Founder of Bohen.
You were a designer for French watchmaking industry.
It was in the 90's. At that time, there were still a few big French manufacturers like "CGH Industries". But French industry thought the future of business and profit would be China and quartz movements . I was totally against this strategy and it cost me a lot.
You defended the quality.
I was young and very passionate. I even wanted to go back to manufacturing French automatic movements, so, France would be no longer depending on Switzerland. If we did that, Bohen watches would be made in France today.
Finally, it is Switzerland that you entrust your production.
They are simply the best. Our Swiss friends have the soul of quality and did not opt for short-term profit. When I tried to contact some French partners whom I had collaborated with, I discovered that all of them have bankrutped (China destroyed their businesses). Some of them strongly advised me a particular Swiss manufacturer, so my choice was not made at random.
I guess you're not going to tell me who you work with.
The watchmaking world has no vocal cords: everything takes place under a confidential agreement. I only can tell you that this manufacturer has a long history and all required knowledge. They are attentive and supportive to my project, although I am a new client. They are passionate. You know, a designer is nothing without a good watchmaker.
You told me that you learned technical issues of watchmaking by yourself.
I acquired all my technical knowledge during my travels in the "Doubs Valley". It was very difficult at first, because designing a watch goes with many technical constraints. Many watch designers come from specialized schools. Not me. I was weak on this point, I drew original things, but wrong things. I had to correct this lack of technical culture to earn a place in the seraglio.
Have you succeeded on it ?
Never. They didn't welcome me, I was just tolerated. People in watch business were very conservative at that time. I came from Paris and haute couture industry. It didn't please them. I was seen as a total stranger. And before all, the watches I designed were expensive to manufacturing, because they required a lot of work. I was seen as a Concept-Watch designer.
Now you are launching your own brand, are you going to rationalize your costs?
Definitelly not. I will stay on the same basis: quality, class, superb finish and racy style. I created Bohen to be a direct selling brand. Then, my watches can be expensive to manufacture, that's not a problem: our price will remain between four and six times cheaper compared to famous brands.
Is that Bohen's key?
Bohen is craftsmanship of excellence, not industry, not branding. The money our customers will invest in a Bohen will go straight into the quality of the watch, not in the label.
How was your passion born?
My passion could be summed up in a single watch: A modest Kelton from 1975, child sized, with manual winding.
What is special about this watch?
Everything: it's my first watch, and it was my grandmother who gifted it to me when I was eight years old.
Do you still own it?
I still have it and wear it sometimes. But it goes even further: It has never been maintained but still works after 45 years. And not least, it is punctual.
Enough to compete with Rolex, Omega and other Panerai!
Exactly. And to be honest, perhaps this watch was my reason for creating Bohen. This little Kelton was "the paradox" that I still had to resolve.
Can you tell us more about that?
Well ... to be honest, on one hand, I love this watch because it symbolizes a person I love deeply. But on the other hand - and I'm ashamed to say - I've never found this watch beautiful. It's a pity I have that feelling, really. I still remember when my grandmother took me to a tobacco shop and showed me several watches in a display. She chose the smallest one and said to me: look, that one is so pretty ! At that moment, my hopes got ruined.
And you didn't say anything?
On the contrary, I pretended to be so happy and I holded her in my arms ... I lied for her love.
So finally, this paradox is the origin of everything?
I am convinced that if I had liked the watch, I would have been satisfied. So I would not have experienced this frustration that made me interested in watches. I would not have become a collector, and I would not have tried to imagine what my Kelton should have looked like.
So when I decided to create Bohen, the first thing I did, was to take out my Kelton wristwatch and study it.
And transform it.
I designed it bigger, I reinterpreted it and endowed with everything that makes me dream. The Bohen Mille Mer is the solution of the paradox. Thanks to this story, I can say that everything is there, everything is included, everything responds to a magnificent and legitimate logic. The paradox disappears, the link is reconciled.
Are you a collector?
I used to be. I didn't have the money to own hundreds of timepieces, so I traded antique prestigious watches to Japan. It taught me to observe what details, what technique, what finishes characterise a luxury watch.
What can we wish for Bohen?
That in a universal way, passion, originality and hard work are rewarded.