Whilst we are all aware that Switzerland is the heart of the world’s watchmaking scene, there have been many other companies that are putting the name of their respective countries on the map. If we think of Japan, Seiko and Grand Seiko springs to mind. If we shine the spotlight on Germany, A Lange & Sohne will be what most people jump to. But what about France? Outside of household names such as Cartier and Breguet, there are not as many brands stemming from over the Channel as the countries I have just mentioned. However, I think that given a few more years, this could be a very different story.
And the reason for me saying this is because of the rise to fame of a young Frenchman by the name of Théo Auffret. As a young boy, he was given an introduction to watchmaking through a watch shop near his native town of Poissy. Eventually, Théo decided to favour a career in watchmaking as opposed to a more traditional engineering school, and fair play to him! Théo has not come out of the woodwork as recently as it may seem, as he was actually one of three winners of the Young Talent Competition, sponsored by FHH and none other than F.P.Journe. The watch that won him the award; and is now the basis for his first run of serially produced watches, was an unfinished version of his Tourbillon à Paris. The watch features a regulator dial, a hand-made tourbillion, and is cased in sterling silver. This is proper independent watchmaking at its finest, and in my humble opinion, is a very worthy winner. Whilst these watches could be compared to some early Breguet models, Théo has definitely developed his own design language, and I for one am very impressed!
In order to make this project commercially viable, Théo decided to launch a Subscription Series. This was effectively a run of more refined Tourbillon à Paris models that are made to order and can be lightly customised to the owners requirements. There is an option for different case metals, dial metals, finishes, and a whole host of other customisations. The standard case metals; just to give you an example, are Platinum, Gold, Silver, Titanium, and Steel. So this is a serious venture! The watch is also offered on a plethora of bespoke straps and a custom box made out of the customer’s choice of wood. This really does allow for a completely individual overall package, and considering this is Théo’s first venture into watchmaking, is no mean feat. Furthermore, everything is hand finished by Théo himself!
Crucially for me, the watch sits at a superb 38.5mm size, which is frankly a bit of an icing on the cake scenario. This size was chosen as the watch is intended to be worn as a daily wearer, something which people may be surprised at given the highly bespoke and small-batch nature of the watch. But if you are spending some serious money on a splendid piece of watchmaking such as this, why would you not wear it on the daily?
Unfortunately, as I have mentioned above, this is a small-scale production run. This means that there is already a six-month waitlist (at the time of publishing) which I fear is only going to get longer. The other slight kicker is the price, which I am sure will come as no surprise, this thing is not cheap. However, given the handmade nature of the watch and the variety of customisable elements, I do not think that £97,327 is too bad.
I am very excited to see what comes next from Théo, as he has said he is already working on the prototypes for his next model. The level of craftsmanship and original design is superb, and this watch will be in my dreams for some weeks to come…