, how high? As a myopic, high is close. Look at a Patek Phillipe watch from 1900 where the hands alone, have more real handwork than a million dollars of Richard Milles; a dial of fired, hand painted numerals whose flare was the signature of an individual immediately known for his seraph like no other; as clear a statement of his achievement as it was of his own style. Does the watch with simply stamped or cut hands even belong in the same conversation? I believe it doesn’t.
The difference in this step higher, is finish and finish is just that; taking something to its end. To deliver rough machinery is fine for John Deere and Caterpillar, but not for Haute Horologie. It is in fact, nothing but a profit with the loss of honesty. When timekeeping can be a cellphone and complication is conquered with a key stroke, then doesn’t “finish” and art, become the Height that is excellence?
In my own shops, the finish is the “table stakes”, the non-negotiable. Design and complication are the customers choices. Finish, the beauty of the hand that crafts, will always be the Haute in what we make.
Never forget, that for watchmaker or jeweler, real art is where craft and love join.