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Bovet is a historic Swiss watch manufacturer established in Fleurier and Canton, China in 1822, failing by 1950, and resurrected as an independent in 1997.
Jean-Frédéric Bovet was a Fleurier watchmaker in the late 18th century. His son, Edouard Bovet, completed a watchmaking apprenticeship there and moved to London soon after. In 1818, Edouard was dispatched to Canton, China to repair watches there. Bovet started his namesake business in 1822 with his father and two brothers, forming a triangle between London, Canton, and Fleurier.
Bovet produced ordinary watches with luxurious finishes, including pearl and enamel artwork, display case backs, and jewels. These became famous in China, taking the name of the company to describe the “Bovets”. It was a custom in China to give valuable gifts in pairs, so two identical watches were often produced and sold as a set.
This thriving trade established Bovet and Fleurier as a dominant manufacture, but when he returned to Fleurier in 1830, he became part of a separatist movement against the Prussian rulers of the area. He fled to Besançon the next year and never occupied the mansion built for him in Fleurier, which today serves as a community center.
The company was organized as Bovet Frères et Cie in 1840 with a value of over CHF 1 million. Bovet flourished as Neuchâtel became independent, and the Chinese watch trade continued. Edouard Bovet died in 1848, and his heirs lost interest in watchmaking. The company was sold to the Leuba brothers in Paris in 1901, briefly returned to the Bovet family in the 1930's, and ceased operations in 1950. Bovet's Biel movement operations were absorbed by Ebauches SA in 1928, and the Bovet watchmaking facilities and brand went to Favre-Leuba in 1948. Manufacturing of Bovet-branded watches ceased by 1950, but the trademark continued, sold again in 1966.
Bovet 1822 (1997-present)
The Bovet brand was returned to Fleurier in 1989 amid the watchmaking renaissance of that time, being purchased by Michel Parmigiani. But Parmigiani was unable to devote resources to its re-launch so he passed the brand to Roger Guye and Thierry Oulevay. They designed a marriage watch, with the crown at 12 00 under a stirrup-shaped bow, and finally re-launched the brand in 1997.
Bovet was acquired in 2001 by Pascal Raffy, who focused on unique pieces and retained the unusual 12 00 crown layout. Raffy expanded the company, acquiring a minority of Aubert Complications in 2004 and ownership of STT of Tramelan in 2006. Founded as Progress Watch in 1999, STT became Dimier 1738 under Raffy. These purchases gave the Bovet brand a strong in-house manufacturing base in Fleurier and beyond. He also purchased the historic chateau home of the Bovet family in 2007, returning the Bovet name to the village of Môtiers. Finally, Raffy sold a minority stake in the company to DKSH, their distributor in Asia, in 2012.
Beginning in 2006, Bovet has launched a new special edition in its Dimier collection each year.
In 2013, the brand was renamed from Bovet Fleurier to Bovet 1822 under Raffy to commemorate its original founding. The company produces complicated watches under the Fleurier collection and sportier models with the Sportster name. Raffy has committed to producing under 2,000 watches per year and to dedicate 20% of production to unique models.
Bovet 1822 won the “Aiguille d'Or” Grand Prix at the Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève for the Récital 22 Grand Récital in November, 2018.
- Great Expectations, QP Magazine, Vol. 42