The Royal Jewellers S01 ep15 : Leroy Watches [Paris]
Interview with Pascal Courteault
PARIS - Pascal Courteault - Leroy Watches - French HauteHorology - makers of perfectionist watches - the watch of Kings and Eisenhowers.
The big problem is in the watch making business is that most of the watches come on the market as a two handed watch and then people try to put things on top of it, a calendar, a perpetual calendar, moon face or a power indicator. These movements are not designed for that.
A watch is something strange; it is made from metal, housing something
complex with a window on top. Leather you can see, but also feel it when you
touch it. The Italians immediately take the watch in their hand and touch it.
They can buy it just by touching it.
KD – So you were an unsuccessful bidder for Breguet?
Before the Chaumet brothers got into trouble I tried to buy it, but I did not
succeed with my joint venture partner who was John Asprey and other friends.
So we decided to establish a watch company dedicated to high luxury products
and the first watch we made was the ‘Sympathetic’ clock for Breguet.
KD – How crazy do you have to be to set up a watch business today?
KD – That is the absolutely crazy part.
I had been working for several years in a company where we employed 250
watchmakers and we were making guidance systems for rockets.
KD – So this is your background?
I know exactly what is a small mechanical device, small parts assembly line,
very high quality product, which is absolutely no different from watch making.
So we produced a product, which at that time was sold for 1.5 million Swiss
francs each by Breguet, for a clock including a watch. The watch is a
wristwatch that you put back in the clock at night and the clock rewinds the
watch and adjusts the time of the watch by "sympathy".
KD – So is this the "Sympathetic Clock" you were talking about?
Yes. We built an agreement with Breguet in such a way that they have been
obliged to buy 20 of these products and at the same time we opened a watch
department in the company, where we developed movements and mechanical
objects for other watch brands like Cartier, ETA, Omega and produced the
mystery clock for Cartier.
KD – So what was the next step?
I met Philippe Leroy who is the owner of the Leroy Watch company, who is the
straight heir of a long family of watchmakers that started watchmaking in
He was looking for someone to help him develop a new range of watches
coherent with his past.
We first studied all the previous products made by Leroy and identified from
that their unique DNA. The best periods of Leroy, is the late 18th century
where they made some definite innovation and development in the watch
business and the 20th century.
The beginning of the 18th century there were very few watchmakers who knew
how to drill jewels, so most of the watches were non-jewelled. Second of the
"lever escapement", is a definite improvement, plus the accuracy that modern
machining gives you creates… A very accurate watch.
Now the big problem is in the watch making business is that most of the
watches come on the market as a two handed watch and then people try to
put things on top of it, a calendar, a perpetual calendar, moon face, power
indicator a lot of things. This is not good for the movement at all, which is
designed for that.
And the way to make a watch-case for a "minute repeater movement" is
completely different to a normal watch. Otherwise you will not hear the gongs
the ting, tings. The gold they have to use is required to be very hard. So
back of the watch is formed using a technique called ‘repousse’ which tightens
the gold. It is like an amplifier. You have to provide recesses so that the
the case allows the vibration to reach the "mechanical amplifier" of the
On one side you have the accuracy of quartz, which people have gotten used
to and if you want to sell a mechanical watch, for the charm of winding or the
automatic weight or lots of nostalgic things, you now expect a mechanical
watch to be nearly as accurate as a quartz watch.
We have made a clock for the Sultan of Brunei and he wanted it to be more
expensive than anything that has ever been done, because it is his own clock
on his desk. It is a very aesthetic clock. Unfortunately I can’t show you the
design of course, but I can show you another design of an expensive object,
that we are doing just as precisely – this will be for the 250 anniversary of
Leroy. The Sultan of Brunei wanted the stones on the perimeter of the base of
the clock, to be 10-carat sapphires each!
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Leroy Watches