When you speak to hardcore watch geeks, there is one name that consistently gets brought up in conversation. Mr Philippe Dufour. There are very few owners of such watches and we’re lucky enough to have one in the Collector’s Series, in the name of Peter Chong, a true seasoned collector with certainly some of the most beautiful watches around. Peter founded Deployant with 2 other close friends in 2014 and runs the editorials. Last week we got to discuss what many would describe as their ultimate grail watch, the Philippe Dufour Simplicity.
Peter Chong is a veteran watch collector. He has been an active commentator in the industry since the 1990. He founded the Lange Forum on Timezone.com in 1997, and continues to moderate the forum to this very day. He retired from an active commercial life in the aviation business in 2010 to write the book “A. Lange & Söhne: The Pour le Mérite Collection”. The large coffee table book was published in 2011, and he decided to stay out of active commercial life to contribute to building horological communities. Peter is passionate about the finer things in life, and other than watches, enjoys fine cuisine, bespoke tailoring and fine shoes. In 2014, he continued his journey in founding the highly credible blog Deployant with 2 other close friends.
Now moving the the watch and the man behind it. Philippe Dufour has been a professional watchmaker for over 20 years. He spent his early years honing his craft at the lights of Jaeger-LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet. He then began creating his own masterpieces in 1989. Within the horological world, many of the most well respected makers, such as Mr Dufour are honored with membership into the Horological Academy of Independent Creators (AHCI). In The Simplicity, Mr Dufour’s most revered creation, many believe he created a nearly-perfect time-only watch. It is the epitome of refinement, balance and uncompromising craftsmanship.
When did you first get into watches?
About 25 years ago.
Tell us about the first time you saw the Philippe Dufour Simplicity and what went on which resulting in your purchase?
I was at BaselWorld 2000, and as per my usual practice in those days, I went to the AHCI booth. And met with my old friend Philippe Dufour. He pulled me aside, and showed me his new watch. He took it out from the display case, and handed me a loupe. I examined the watch, and was totally floored. The watch was perfect! Almost…but more of that later.
The finishing was totally stunning. I began enquiries, and found out that he had only completed the watch the day before the fair. He had started work on a simple timepiece, having carved his name with the first Grande Sonnerie wristwatches and the very complicated Duality. He said, the simplest is often the most complicated. Work started on 7 September 1999. 7 September is my birthday, so that was a special significance to me, the watch was born the same day as me.
But the initial Simplicity was not totally perfect. It was too small. The case diameter was only 34mm. And it looked too small on my wrist. I told him that, but he shook his head and replied that the classical men’s watch from the Vallee de Joux was that size. I spent the next few months trying to convince him that he needed to make a larger case. Then on a visit to Singapore about a year later, he presented me with a drawing for a Simplicity in case size 37mm. Being Dufour, it was not a simple matter of putting the same movement in a larger case. He meticulously expanded the plates so that it can fit into a 37mm case without a movement ring. And it had to be pleasing to his critical eye in terms of aesthetics.
Immediately, I got three other friends and we placed a deposit for the first four in 37mm. All in rose gold, all with the lacquered metal dial with roman numerals. By then no 1 was already sold, it was 34mm anyway, so I opted for no 7. It was delivered in July 2002.
When / how did you receive the Philippe Dufour Simplicity? That must have been a memorable day…
Yes indeed it was, but I was not in town to receive it. It arrived when I was travelling. If you Google “Delivery of four Dufour Simplicities in Singapore”, you will get a report written by one of the four of us who ordered and was delivered the Simplicity.
In your mind, is Philippe Dufour the pinnacle of watchmaking?
Yes (no other words needed).
What do you enjoy most about the Philippe Dufour Simplicity?
Its discreteness and simplicity. I also totally love the finishing, especially the movement. And knowing that Philippe worked on my watch, I know because I actually visited him and saw the progress of the construction and finishing over the one year that it took him.
Can you tell us more about that beautiful dial?
Its a metal dial made by Metalem for Dufour.
What’s inside the Simplicity?
A movement designed and finished by Philippe Dufour. The movement plates are made by an outside CNC house. See this article I wrote while my Simplicity was being made here.
Do you tend to go for aesthetics over brand/maker heritage?
Both. Aesthetics is a hygiene factor. It needs to look beautiful, but I do not seek out to buy the most aesthetically pleasing watch ever. To me the finishing (movement, case, dial and hands) are equally important. The heritage of the maker is only one smaller component.
How much wrist time does it get?
Very little. I take it out to wear only on special occasions.
Can a collector ever be fully satisfied with his/her collection?
Yes. I am satisfied. I have stopped collecting.
What piece of advice would you give to someone considering starting a collection?
Buy what you like. Go out look at the watches. Use resources like web, Facebook groups, forums to get your information and discuss with the participants. However, it is important to go and try the watches on your wrist. On first try, don’t buy. Go home. Sleep over it for a week. Go back and buy the one which speaks to you over the week. If none speak to you, continue your search. Listen to other collectors and experts, but only as a data point. You have to look at the watch every day, make sure you love it.
When collecting do you think its important to stick to a brand or a category (Patek/IWC or aviation/dive)