Edmond Capt is a watchmaker famous for designing the Valjoux 7750 and many other movements, notably at Frédéric Piguet. In all, Capt is said to have created 32 different watch movements, more than any other watchmaker.
Edmond Capt was born in 1946 in Le Brassus, a small village in the Vallée de Joux, home of complicated Swiss watchmaking. He attended watchmaker's school in nearby Le Sentier in 1962 and engineering school in Geneva.
Upon completing his education in 1969, Capt went to work at Rolex in Geneva for a hear before moving to Valjoux in Les Bioux, close to his birth place. This company was famous for making complicated watch movements, especially chronographs, and Capt was assigned to work on their next-generation mass-market automatic chronograph movement. Capt was a key member of the team that created a new derivative of the low-cost Venus 188 movement that used cams rather than a traditional column wheel to actuate the chronograph timers. The Valjoux 7750 family was related to the Valjoux 7730 but included automatic winding and ran at a modern frequency of 28,800 A/h. This was Capt's focus from 1971 through 1974, and the project relied on computer assisted design (CAD), the first movement designed in this way.
Released on July 1, 1974, the Valjoux 7750 had a short life in the 1970s before being overshadowed by quartz technology. Production ended the following year, but so many were built in that short time that supplies lasted into the 1980s. Because the designs and tooling was preserved, the company would re-start production in 1985 under new owner ETA and Capt's design would live on as one of the most successful watch movement designs of all time. It remains in production today, and the assortment and wheel train are the basis of derivative high-end movements from many brands.
Capt left Valjoux in 1978 to become Technical Director at Frédéric Piguet, turning down a similar offer to lead Peseux. Located in nearby Le Brassus, this firm specialized in high-end movements, supplying Cartier, Ebel, and (after they purchased the brand in 1981), Blancpain. Capt's initial task was to initiate production of high-end quartz movements for these customers. He created the 6.75 ligne Cal. FP 620 for Cartier and Ebel, 8.25 ligne Cal. FP 820 for Audemars Piguet, and 8.25 Cal. FP 8310, which included a date and sweep seconds hand. He also created the slim Cal. FP 18 for Audemars Piguet, a mechanical movement. Later, Capt was key in creating the first Swiss quartz chronograph, the so-called Meca-Quartz movement.
Once Blancpain was purchased by company owner Jacques Piguet and Jean-Claude Biver, Capt was asked to develop “six masterpieces” of mechanical watchmaking. Capt began by re-creating the historic moon phase Cal. FP 65 and smaller FP 63 that would become the signature of Blancpain. He also created thin and compact movements, Calibres FP 810 (hand-winding) and FP 951 (automatic with date) for time-only watches in 1985. Next, Capt's team developed the slim integrated automatic chronograph movement, Cal. FP 1185, which remains one of the most important such movements today and is used by many brands, including Blancpain.
Capt's team next focused on novel complications to set Blancpain apart. Using a concept from Vincent Calabrese, the team created a tourbillon movement, first for Gérald Genta but later an 8-day version for Blancpain. The hand-winding Cal. FP 23 tourbillon was the smallest ever created.
When SMH acquired Frédéric Piguet and Blancpain in 1992, Capt left the company to become Technical Director of Nouvelle Lémania. Located nearby in L'Orient, Lémania was a historic high-end movement maker spun off by SSIH in 1981, at the same time Blancpain was sold. It had been purchased by Investcorp, who also bought Breguet, and was paired with that famous brand much the same as Frédéric Piguet and Blancpain.
His stint at Nouvelle Lémania lasted just two years before he was lured back to Frédéric Piguet to become General Director of his former employer. While there, Capt continued development of many of the movements he had pioneered in the 1980s. He combined the tourbillon and chronograph in Cal. FP 2383, which is also available with a flyback and rattrapante complication.
Many of Capt's Capt's later movements set records for compact dimensions. The 6.75 ligne Cal. FP 610 measures just 2.10 mm thick and powers the new generation of Blancpain Ladybird watches from the 1990s. A related automatic movement, Cal. FP 615 is just 3.70 mm thick. The 10.5 ligne minute repeater Cal. FP 33 is just 3.30 mm thick, or 4.85 mm for the automatic FP 35. For Lémania, Capt developed the 8.75 ligne Cal. 7875, and Breguet also got the world's smallest automatic chronograph, the 10.5 ligne Cal. 1050. He also created an oblong movement for Breguet, Cal. 7875, which includes moon phase and power reserve at the side.
In 1999, Swatch Group purchased Breguet and Nouvelle Lémania. Formerly known as SMH and holding company for Frédéric Piguet and Blancpain, Swatch Group would closely couple the paired companies, with Frédéric Piguet becoming Manufacture Blancpain and Nouvelle Lémania becoming Manufacture Breguet. Capt was appointed General Director of both Manufactures, overseeing high-end watchmaking for Blancpain and Breguet, and supporting the development of movements for sister company Jaquet Droz as well.