The Royal Jewellers S03 ep5 : Van der Bauwede Jewellery [Geneva]
Interview with Maxence Van der Bauwede
1890 – Birth of a brand In 1890, Alexis Van Der Bauwede (1873-1950) from Bruges created the brand of the same name. At the time, this itinerant watch and jewellery maker, specialised in handling clocks and chimes, crisscrossed Flanders at the wheel of his Bugatti. From one town to the next, he installed and repaired the complex movements of cathedral and city hall clocks, which sometimes weighed up to 27 tons. 1920 – ‘Cubes Diamants’ Van Der Bauwede’s first jewellery set.Despite being a watchmaker by trade, Alexis was highly versatile. He visited individuals door to door and sold his jewellery creations crafted in honour of big occasions. In 1920, he created his first jewellery set, called the “Cubes Diamants” (Diamond Cubes), for a Russian countess and lover of exceptional objects. This was the beginning of a long story… 1930 – From Alexis to Michel Van Der Bauwede At the age of 24, Alexis’ son, Michel Van Der Bauwede (1906-1965) became the first successor to take on what was subsequently to become a tradition. He was fascinated by miniaturisation and quite naturally focused on pocket watches. Parallel to this, he developed the jewellery side of the business in which he subsequently specialised. 1949 - Van Der Bauwede opens in Lille After demonstrating his talents across Flanders, Michel Van Der Bauwede moved to Lille and opened the first Van Der Bauwede boutique at 34, Rue Esquermoise. Recently renovated by the “Monuments Historiques” (Historical Monuments), this magnificent Flemish house dating back to the 18th century provided a setting for the jewellery it housed in its walls and display windows. The brand remained there for a good 50 years. 1965 - From Michel to Pierre Van Der Bauwede There was no indication that Pierre Van Der Bauwede (1933-2010) would become an even more famous jeweller than his father and grandfather. Drawn to medicine, he joined the family business when Michel passed away. Thanks to his skill in the realm of science and physics in particular, Pierre Van Der Bauwede specialised in precious stones and diamonds which earned the brand considerable international renown. His second field of expertise as “State Gemmology Expert” led to him invent a new cut of diamond christened the “VDB Diamond Cut”. Equally gifted in the realm of the literary, to commemorate the brand’s centenary, he published a collection of poems in 1990 shortly before handing over to his son, Maxence. Excerpt: “The diamond under its web dreams of dazzling skies; looking both at the star and at its internal star”. 1984 - From Pierre to Maxence Van Der Bauwede
My name is Maxwence VanderBauwede, I’m born in north of France. I’m originally from Bruges,
it’s in Belgium. After the French border. It’s an interesting array of where it has been invaded by
moors, Spanish, English, German, … Italian so there is a very big mix of culture.
My grand, grandfather started mainly with fixing and repairing huge movement for clocks in
churches, it was in 1890. All of the Flemish villages have like eight or nine churches therefore so
there is a lot of work.
From my grand, grandfather to my grandfather we were more aiming watches. My father had a
passion for gems, mainly diamonds, he patented 30 years ago diamond cuts.
The factories in Flourier it was old school of watchmaking on the, it’s like a very traditional
workshop but high hand on technology.
My father had a tough character and maybe I have sometimes we say in Italian tesdadoura, you
want to prove also what you can achieve. In time of business he left me always the brackets to do
my choices. Beside his business he was also a teacher of kendo with a little bit Japanese mentality.
It was very Zen. He tell you something on the, you understand with the time that it was short but
I joined the family business in 1990. I had a business education but I was always interesting in
photography, in designing, initially was more in the jewellery business but when I came to Geneva
very faster went to the watch field.
The passion was initially more a kind of aesthetical approach. To match something which was
coming from our family with what I was feeling in the market.
When you are going to high hand jewellery it was mainly aiming older woman, I thought it was a
shame that we couldn’t have something richer but stay, keeping sexy and elegant and glamorous.
I had contacts to work in some factory in Paris, I work also in some factory in America with people
coming from Puerto Rico or so it was under that mostly but I went also in small workshop working
for some traditional Italian jewellers. I did the goldsmith’s watch as a training it was fascinating
somehow how people watch.
It’s always important to absorb as much information as possible and then after you remix
everything in your mind under steps by steps, ideas are coming out.
Bruges is an interesting melting pot of culture, very … approach in architecture in paintings, you
can get a sensibility according to colours, light, transparency, v… in churches, some cutting stones,
In Italy walking with … you see that they have a completely front approach with gems for instance
at this time it was a huge fashion of capuchin pastel colours, big volume, influence of art deco so
you kept just matching and then you go to a factory in America and you get a sensibility according
to a production in jewellery giving high hand effect but they are very efficient on the expenses, the
weight of gold they will put in the pieces so it’s like a cooking you know to put the right essence of
everything on the right weight to … it on everything.
And then when you go in Germany you and in Switzerland you work with the C&C … we work
with the latest machinery, we work in three dimension, we use process which I use in the aerospace
technology, we use new treatments which are issued from the geology, I work in the past with
CNRS where they’ve got new type of galvanic system oxidation but I work with aerospace where
we develop high hand ceramics and then we c… in Japan so all those experience you have an idea
also of what you’d like in terms of shapes in terms of aesthetic and you make the assembling of all
those things in your head to respect the qualities, the technologies, the materials and you grab it
with the world you are inside where you feel the perfect balance and harmony.
There is some product where we use some basic movement but we do modification on movement
some days of 28, 92 at a movement we develop some … perpetual calendar and so on, we have one
shift of factory coming from a very well known and traditional watch company and she drive also
the development and also we are working to bring small automatic calibre for 2012 which would
be interesting for all our ladies items but we really do focus on one calibre and we hope we will
have the chance to put this calibre on the market as well.
In the past my problem was the name VanderBauwede was a difficult name to keep in mind and to
repeat and people were looking for always for the classical brands. Now the consumer like to find
something different which is not over distributed and a real essence of Vienna.
Today we follow everything in haute couture in fashion show in contemporary art to take the
temperature in all those fields and according to that I define a kind of storyboard in which I will
develop the item. Sometimes I come from a basic idea but sometimes also it can be right away
from a designer, we develop a watch for Pink the singer so from there it was completely from
something which had to be present something very young, with mix of something elegant with
some … atmosphere some colour which are a little bit like mystery, mystique, so everything came
from that and from the atmosphere of night, I did some earrings for example the only idea was to
have earrings that should look fantastic when it’s in the shadow. So from this collection we
develop a line name Good Luck.
In this Pink had an accident because do something very acrobatic, she fell from very high falling
with some kind of rope so that’s why we did this colour on the dial of the watch, it’s like a
feminine skull because she takes a lot of risks and she look like somebody relax you know tattoo
on this on that but she has a very strong discipline of life, that’s what I like, I like the contrast. It’s
nice when people they don’t discover you right away.
Pink also we did something very nice for her charity because she’s very sensitive for … rouge
which is an association against AIDS. I did two pieces for her on the one watch she sold it in an
auction those little things are nice to do now we are something for Usher also, it’s a person who
had a lot of challenges.
Sometimes it’s completely reverse, for example the fish I was in Maldives on the everything
started from discovery in the nature on the … atmosphere. First I wanted the fish to be completely
liquid. The fish is like a drop.
It’s not only artist, you know for example once I did SM necklace with all the pin were fully setted
of diamonds in fact it has been showed by Elle McNewton before he died. This product was very
interesting because it was a kind of DeBeers exhibition in P… we dropped in the show with this
necklace and everybody was like shocked.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Van der Bauwede Jewellery