Recently Monochrome had the opportunity to sit down with Fabien Lamarche, the founder of Julien Coudray 1518. The brand is relatively new in the business of ultra high-end watchmaking, as their story began in 2007. This manufacture of Haute Horlogerie can boast the incorporation of some very distinctive features, such as movements made entirely of the same metal as the case (yellow, pink or white gold or platinum). In a three-part story, we’re going to introduce you to the way these people work and the timepieces they create. Good enough, you might say. Not for us. We had the chance to witness a rare and precious moment: the “birth” of a new watch.
Before creating Julien Coudray 1518, Fabien Lamarche occupied virtually all jobs related to watch development and production, such as being a restorer of antique watches, Breguet’s process manager, Roger Dubuis’s product director and Zenith’s head of the prototype department. Fabien is never in a rush. He is the reflection of his creations and methods: raw but pure and most respectful for traditions. His objective, before creating his manufacture, was to learn every aspect of a watch’s construction in order to create a totally independent manufacture, built around a team of 40 experts, from enameling to engraving to polishing. That’s what permits Julien Coudray 1518 to be one the rare manufactures able to produce 98% of their watches’ parts.
The story behind the name Julien Coudray 1518
The name Julien Coudray 1518 is a tribute to a French watchmaker (Julien Coudray) who, in 1518, had been the first to create “portable” watch movements, integrated into the handle of daggers. The approach of the brand is to recreate the idea, the way of manufacturing, not to actually reproduce Coudray’s models from the 16th Century. In those days, watchmakers had to invent processes, tools and unique skills. Fabien Lamarche wants to continue in that path.
The ideas of tribute and traditions are essential to Fabien Lamarche’s creation process and manufacturing methods.
Julien Coudray 1518 unique manufacturing process
“When we are creating a watch, we imagine it as something that could be handed down, a legacy for your descendants. This means to have something pure and unalterable. We only use pure materials without any chemical treatment, such as gold, titanium, platinum or enamel. No paint, no steel; nothing that could deteriorate over time.”
All the timepieces coming out of the manufacture are mostly made of precious and pure materials, so a platinum watch will have a platinum movement, and the dials might be made of solid, enamelled gold. For instance, if you see some coloured metals in his watches, Julien will explain to you that it’s always obtained from heated gold or titanium, but never from a lacquer. Every other colour, even in the numerals and inscriptions you can see on the dials, are produced with Grand Feu enamel.
As reverent of traditions as he can be, Fabien is not a man of the past: innovation is also inherent to his creations. For instance, you can find a service indicator located at 12 on the dial and represented with a turning disc and a droplet. Fabien also explained one of his innovations to us that is filled with what we can call “the cool factor:” as we were talking with him of precision, he presented us with the way they will soon adjust their movements. You will certainly imagine a 5- or 6-position adjustment; not him…
Fabien’s vision of a watch adjustment
“In order to obtain the most accurate movement possible, we’ve created a very innovative way to adjust. We want to adjust the watch to the owner and not only to a simple 5-position process. We are working on a robot that recreates the motions of our client, a sort of mechanical arm that is programmed according to the owner (at a prototype stage for the moment) – the client wears a sensor that records all of his displacements. We are also trying to have standard programs for that robot, according to the lifestyle of the owner, if he doesn’t want to wear the sensor.”
The team of Julien Coudray 1518 is also working on a very interesting watch-box. More than just a storage or travel case, it is an Internet-connected module; the box is able to set the time, depending of your time zone, or to correct the time, if your watch is not well adjusted. Acting on the crown, it’s also capable of winding the movement. It is actually only at the prototype stage, but we are enthused to learn it is being developed.
The brand is selling only through brokers (eg. Jörg Kirchhofer in Switzerland or Jeffery Leong in Singapore). Every watch is made by order and no stock is available in any store. The annual production is around 50 pieces.
The actual range of Julien Coudray 1518 is composed of 3 timepieces:
- Classica 1548: a simple hours/minutes watch with small seconds; 43mm
- Manufactura 1528: a three-hand watch; 39mm
- Competentia 1515: a tourbillon with power reserve; 42mm
These three models are stunning pieces but that’s another story, which we will present to you soon on Monochrome-Watches.