October 20, 2020
by David Bredan
If you told me about it over the phone, with its blue-lacquered hand engraving and pocket watch-style bow at 12 o’clock, I would have told you the Bovet 19Thirty Fleurier probably isn’t for me, nor would I imagine it having a shot at wide appeal. Luckily, I learned about it in person and not over the phone — and after trying it on, I was quite smitten by it. Here’s a hands-on look at why it’s such a fantastic alternative to the run-of-the-mill luxury watches pumped out by the household names of the industry.
Luxury is such a tired term it gives me the wrong kind of goosebumps, and so I avoid using it as much as possible. Ariel and I recorded a Superlative Podcast episode on this matter that should be launched soon, so a dissertation on the tiredness of the term we won’t be getting into now. Thank goodness for that. The point is that while many watches come at luxurious prices, they often meet very few of the rest of the requirements one could reasonably expect from a luxury product. Say, for example, that it is genuinely rare. That it looks and feels handcrafted. That it boasts unique details made possible by artisans dedicated to their trade. And last but not least, that it exudes class, confidence, and at least aspires to be timeless in its appeal.
You may very well be the exception, but we mortals sometimes have the tendency to forget about some of those requirements as we are sidetracked by the allure of wearing a timepiece that offers instantaneous and widespread recognition. That tells our peers we have made it. How much (or how little) personal taste we have developed in the process of “making it” is left in the mist of blissful ignorance because, hey, who would dare tell us off when wearing a five-figure watch, anyway?
Bovet, and most all other petite brands like it, is different if for no other reason than its lack of widespread recognition. Watch-wearing habits are an incredibly complex matter, so humor me for dumbing it down this much: Part of the reason some of us like wearing Rolexes and Cartiers is because we like having a luxury watch on while wearing shorts and t-shirts for going out. A handcrafted Bovet with a bow on top is not exactly made for that. However, some others among us still dress up (and I mean dress up) five or more days of a week — and yet, we see them wear the same Rolexes and Cartiers worn by short-wearing dudes. The Bovet 19Thirty Fleurier is for them — so long as they have a bit of budget left for a beater watch to wear during the weekend. With that differentiation made, here’s the point I’m getting at.
Let me put it this way:
If I met somebody wearing this Bovet, there is a very short list of other watches I could be wearing without feeling something like “God, I wish I had the taste and the confidence to have bought that Bovet and not whatever I’m wearing right now.“
This watch is exactly the kind of watch that, I think, can get that sort of reaction. Better still, it gets that reaction through a familiar feeling of surprise because you have seen stuff like it before and you kind of know under what circumstances you might experience it again… And yet, when it actually strikes, is when you have those sentiments echo in your head.
At just 9.05mm-thick, it is as thin as a proper dress watch should be and at 42mm-wide it looks imposing without appearing compensatory. The uniquely shaped bow on top is brilliantly finished and crowned by a, ahem, crown with a blue sapphire cabochon. Being an entry-level piece in the Bovet collection, the Bovet 19thirty Fleurier doesn’t have the Amadeo system of other Bovet pieces that allows for a tool-free transformation of the wristwatch into a pocket watch or table clock. You do nevertheless have a beautifully balanced vibe of classic watchmaking coming from this setup. For those yet to embrace this aesthetic, the 19Thirty Dimier version has traditional lugs and a crown at 3 o’clock — which is also great, but the 19Thirty Fleurier version is the real deal.
The movement is Bovet’s in-house 15BM04 caliber with seven days of power reserve supplied by a single mainspring that is over one meter (three feet) long. The two images above depict the same watch and the same movement under different lighting that really shows off the versatility and refinement present only in high-quality movements. There is a power reserve indicator on the dial side at 3 o’clock, as well as a subsidiary running seconds. The overall style was inspired by a Bovet pocket watch from 1930, hence the look and the name.
Other colors are, of course, available and for those who find the blue lacquered hand engraving a bit much, there are engraved versions without the blue lacquer application, others with no hand-engraving at all, and some with a solid dial that covers the entire front of the watch. You can also have Roman, Arabic, or Chinese numerals — the latter looks great to my eyes and it’s all the more tempting with Bovet’s historically extensive success story in China (so much so that the phrase “Bo Wei” became literally synonymous with “timepiece” there in the 19th century).
In summary, the Bovet 19Thirty Fleurier is a unique-looking watch that has a sensational vibe that can only truly be appreciated in person. Front to back, side to side, it has the sort of rare elegance that is enforced by a manufacture that performs 42 different trades and professions in-house. It’s Bovet’s very own thing in every sense of the word. Priced at $21,500, the Bovet 19Thirty Fleurier in this hand-engraved variation costs less than a steel Daytona on the second-hand market — but it makes a statement incomparably more powerful, if you have the attire and presence to go with it. You can see all other versions on Bovet’s official website.