What is Haute Horlogerie and what does it have to do with the quartz crisis?
Literally translated “Haute Horlogerie” means high (art of) watchmaking. The term emerged in the 1970s during the quartz crisis. Another term like that. In the 1970s, more and more watches were being made that kept time much better, i.e. more accurately, than the mechanical watches that had come before. It was a kind of disruption of the watch market and many watch brands died because sales collapsed. Quartz watches are cheap, low-maintenance and don’t need to be wound. An advantage in everyday life, but nothing that has a soul. For this reason, there is a trend towards mechanical watches, which is rather small in terms of market volume, in terms of units, because meanwhile people appreciate mechanical movements as a kind of luxury or status symbol, above all Rolex, which are also regarded as an investment. In general, I’ll keep it short here and write less of a wiki, but a bit more about watchmakers of the high art.
Marketing Instrument: Haute Horlogerie Brands
The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie, FHH is an association that aims to communicate the excellence of watchmaking to the world. For example, it organises the SIHH – Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie Genève. In this association you will find some big brands like Tag Heuer, Zenith, Rolex, Audemars Piguet and other brands from the Swatch Group or Richemont. https://www.hautehorlogerie.org/en/brands/.
In addition, there are some independent watchmakers among the partners or in the wider circle. Among them are Kari Voutilainen, Thomas Prescher or Vianney Halter (cover picture, his Deep Space). The FHH is an association of brands and master watchmakers who practise the fine art on their own. These are called independent watchmakers or independent Watchmaker. They all strive together to push watchmaking to new heights and we get to see new, great, freaky, wondrously beautiful, intricate watches every year. Mechanical, mind you!
What makes high art? When does a brand or independent watchmaker belong in the select circle? Simply put, it’s about mastering complications. Complications are functions of the movement and their technical implementation. The integration of a stopwatch function is a widespread complication. It is called a chronograph. It is followed by rattrapante, a second second hand in the stopwatch function, power reserve, flyback, world time (GMT), moon phase, perpetual calendar and others. Furthermore, there are acoustic complications, such as minute repeaters, which reproduce the time in acoustic signals, like a church steeple, when a pusher is pressed. This may sound strange and nonsensical, but anyone who ever wanted to read a clock at night, before 1870, appreciated this function as useful. It was just too dark.
A tourbillion is currently a complication, or rather a technical detail, which is often shown at the moment. The picture shows a Triple Axis Tourbillion by Vianney Halter. In short, the more functions or complications a watch has, the more difficult it is to make. Only a master watchmaker can make such complex machines. Below are a few examples of the kind you don’t see every day, especially the last two. The pack of cards is on the back of the watch made by Svend Andersen, who co-founded the AHCI. When the button is pressed, everyone in the scene starts playing cards. The last clock shows our solar system, and not statically, but the current position of the planets in relation to the sun.
Breitling recently became a partner brand of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie
16.10.2018 Because it’s so topical and I just wrote about my second favourite at Baselworld, a Breitling Superocean, the news just fits in here. Just as I’m researching FHH, along comes the news from the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie: We are pleased to welcome Breitling as new partner-brand. https://www.hautehorlogerie.org/en/brands/brand/s/breitling/
I will write more about the independent watchmakers in another article soon. In general, I already do this here and there. More to come.
Bildquelle ganz oben: Vianney Halter, www.vianney-halter.com