Afternoon with Messrs. Philippe Dufour and Olivier Muller....

Dec 14, 2013,00:06 AM

I had the pleasure to meet my old friend, Mr. Olivier Muller, the ex-CEO of Laurent Ferrier, who took me to his good friend and the one everyone knows here, Mr. Philippe Dufour.  By the way, Mr. Muller is to become the Managing Director of L. Leroy (Montres Leroy) starting January - huge congrats!

Since it was not meant to be an interview, I will just write down some of our conversation with photos from my memory (I have pretty good memory, so don't worry smile) - as far as I am permitted to write here smile.

0. The road to Valle de Joux from Geneva

Mr. Muller kindly drove me to the Vallee de Joux, for an hour and a half.

Cute train....

This is one of where Olivier will start working from January.  Movement company of the group.

Here we are!!

1. What Mr. Dufour is doing now?
He was servicing one Simplicity, and assembling the Grande Sonnerie.  Duality waiting list is soooo long, that he did not promise that they would be all delivered.  And the Grande Sonnerie - this is the seventh one.  Took order long time ago.  Have been working on it after he finished Simplicity for 9 months, but still need a few more month.

Anything going on?

Surely he was wearing his No. 000 (prototype) 34mm Simplicity, saying "this is the only watch I can afford among what I make", laughing....

He said that it was just prototype (No. 000) and is not the best finished - but I could be happy with this.... smile

 - I DID ask him whether he would make more Simplicity or Duality on special order basis.  The answer was, "NO" for Simplicity and "There are XX people are waiting before you for Duality which I still don't have time to execute...".  So, don't bother to ask him smile 
- Story about Duality.  He made nine of them.  Then someone put it up for auction so soon.  And it fetched more than twice the price he was paid.  So, he stopped making Duality.  He hated to see such a thing to happen so much, as a creator of the watch.  So, those who think you are on the list, you may not get Duality before this Christmas smile.
- But he also said that if he had two watchmakers working with him, he may be able to fulfill the order.  There have been several and two of them were Japanese.  One, now working in Tokyo as an official servicer of Simplicity.  Another, having worked with him for two years, left last year saying, "Thank you for giving me a chance.  But after these years, I still didn't catch it.....".  He was expecting so much from him (trained for two years is substantial investment) and of course he was disappointed......  There is no one here, with five watchmakers desks....  He is always looking for good watchmakers to help him - anyone?  Must be very tough, I can only imagine, though.

His favorite (other than his own), from his vault.

His collection....

2. What will be the next?
"It will be between Grand Sonnerie and Simpicity" - well, too huge difference, but you got the answer, hahaha.
"I will tell you later"
"When it's ready" - hahaha, now you got that answer, too smile, he added "probably in a few years....".  Let's wait and see!



Simplicity being serviced.

On the wall.....

His latest award.

3. Co-operation with Greubel Forsey
I saw a poster on the wall and asked what exactly his relationship with GF is.
He said that they cooperate in educating the young watchmakers about the traditional way of making watches, which is in fact the disappearing art....  He is not making watches with them.

4. Masahiro Kikuno

Mr. Dufour was one of the two AHCI members who recommended Kikuno to become the member.  I brought his new creation (reported here recently) to show him.  His first words were "he is improving, looks good.".  He then went on to say, "he has a very unique but traditional watchmaking style, with the flavor of Japanese tradition and history, then he does all this with his own hands, just like me".  He wants to see Kikuno at Basel every year.

5. Memory of Japan

After talking about Kikuno, he started talking about his memory of visiting Japan in early 2000s.  He visited the watchmaking school - Hiko Mizno (introduced here a few times before), and he gave lecture there as well as heard some other guest speakers, like Mr. Komaki (80 years old back then already) who was the master adjuster at Seiko when it was participating the Neuchatel Observatory Chronometer Competition.  Mr. Komaki was talking about how Seiko went up the ladder quickly and Neuchatel stopped the competition, with a bit of smile on his face. 

By the way, they re-started three years ago the observatory chronometer competition, and it is open to everybody EXCEPT for Japan and China, according to Mr. Dufour.  He was critical about that attitude and said that the competition without all over the world wouldn't mean anything.  (so, as a result, there are so few participants including major brands now).  Mr. Muller added that Japan is not good at marketing..... Swiss brands are good at it, good at story telling and branding.

Mr. Dufour continued that it was the shame that Credor is not available outside Japan.  Some of the Credor are better finished than Grand Seiko...... and beautifully designed and executed watches.  Are you reading this, Seiko people?

6. Workshop

All early to mid 20th century machines.  No CNC and such. 

He showed how he put "Cotes de Geneve" (with spinning very hard wood above).  And let me touch it afterward - my finger didn't feel a thing, meaning the pattern is so shallow and subtle that touching the surface won't let you realize they are there.  Surprised.....

So smooth surface and you wouldn't feel a thing when you touch it.

And now, press kit photos of brand XXX (a big brand in a big luxury group) - he hates the products like these are actually sold let alone being chosen as a press kit photo.  His words were "incredible incompetence".
Very, very bad example shown by Mr. Dufour.  Do you see the inconsistency (depth, width) and even non-aligned Cotes de Geneve on the separate bridges?  I have erased the brand name, but it is a big brand in the big luxury group.

Then he showed how he makes pattern on the barrel.

Just like that!

He then showed his own Simplicity macro shot, taken by Steve G - "now this has become our standard.  We have to do this all the time.  And by that, I have become the "black ship" for all those big boys because they just can't."  Steve G, good job!

Mr. Dufour also mentioned that he was actually glad that he became the "black ship" because consumers have been educated, thanks to internet forum like PuristSPro, and their expectation has been elevated and that PuristSPro discussion level is now so much higher than before.  It's all good for the watch industry.

7. His early products
First pocket watch he made in mid 60s - he is now 65 years old and have been watchmaking for 50 years, so, this pocket watch was made when he was around 20 years old or younger?  Wow.....

And his first Grande Sonnerie pocket watch version (mid 80s).


Audemars Piguet ordered five (5) of them and sold as AP pocket watch....  Super collectible, I am sure! 

Shows the difference from 19 ligne pocket watch to 14 ligne wrist watch - was not an easy task!

8. Message to PuristSPro readers?
Mr. Dufour: "I like PuristSpro as it is the biggest supporter for the independent watch brands like us.  PuristSPro is the best Ambassador for Independents.  Thank you so much for that!".

Mr. Muller: "I appreciate PuristSPro management and members as, without PuristSPro, Laurent Ferrier could never fly.  But you should be always aware that there may be less known Independents which are not getting enough attention they deserve.  It should be fun to dig out such Independent watchmakers."

9. On the way back to Geneve

Ex-CEO trying to buy Cheese Fondue from the vending vain....

  Could be the Holiday Greeting card.....

After all, on our way to the Fondue place... smile  Yummy!!

Thank you again, Mr. Dufour, Mr. Muller for a very memorable afternoon.  I would love to visit again.
And, Olivier, thank you for driving me to Mr. Dufour and good luck with your new position!

Thank you for reading.

This message has been edited by KIH on 2013-12-14 09:03:57

More posts: DufourGrand SeikoGreubel ForseyLaurent FerrierMasahiro Kikuno

  login to reply

Comments: view entire thread


Thanks a lot Ken for the report and...

 By: foversta : December 14th, 2013-00:09
for the news about Olivier Muller, glad to know that he found a new position. I'm sure that he will bring a lot to his new company. Honestly, I was not sure that you would have been able to reach Geneva because it was such a mess in German airports last F... 

Yeah, I heard that, but...

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-00:17
.. I left early Saturday morning! On Friday, we did those "Extra" activities :-) Thanks, Fx! Ken

What a treat!

 By: Ares501 - Mr Green : December 14th, 2013-01:00
Supreme post for this easy foggy Saturday morning Just lovely Thank you very much for all the insiders info ;) Best D

Thanks, my friend....

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-01:53
... it was really a treat for me, too! Cold, but well worth the detour.... Would love to go there again anytime! Hope you are having a great weekend, my friend! Ken

Fantastic journey

 By: Mark in Paris : December 14th, 2013-01:02
I took great pleasure in reading about your trip. Nearly everything I read about Ph.D teaches me something about horology. Thanks for the report. Cheers.

Yup, he is the man of his philosophy...

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-01:54
... and he is stick to it. Very traditional watchmaker, I reckon. Ken

"Cheese Fondue"

 By: small-luxury-world : December 14th, 2013-01:11
is what we had yesterday as well. Together with an interesting wine ... :-) But you my friend did a great trip to "watch (nut) heaven" and in good company. I was already wondering why you are travelling for so "long", but now I can see why. Just perfect! ...  

Sorry, my friend..

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-01:54
... that I couldn't make it to Berlin this year..... Next year, let's drink that Jura wine together! Ken

Always nice to see

 By: dedestexhes : December 14th, 2013-01:18
people stick to their principles. Thank you for this very nice report. somehow feels a bit as I've been ther now. Best regards, Dirk

Right... There is no "exception" for him...

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-01:55
.... unfortunately for many of us :-) Ken

As ever

 By: Dje : December 14th, 2013-01:19
Hi Ken, Thank you for sharing. I visited once, in 1997, and it seems that nothing has changed in nearly 17 years. I hope to see Philippe for decades with his same spirit. Best Dje

Yup... I hope to see...

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-01:56
.. those empty benches filled with energetic, skillful young watchmakers one day..... Ken

Wonderful post Ken

 By: samwan : December 14th, 2013-01:29
Great pictures and you write was as if I were almost there. Would love to own a Simplicity/Duality one day :) Am I being too greedy? Best Sam

Well, you must test your luck there.... :-)

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-01:57
Simplicity, Duality - they will not be produced any more, meaning you have to pray that someone sell one day.... Good luck! Ken

Fantastic report thanks [nt]

 By: guillaume140 : December 14th, 2013-01:43

My pleasure...

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-01:57
... to take this trip. Writing about is the least I could do... Ken

Absolutely great report!

 By: WatchCollectorCB : December 14th, 2013-02:27
Really great report and very well written. Thank you for sharing your journey with us! To be honest, I'm a bit jealous that you had the honour to meet Mr. Dufour in person ;) Kind regards. Christian

Thank you, Christian!

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-03:25
Yes, it is a great honor to spend time with him and he is very welcoming and accommodating.... Very nice gentleman..... (at least when he is not working :-)) Ken

Thank you Ken for this wonderful report!

 By: Ancienne Le Brassus : December 14th, 2013-04:38
it is really great to see Dufour's workshop yet again :) Never tire of it. And thanks for sharing what mr. Müller will be doing at L. Leroy (Curious to see how this reinvents itself). Glad you got to make this visit!!! And most of all, thanks for sharing ... 

I am looking forward to...

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-05:18
.. his "next"... but then again, aren't we all? :-) Ken

Wonderful as always Ken!

 By: takashi78 : December 14th, 2013-07:04
I really worry that Mr D's art, skill and know how cant find too many successor. But really looking forward to what he has for us next in the coming years.

I concur....

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-09:05
.... if I were a good enough watchmaker, I might try.... But it would be a tough road anyway.... His watches are so nice, like jewelry.... Ken

Believe me, he is used to it...

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-18:20
... being self-introduced by the total strangers at Basel... :-) And even at his atelier, there came a young, possibly watchmaker-to-be, who stopped by and said hello to whom he gave his business card. Very friendly gentleman. Ken

A delightful afternoon.

 By: patrick_y : December 14th, 2013-09:41
Thanks for sharing your heavenly afternoon with us KIH!

Thank you!

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-18:23
... but, this is the community of all members :-) So, if PPro wins, everybody wins! Ken

Thank you!

 By: Mostel : December 14th, 2013-16:00
It's always an education learning anything new from/ about Dufour. It is sad that he has no assistants! It reminds me that we all struggle in similar ways on the pedestrian level of just running a business with employees. That sort of pedestrian reality i... 

Thank you, Mostel...

 By: KIH : December 14th, 2013-19:06
.. he seems to have a clear focus and know what to to now and next. He doesn't think he is missing anything (except for a few watchmakers who work for him), and he is on track of what he think he should go achieve.... Am I too biased? Maybe. But I didn't ... 

Thanks Ken

 By: Quan : December 16th, 2013-01:11
very informative

Fabulous report, Ken!

 By: Gary G : December 16th, 2013-10:00
I am very envious that you have had this recent visit and very grateful that you have posted this thorough account of it! No one who has visited Mr. Dufour at his atelier can fail to be impressed and even inspired. Also great to see that Olivier is landin... 

I am glad to be of some contribution...

 By: KIH : December 16th, 2013-17:27
.. yes, it was such a heavenly place for watchnuts like us..... Thank you, Mr. Dufour, and Mr. Muller! Ken

Well Ken, all I can say is...

 By: elliot55 : December 16th, 2013-16:01
... another amazing report about an absolutely amazing watchmaker. Love the minute repeater... what a cool piece. And spot on at 11:05. Dig the bi-directional winding crown - one for the time's reserve, the other for the repeater's reserve. Tres bitchin',... 

Grande Sonnerie mechanism...

 By: KIH : December 16th, 2013-17:33
.. needs power for ringing automatically at 00, 15, 30, and 45. So, unlike the minute repeaters which can be "charged" when needed, Grande Sonnerie requires the power stand by for ringing.... Anyhow, his craftsmanship, persistence to the quality is beyond... 

Very nice photos

 By: WTA : December 16th, 2013-17:04
The fact I am enjoying I see wonderful photos of course was a beautiful day, but we have a good luck to watch. Thank you very much for the effort WTA


 By: KIH : December 16th, 2013-17:34
.. the weather was on my side during my stay in Geneva. Nice drive (still - after this, the temp will be far lower.....), and nice chat with nice gentlemen. What an afternoon.... Thank you!

Lucky you Ken

 By: aldossari_faisal : December 18th, 2013-09:02
such an smile creator report for the mind and soul of a purist . Faisal

Yes, in retrospect, now I feel very lucky....

 By: KIH : December 18th, 2013-17:43
.... to be there :-) Ken

I did not know we were close friends :)

 By: O. Müller : January 3rd, 2014-09:01
Ah ah, always surprising to see my name on the homepage ! But I'm just another Olivier Müller - not a CEO, just a watchmaking journalist ! What is funny is that I dedicated an article to Philippe a couple of months earlier : We also did a photoshooting, ...  

I think you are...

 By: KIH : January 3rd, 2014-10:39
... another Olivier Muller and we are "friends" on FB :-) I mistakenly send "friend request" long time ago... These things happen. Ken

No problem !

 By: O. Müller : January 3rd, 2014-16:58
Friends of my friends are also my friends ! Olivier & I are used to that, we receive calls and emails for each other. I think there's one difference, in so far as my last name, swiss, is spelled Müller, while Olivier's is Muller, without the "ü", I th...