The Master of Neo-Classical Watchmaking — Laurent Ferrier

LAURENT FERRIER would become our bridge between the past and the present

When discussing LAURENT FERRIER, I am brought to mind of Marcel Proust for a vividly evocative reason. According to the French novelist’s statement, “Style… is a revelation of a private universe which each one of us sees but which is not seen by others.” Deep inside Laurent Ferrier’s imagination, inchoate but present when he made his first pocket watch in 1968 and enriching itself to full maturity over his 37 years in a famous watchmaking maison, was a singular voice of immeasurable horological grace. When he did unveil this vision to the world with the launch of his eponymous brand in 2009, the watch that he created, the Classic Tourbillon Double Spiral, meaning double balance spring, triggered an incredible flood of what Proust would call “involuntary memories.” Ferrier reconnected us all with the love for classical watchmaking, a remembrance of things past, that we had almost forgotten. But now, thanks to him, it came flooding back to us more powerfully than ever. Laurent Ferrier would become our bridge between the past and the present. His watches are the living, beating repository of horology’s greatest collective memories. So artfully did he wield nuanced details inspired by 19th and mid-20th century Swiss watchmaking that his vision felt like it had already existed for a century or more, already permanently inscribed into the lexicon of horology’s great canon.

Even more importantly, at a time when watchmaking was becoming bombastic and theatrical, he reintroduced the world to the type of watchmaking that was serene. Says Ferrier, “In art, a baroque period is always followed by an era of renewed classicism. That is the type of watchmaking I wanted to reintroduce to the world. Classic watchmaking as I loved it.” Which is to say watchmaking that is devoid of hyperbole. An ethos of smooth curvilinear forms inspired by the touch of the divine in nature. Watchmaking that champions restrained beauty belied by technical prowess that instantly made Laurent Ferrier one of the most compelling high watchmaking maisons around. In his humility, Ferrier demurs, “We are hardly a Maison. We are just a small enterprise that makes just around 150 watches a year.” Yet the emotional impact of LAURENT FERRIER far exceeds the quantities of watches he creates.

I have witnessed grown men, sagacious and learned, lost in rapture in the microcosmic depths of the Tourbillon Double Spiral. Its ethereal movement architecture and its visual symphony of hand-finished details triggering memories of past horological loves like a poem by Pablo Neruda. I have seen jaded weary collectors smile in childlike delight at the delicate hue of Ferrier’s chemin de fer on his Grand feu enamel dials or revel in the dynamic tension presented by the smooth pebble-like form of his École case contrasted by its virile Officer’s lugs. I, myself have been immutably seduced by the Constantin Brâncus’i-like linear attenuation of his Assegai hands. Each LAURENT FERRIER watch is part of a multi-level codex. As you examine it, you unearth layer after layer of detail that is the product of the watchmaker’s internal reflection and quiet consideration. All of which combine to create his horological intellect, many elements of which were taught to him years before he dreamed of creating his own brand.

Every element has been painstakingly considered over and over until we thought it was perfect.


Ferrier explains, “I grew up around watchmaking so there was always a sense of predestination that I would work in watches. I imagine in the same way that it was for my son, Christian. My father was a specialist in grand complications and I was infected by his passion in particular early on. He would tell me stories of how timekeeping was interlinked with the story of human history. That the marine chronometer was the instrument which allowed man to safely navigate the seas.” But at an early age, Ferrier was also swept up by a passion for auto racing. Which he feels added to his interest in watchmaking in a unique way. He explains, “I started in local races but soon gravitated to endurance racing. I loved the idea of trying to achieve perfection and consistency with each lap. I suppose this is also one of the things that drew me to horology; the idea of trying to express something perfectly. Racing taught me a lot about details. If your car is not prepared correctly, if you are not mentally focused, if you do not enter each turn at the right speed or the correct angle, it effects the outcome.”

For Ferrier, the mental discipline, the rigor of character, the focus necessary to be a great driver was similar to his approach to watchmaking. He says, “Similarly in watches, every single element makes a critical difference in the outcome. This is something that I have tried to apply to LAURENT FERRIER watches. Ours is a design language that is restrained, some might even say minimalist, but if you look at the details, the color density of the font for each marker, the shape of the crown, the compound curve of the sapphire crystal, every element has been painstakingly considered over and over until we thought it was perfect.” In addition, Ferrier would quickly understand that both racing and watchmaking involved every one of the human senses — a revelation that would serve him well in life. He explains, “When I was young, my father would encourage me to touch and feel the watches he worked on to start to develop a sensitivity to their tactility. It is similar to driving; you see with your eyes but you control the car through feel that comes from the wheel to your fingertips, and the interaction of the car with your body through the seat.”

As Ferrier explains, the sense of his family’s horological predestination led him to watchmaking school where he excelled graduating at the top of his class. But even at an early age, Ferrier had a very distinct perception of what style of watchmaking he loved. He states, “When I was 16 years old, I

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