It is always a pleasure to present and showcase the work of young watchmakers and emerging talents. Today we are taking a look at Théo Auffret, part of the independent French watchmaking “nouvelle vague”. Theo Auffret, born in 1995, started his training as watch restorer in parallel with his baccalaureate studies. Unlike the vast majority of fellow graduates, after having passed the exam, instead of studying a few years on university benches, Theo Auffret undertook the vocational pathway to become a watchmaker… And the result, named “Tourbillon in Paris”, is an impressive watch.
Théo Auffret became a watch restoration apprentice with Denis Coperchot and then Jean-Baptiste Viot while attending courses at the Lycée Edgar Faure in Morteau, a French town next to the Swiss border. Jean-Baptiste Viot allowed him to use the tooling and machinery for the creation of his own watch that was patiently handcrafted for months during evenings, weekends and holidays…
Once his apprenticeship was completed, Théo spent a year or so in Switzerland working at Ateliers 7h38 of Luca Soprana and Christophe Naudin. Based near Neuchâtel, this watch/movement design and development company works behind the scene for different brands, notably Jacob & Co. The still-unfinished prototype of the watch he started in Paris, named “Tourbillon in Paris”, was awarded at the 2018 Journe Young talent competition – alongside Remy Cools.
Back in Paris, Théo decided to set up his own workshop while cooperating again with Jean-Baptiste Viot. To do so, he decided to use his promising and superb creation to create a small series of subscription watches with a production capacity of three to four watches per year.
A “Tourbillon in Paris” was inspired by the works and methods used with Jean-Baptiste Viot and by the deep respect for French masters of the 19th century, in particular, Breguet and Berthoud. The watch has no dial and reveals a regulator-type display with central minutes, off-centred hours and a large one-minute tourbillon. The original movement architecture features a central plate with bridges on each side. This was inspired by 19th-century movements and makes sense given the artisanal production method.
The plate and bridges are fashioned out of maillechort (also known as German silver), with the exception of the two steel bridges found on the movement side. Théo Auffret used the escapement of a LeCoultre 409 movement, as well as the barrel and a few others parts of a Peseux 260.
The movement is superbly decorated. The technique used for the plate and bridges is “Charbonage” or coal finishing – except for the upper part of the stepped barrel bridge and the 2 steel bridges. All screws are black-polished. The tourbillon cage is painstakingly decorated too, in particular with rounded arms (a technique named berçage in French). The simple yet elegant 38mm prototype case was handcrafted from silver, guided by video tutorials from Roger Smith. The steel-turned hands and the dial are also handcrafted.
Following the completion of this “Tourbillon in Paris” prototype, the subscription watches will be produced in the same vein, with customization possibilities offered to clients. The case can be ordered in a choice of platinum, gold, silver or steel. The dial can be made in silver, gold or platinum with applied gold markers. The movement that was originally conceived without CAD has now been digitized into solid works. The parts coming from old ébauche will be entirely manufactured (for instance with a Precision Engineering assortment instead of the LeCoultre 904). The cases will be produced by a specialized manufacturer in Switzerland.
The Théo Auffret “Tourbillon in Paris” is worn on a custom-made leather strap made by David Collin, a Parisian craftsman. It is delivered in a bespoke white ebony/pear tree wood box made by Walter Bellini, as well as a leather travel pouch. The price for the subscription watch is set at EUR 108,000 excl. taxes – irrespective of the material chosen, as the production method and the small production scale have a marginal impact on price.
For more information, please visit www.auffret-paris.com.