In 1984 the “Académie horlogère des créateurs indépendants” was established in Geneva by Vincent Calabrese and Svend Andersen. It is an international association of the elite of independent operating watchmakers. The founding members of the AHCI wanted to provide proof in 1985 that the small-scale manufacturing of watches also occupies a significant place in addition to the industrial.
The following year, Andersen and Calabrese placed an advertisement in industry publications asking other independent watchmakers to join their new Academy. Early to sign on were Bernhard Lederer, Josef Snétivy, and George Daniels, with Peter Wibmer, Paul Gerber, François-Paul Journe, Jean Kazès, and Matthias Naeschke all joining before 1990. In the following decade, notable watchmakers like Christiaan van der Klaauw, Kiu Tai Yu, Antoine Preziuso, Philippe Dufour, and Franck Muller joined. Notable members in the 2000s included Vianney Halter, Peter Speake-Marin, and Kari Voutilainen, and Muller was abruptly removed in 2006. In the next decade, Konstantin Chaykin and Ludovic Ballouard joined, along with a number of lesser-known watchmakers.
A process was established in the 1990s for watchmakers to become a candidate before being accepted. Some watchmakers never progressed beyond candidate status, notably Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey as well as the only female candidate, Eva Leube. No American watchmaker has ever been accepted as a member, though a number of Asian watchmakers have joined, including Kiu Tai Yu, Hajime Asaoka, and Lin Yong-Hua. Unusually, Urwerk was able to join as a company rather than an individual, initially with Thomas Baumgartner as the contact, though this membership was switched to Felix Baumgartner in 2004 when he left the company. No other watchmaker has received this treatment before or since. The AHCI had “honorific” and “passive” members for a while, but these categories no longer exist as of 2020.
Since its inception, the Academy was involved decisively in the comeback of the mechanical watch that - after the “quartz crisis” had passed - was again recognized as the product of higher quality. The ingenuity of the AHCI members, rarely seen by the public, helped many a watch model from a reputable manufacturer to become a success. The members of the Academy show that the highest craftsmanship is not inferior to traditional forms of design.
As of 2020, the following are members of the AHCI.
As of 2020, the following candidates are working towards membership.
The AHCI officially recognizes the following as former members.
In addition to the official list of former members, the following have been members of the AHCI.
The following candidates never achieved membership.