Every so often – and I like to think this is pretty unusual these days – a watch is released that barely needs an article to explain its function or internal technology. If I were to hand you a couple of photographs of the new Bovet Amadeo Fleurier 43 Watch, you might just shrug and say “Yeah, I get it. So what?” Well, exactly “what” you make of this diamond-encrusted piece really hinges on how comfortable you are with the notion of watches as works of art.
I’ve been writing about watches for a long time; I’ve been working on them even longer; and I’ve been in the industry longer still. I’m not sure when I decided where I stood on the “are watches art?” issue, but I can tell you this: I can’t remember regarding watches as anything but works of art. Some of it is high brow, some of it low. It doesn’t really matter where the watch falls on the scale for it to be considered an art form. But maybe that has more to do with your definition of art (and I have an admittedly broad definition of the word). What I’ve always believed is that something qualifies as art if it is the “expression of that which cannot be said.”
So basically, it is, in my mind, anything that makes us feel, rather than telling us what to think. Loads of things fall into this category, even sport! Literature qualifies because the words, like brush strokes, paint a picture in our minds that is different for everybody. A technical manual does nothing but instruct; art enables lateral thought, individual emotion, and a unique takeaway. The Bovet Amadeo Fleurier 43, therefore, qualifies as art in my mind. The watch is part of Bovet’s convertible range, meaning the watch can easily be detached from the wrist strap (which is genuine blue alligator) and turned into a pocket watch, or table clock. A cool touch that adds a little bit of technical interest to something that is otherwise little more than jewelry.
So the main thing you’ll notice when you look at the Bovet Amadeo Fleurier 43 is probably the rather striking image of a horse-mounted, crown-wearing, bow-toting rider of the Apocalypse bedecked in a cloak, galloping over clouds. Right. Standard wrist candy? Not so much. This is something for the connoisseur. I mean, it’s easy to gripe over this watch’s lack of mainstream appeal (especially at Bovet’s price bracket), but when you’re only making one (and this piece is genuinely unique in that sense) you don’t need a lot of people to like it. There are a startling amount of people in the world who have enough money to buy this kind of product, and the chances are in Bovet’s favour that one of them will think it’s the bees knees. And anyway, art has a weird habit of appreciating in value for the oddest reasons.
Watches are no different. Swatch once released a watch featuring the late Nicolas Hayek’s face on rotating discs, that aligned every so often to make a perfect picture of the man himself. It was widely derided for its appearance, but still sold like hot cakes. Nowadays, in lieu of his passing and his assured place in history, the Hayek Swatch is one of the most collectable and sought after. Now, I’m not saying this Bovet has the same kind of importance to the industry, but it might have that kind of emotional appeal to someone who has a particular penchant for the dial subject.
The watch features a very nicely decorated movement, referred to by Bovet as the 11BA12 calibre. It has a 72-hour power reserve and operates at 28,800vph. Truth be told, it is super basic, but if you’re buying this watch for its artistic merit, complications are not that high on your shopping list. The diamonds will split opinion, especially given the somewhat “masculine” (and I say that really loosely) dial image and size (43mm), but it looks pretty cool on the wrist. What is definitely cool is the technique that has gone into the painting of the dial. Love or hate the end product, it is hard to fault the superb execution of an old-world skill. This dial has been painted by Russian jeweler Ilgiz Fazulzyanov on to an 18k gold base plate. It’s my opinion that the Bovet Amadeo Fleurier 43 makes the “are watches art” debate easy to win – how is this any different from a painting? And I guess some people might argue that some watches are art (like this one), and some are just watches (like the Casio G-Shock), but there were plenty of people who laughed at Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup before it became a modern classic.
You don’t have to like or respect something for it to be art. If it delivers a wordless message, if it makes you feel something, then I think it’s worthy of that classification. With just one Bovet Amadeo Fleurier 43 piece available, with a price tag of $196,700 (CHF 171,000), Bovet are banking on one super rich collector agreeing that this piece deserves a spot on their winder. Who knows? In twenty years time, it might turn out to be the best investment they ever made. bovet.com