It is time to put another upcoming watchmaker in the spotlight. Or rather two rising stars that is, as we talk to Alexandre Hazemann on his stunning Montre d’École, or School Watch, developed with fellow-student Victor Monnin. We learn how this watch came about, and also what the biggest challenges have been for the two young men. And with talent like this, judging by the chiming jumping hour watch they made, the future of mechanical and traditional watchmaking indeed looks bright. Let’s find out more, shall we?
Robin Nooij, MONOCHROME Watches – What made you decide to make this watch?
Alexandre Hazemann, Hazemann Watches – For the 7th year of watchmaking studies at the Edgar Faure high school in Morteau, France, we are tasked to make a school watch in partnership with a watchmaking company. For our year 2021-2022 we have been supported by Arnold & Son and the team of La Joux-Perret to carry out this project. Since the first years of study, we were amazed by the senior students making their school watches on traditional machines, working closely with the most competent teachers like Mr Ducret (One of the best craftsmen in France). It pushed us to go all the way and attempt, and succeed, to make this watch like our fellow watchmakers.
How and why did you team up with Victor Monnin?
Victor and I have always been friends and we have known each other since the beginning of this watchmaking adventure. Over the years of study, we understood that teamwork is a strength in the business, and even indispensable.
The school in Morteau trains us as independent watchmakers, who often have to work alone once their workshop is operational. A few months before the start of the project, we went for a walk in the Swiss mountains to recharge our batteries and get inspired by nature. During this walk, we had a long discussion about the fact that in this decisive year of our schooling and our lives, we had to introspect in order to be the best we could be. We realized we have a very similar philosophy, almost like the mindset of two brothers.
Furthermore, our skills complemented each other perfectly. Victor had a great love for project management, organization and teamwork, I have a passion for complication design, and for watchmaking in general. For the Lycée Edgar Faure, the last School Watch collaboration between two students was 20 years ago! It’s quite rare because students prefer to invest themselves in the project.
We worked together out of free will and without prior authorization, we were convinced that the symbiosis of the two alchemies would work in spite of the dogmatic side of the school which distils the idea in students that collaboration is a form of cheating. Huge nonsense of course. In our professional world, collaboration is essential for creativity and personal growth.
What was the process of making the watch like? How long did it take you?
The project ran from October 4, 2021, to June 10, 2022, a period equivalent to 8 months of intensive work. We started by making sketches that were refined over time. We also had to find a functional technical concept. We spent our evenings drawing on a big board and thinking about several technical solutions.
Every day we listed the problems to come and it is true that the first weeks are very difficult because the world of watchmaking is a huge world and full of constraints. You have to know how to channel your energy and your ideas. So we decided to take matters into our own hands and contact the independent Swiss watchmakers who had welcomed us in their respective workshops in the previous months to carry out our training courses.
I think directly of Julien Tixier (watchmaker in the Vallée de Joux) who did not hesitate to give me his precious advice in the middle of the night. Watchmaking does not wait, it’s a wonderful play on words.
You’re talking of months of hard work here. Could you take us through the timeline for realizing your School Watch?
It took us over 8 months and more than 1000 hours of work to realize the final product in its entirety. It started with the sketches and drawings including the design of the watches (October November of 2021), the design on a computer as well as the watchmaking calculations (December 2021, January 2022), and the manufacture of the components during 2-3 months (February through April 2022), the prototyping and the reliability of the product and finally to finish the decoration and the final assembly during the month of May.
All this to have a finished watch by the beginning of June. I think it is important to take into account the intensity of this work. The pace was very fast (about 15 hours a day) 7 days a week with a series of sleepless nights in the workshop of the great watchmaker Emmanuel Bouchet who was extremely kind to open his doors for the end of the project.
What was the most difficult part of the project?
Our strength was organization, but we pushed it to the limit with daily schedules and 6 am briefings (we were lucky enough to live together for our last 3 years of study, which made it easier to work together). We had to be uncompromising about the tasks to be done each day according to the skills of each person in order to be as efficient as possible.
Once the components were made, the part I found most challenging was prototyping the product we had designed on the computer. Finding the problems and solving them one by one in order to obtain the most functional watch capable of telling the time with impeccable precision! Thanks to Emmanuel Bouchet and his great experience with his work on the Opus 12 (Harry Winston) as well as on the Complication 1 (Emmanuel Bouchet) developed for his own brand, we were able to exchange ideas and thus understand and solve the problems. We wanted to make a finished, decorated project, a watch that could be sold on the market.
The school asked for a functional prototype movement, not necessarily a wearable watch that could appeal to a whole range of collectors. In addition, we made the entire watch case in stainless steel on a traditional machine to accommodate the double complication movement. We had a custom-made bracelet made in the Jean-Rousseau workshops as well as a custom-made sapphire crystal case in the Swiss Jura.
It must be understood in this adventure that we wanted to make this school a professional project, a springboard for our career. Therefore, we went looking for the most competent people in our small book of contacts to accompany us in the fields we did not yet master or had little knowledge of.
Can you take us through some of the characteristics of the watch?
As Victor and I worked closely together on this, the watches look very similar. I went for a more contemporary and expressive look in mine, while Victor’s has a cleaner, more artistic look with a Malachite dial for instance. If you look closer you will see more differences between the two but the construction is the same.
Both watches use the same base movement, the LJP 6900 Calibre by La Joux-Perret. We modified and finished it by hand, and constructed the chiming jumping hour mechanism ourselves. All is done with traditional tools and techniques. The dial side shows the chiming mechanism with the hammer and gong, as well as the jumping mechanism for the hours.
The case is stainless steel and measures 42mm in diameter. We used a custom-made box-shaped crystal to cover the dial. We did as much as we could ourselves, including all the finishing like the brushing and polishing of the case and the black-polished screws.
So now this is done, what’s next for you and Victor? Will we see these watches being commercialized, or do you have other plans for the coming few years?
The doors to the future are open to us now. The projects have been successful in the watch world, we have been contacted by hundreds of people from all over the world to buy the watches. These are unique pieces that we will use for the rest of our lives to remember this incredible experience.
Victor is heading in a more artisanal direction of watchmaking to become a prototype watchmaker. As for me, I continued my studies in a school in Switzerland to become a constructor (watchmaker) in the workshops of Emmanuel Bouchet.
Later on, with the years of experience we will acquire with professionals, why not continue the adventure and open an independent watchmaking workshop with Victor Monnin. The future will give us more information on this subject…