Monday, May 11, 2020

Go and buy a Dufour!

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If you haven't heard of Philippe Dufour then you are not really into horology. A Swiss master watchmaker since 1967, who started his own brand in the 1978, is regarded as one of the best ‘finishers’ in Switzerland- and indeed the world. A finisher is a craftsman who shapes and polishes material to perfection using simple hand tools - really nothing more than files and diamond powder with the help of a wooden polishing stick. But Dufour also makes almost all of his watch components in his farmhouse atelier by hand.

I have been following his work for a number of years and remember seeing Simplicity in watch dealer’s displays in Japan. Yet Dufour is the kind of master that both attracts me and repels me at the same time. There are some aspects of Dufour that I simply do not understand.

Here are the things that I admire: He is absolutely spot-on when he talks about the restoration work of vintage pocket watches as an excitingly unavoidable step of personal development. Of course, attention to detail and countless hours behind the workbench are another mark of a true craftsman. The courage it took to take his destiny into his own hands, and tell the big Swiss brands “screw you” is simply inspirational and yes, he is not afraid of saying that ultra complex watches are not for idiots.

However, there are other facets of Dufour that lose me: his failure to retain his most valuable employee- his daughter, a master watchmaker herself who now works for Patek Philippe. The omission to recognise that watchmaking is no longer exclusively a Swiss thing and that there are brilliant independent watchmakers outside of Switzerland. He is rather surprised that nowadays AHCI members are mostly non-Swiss yet it was the brilliance of the Dutch, English, and French who centuries before the Swiss set the bar of haute horology. This, combined with the enthusiasm of Americans allowed Switzerland to build on that knowledge and turn watchmaking into a global industry. This is pretty much what Japan is doing today.

However, what really gets my blood boiling is when he brags about his flirting with Rolex. How he went in to the Rolex shop, had his name put down on a waiting list on a GMT Master but only waited 2 months. What about being put on a waiting list for a mass produced watch brings celebratory excitement? That’s like Eric Clapton secretly watching Nicki Minaj videos then publicly bragging about her bum! A complete disconnection. "My advice to watch collectors- Go and buy Rolex, you will not lose money on it!” says Dufour. Seriously? My advice: "Go and buy Dufour".

I hope I haven’t spoiled it too much for you, but this interview is an absolute must.

Interview with Philippe Dufour:

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