In my watchmaking career, I have met people who have had an important impact on my career in both human and professional terms. The most decisive meeting is undoubtedly that of my friend, too soon deceased, the master watchmaker Gabriel Locatelli.
Therefore, I dedicate the first " Falling for something " of my blog to him.
When I left the watchmaking school in 1967, I joined the Jeager-Lecoultre factory to complete my training and he was my first colleague. It will quickly go beyond the simple fact of being a "colleague" as he really "took me under his wing" and passed on his know-how and more importantly his " soft skills ".
Our paths diverged for the first time, as I had asked to work abroad on behalf of Jaeger-Lecoultre. After spending a year in Frankfurt in the after-sales service, I was able to see the reality of the life of a watch being in direct contact with the customers as well as the problems they encountered with their watches.
Upon my return and rich from this experience, I join Gabriel in his laboratory workshop where I have the chance to work alone with him. Our understanding is perfect and will mark the beginning of a sincere and warm friendship between us. We oversaw the improving and creating of new movements, adjustments or oiling so that there was no loss of amplitude. For example, after noticing that the watches that were displayed in the showcase suffered from UV rays that degraded the quality of the oils, our mission was to find solutions to overcome this problem, and to imagine many other innovative solutions for a whole series of problems encountered by certain movements. It was an exciting job, the refinement was pushed to the extreme, it was a real relationship of "companionship", the search for excellence at all levels in a mutual respect.
Our paths are going to separate again, because I want to give a new turn in my watchmaking life and move to the creation of timepieces.
Many years later, in 1992, I met Gabriel who was completely disillusioned and truly disgusted by the last years spent in the Manufacture. He had suffered the full force of the arrival of "technocrats and other so-called specialists" who had the infused science and wanted to impose a new industrial model by fragmenting watchmaking skills and tasks. The true profession of watchmaker had just exploded and was living its last hours within this type of manufacture. This de facto leads to a loss of know-how, which is no longer held by a single person, resulting in the destruction of coherence and ultimately of efficiency, as well as the annihilation of the "creative act" which consisted in being able to design a watch from A to Z. He deeply regretted this situation and was completely thrown off when he realized that he was no longer being listened to.
He said to me "as soon as I retire, I'll come and work for you". As soon as he retired, I called him and told him that his workbench was ready. His arrival in my workshop coincided with the beginning of the development of the Simplicity in which he will actively participate. These years spent with him were a real pleasure, both because of the exceptional quality of our exchanges of know-how and the richness of our human relationship. Our osmosis was simply perfect, and we had the same energy and motivation as we had in his laboratory. In 2000, I presented the Simplicity in Basel and it aroused great interest in the watchmaking world, particularly among Japanese customers.
He did not come to Basel with us because he was too discreet and altruistic to put himself on the front of the stage. I was very confident about the future of the adventure and was already looking forward to a new turn in our collaboration. But only a few months later, I learn with shock of his death in a car accident, I am in shock and destroyed and can't get back to work , because I miss his presence so much. I even thought of stopping everything, but I had to overcome my pain and continue the adventure without him, he would never have wanted me to stop. The Japanese market is asking for the Simplicity, so I had to continue so as not to lose all the work we had done together for its birth. The Simplicity carries a bit of Gabriel's soul.
Fine Watchmaking and the "Vallée" had just lost one of its greatest master watchmakers whose influence was decisive in my watchmaking career, but who also passed on his know-how and knowledge to many other watchmakers, among them Eric Coudray, whose inventions were a milestone in the watchmaking history, and the young and talented watchmaker David Candaux.
Finally, he has not completely left my studio, as I still feel his presence and influence, the shivers invariably run down my spine when I look at the prototype of the Simplicity that he made and that I wear every day.