August 3, 2014
by David Bredan
Once all components have been finished they are all transferred to a final station before assembly. It is here that they get compiled into batches, contained in aluminum and plastic boxes – as seen in the image above. Every one of these little kits comprises everything a watchmaker will need to assemble the new watch, with every component falling into a designated and marked slot, all set with the part’s identification number, technical drawing, and of course those colorful stickers we mentioned earlier. By the time it comes to such a kit being ready for assembly, the components it contains have already visited just about every department in the factory.
By now, we have seen most major stages of some of the key components found in a Julien Coudray watch – and although we really do not have the space to elaborate on every detail, we hope we managed to provide a comprehensive look into the amount of work and the level of infrastructure that is required to make everything in-house. It is with good reason then that Fabien Lamarche and the brand itself has a well-defined idea on how it wishes to present and – interestingly – preserve their work.
Every watch is delivered with – or rather in – a substantially sized, leather bound book hand-made in Switzerland, just like the one you see above. Upon opening it, the owner is greeted by a hand-written letter by Fabien, noting some of the details of the manufacture, the watch itself, and how it was made. After turning one of these rustic and thick hand-crafted pages, all the different certificates of the watch and the materials used therein, as well as the document for the 10-year warranty can be found.
One more turn reveals that the rest of the pages in the book have been glued together and cut out to create the space for the watch and the traveling pouch it comes it. As the brand told us, the concept behind this presentation was that nearly all watches – no matter how luxurious – come in a set of boxes, something that is often put away, out of reach, and hence hardly ever seen or taken out by the owners. By contrast, their idea was to create something that can remain within reach on a bookshelf or a desk, some place or another around the owner, and not at the bottom of a wardrobe. The presentation is quite surprising and unique, and is definitely beautifully executed – just as one would expect at this point.
I have left my absolute favorite detail as last – and this is something I wonder why has not been common practice in the industry for ages! What you see above is a vacuum-sealed metal container that has the model name, serial number and case material engraved into it, and inside it one extra piece of each truly important and usually non-repairable component of the watch! That includes an extra sapphire crystal, a fully assembled escapement, and some other parts.
The reason why this is so impressive – beyond merely being a very cool and unique idea – is that it is completely in line with the fundamental values of the brand we have mentioned above; since nothing is glued or painted and all watches are crafted with the goal of exceptional durability over time (and we are talking about well over a century here), these watches are made to be passed down generations. With that in mind, accidents happen, and over the course of decades, a more major repair may be necessary. Now, with a vacuum-sealed, untouched set of key components, the watch can be repaired to be as good as new by a skilled watchmaker any time, even decades later.
What I almost immediately thought about once I learned about this were some of those incredibly rare Patek Philippe wristwatches which fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars and more at recent auctions, thanks to their pristine condition. Now imagine what any one of those would have been worth with a set of new, pristine and original components, untouched.
And with that, we have arrived at the closing of our inside look at the Julien Coudray brand, a true manufacture that very humbly approached traditional watchmaking, built a small and yet very capable team of experts that not only harnesses but preserves it as well, and have ultimately created an incredibly discreet, blue-blooded product of haute horlogerie.
Despite the immense technical challenges and the vast investments necessary to create such a manufacture from scratch, Julien Coudray 1518 is beyond a shadow of a doubt a testament to what happens when a true watch lover and watchmaker gets to create and live his own dream. The result is a no-compromise, restrained exercise in high-end watchmaking, something that will certainly appeal to even the most discerning collector. juliencoudray1518.ch