The man behind the House of Bovet 1822: Pascal Raffy

Once upon a time, in the early days of the 21st century, a sleeping beauty known as the House of Bovet, desperately needed to be awakened and revived. The House, established in 1822, had never strayed away from its signature and iconic style (timepieces distinguished by their crown at 12 o’clock and their classic bow) but had lost its glory. Then in 2001, Pascal Raffy, a seasoned Bovet collector, while on a break from his career to spend more time with his family, decided to save the House and give it a second breath.

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lower Bouquet on a Dove Grey Background Bovet Fleurier

Within the first few years, Mr Raffy’s intuitive and highly methodical vision positioned Bovet as the House of watchmaking.

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VIRTUOSO VII

Those lucky enough to have sat and had a conversation with Pascal Raffy will tell you that he is undeniably a man who speaks his words very carefully but also abides by them. He is extremely articulate, passionate, expressive and persuasive! By the end of our hour “short” conversation I was filled with hope, energy but also nostalgia. His formality, integrity and discipline made me long for the days when people took time to salute one another and listen to each-other without consistently being distracted by their digital friends. When exactly did those life principles disappear?

What is a typical month in Pascal Raffy’s life?

Here is an example of my travel schedule this past month:

I live in Miami because my family lives there and I try to be there at least two weeks per month. This past Saturday for example, I flew from Miami to Haiti because I am involved in an organization called “Artists for peace and justice” which supports children and education in Haiti.  This past week, for the first time in Haiti, we had our first 154 graduates (despite what happened in 2010). Susan Sarandon, Ben stiller and Maria Bello were all there to applaud our children’s success. Truly a beautiful moment in life!

Then on Sunday I came back to Miami at 6pm to connect to a flight to Zurich. Today we are together and tomorrow I will fly to Hong Kong!

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It must be hard to be away from your family so much

I always miss my family. I always say that have three blood children, my legitimate children and 128 natural children, my Artisans. It’s not always easy but I’m very happy. Bovet is truly a family House for art related watch making. You are not in a company but in a family house and we don’t have employees, we have Artisans. 

How would you define luxury?

In my opinion there are three elements in defining luxury:

  • Shared values
    • Sharing similar values and philosophy between people is the biggest asset in luxury
    • Money and power can get you a lot of things but they certainly cannot buy a genuine smile.
  • Artisans
    • I have two hands. I can be the captain with the vision for our House but without my second hand, my Artisans, I have nothing. They are our biggest luxury.
  • Clear identity
    • With Bovet, the crown is our Identity, our first asset in luxury. Our Timepieces are not machines, or buildings but true luxury timepieces. And as any luxury items, they can only be made is small quantities.

These three principles are what we defend and aspire to at Bovet. The rest is just marketing.

How about your Artisans? How old are they and how do they get trained?

Francis Tesarik for example is 67 years old and no where ready to retire. Then we have young, unbelievably skilled Artisans like Leticia who is 25. Talent is not a matter of age. The question to ask is “do they feel like they are working for a company or coming to their second house?” 

Luxury is Education and school is the school of your parents. How have you been educated? Are Wisdom, Passion, Principle and Tradition, values defended at home? If it’s the case, then you will react the same way you were raised. And if you have not been educated on the new rich behaviour but in a way based on substance and density then it is the spirit of Bovet. If not, this is not the right house. So everything always starts at home and always finishes at home. But one thing to understand above all is that without the human dimension, you can only do industrial things but you cannot do Arts. 

How do you react to mistakes?

Very easy. When you hire, no matter the age, you know if that person has not yet arrived at his/ her potential so when mistakes occur you shouldn’t be surprised. 

But be very clear with them and tell them that this is the role which they still have to do. Ask them if they accept these terms. If the answer is yes then you put in the effort. Meanwhile mistakes will occur – 1 time, 2 times, 3 times. After the 3rd time, ask yourself if it is a matter of will or capacity. If it’s a matter of capacity to be developped, give another chance. If it’s a matter of will then three is enough.     

The most important message that I try to convey to everyone is that if you want to receive respect, give respect first. If you want to be pleased, please others first. But you have to always have your two feet on the ground, very conscious of the fact that you have to stay lucid in whatever the situation may be.

How do you decipher between capacity and will?

I always decide based on loyalty. I prefer to have medium-skilled human beings around me who want to learn and to progress than to have genius, egocentric thinking beings who know everything and wake up every morning thinking they are the epicentre of the world. When I wake up in the morning, I know that I don’t know everything so I’m keen to learn, to try. In our House, these principles have to be shared by everyone.

Was it difficult to be respected by your peers in the beginning? Did they take you seriously given that you were a “newbie” in the industry?

I don’t know and that’s my luck! 

To receive lessons, I prefer to receive them from my people. In 2005, my general manager said that the luck we have is that Mr Raffy is not from the industry because his vision and perspective have nothing to do with the industry (and I share this with all due respect for my fellow industry friends). 

So perhaps not to be from the industry is the best chance for Bovet!

How does your creative process manifest itself? Is it visual? Strategic? Pure feeling?

I don’t know how to draw a line! It’s all with the eyes. My inspiration comes from looking at the countryside, smelling the flowers, listening to the birds.

A timepiece is truly based on one thing: USEFULNESS.  Why a Timepiece and not a watch? If you want to get the time today, just look at your mobile or your watch. A Timepiece is not only here to give you the time, but it is here to give you an Emotion and Art is all Emotion. Then you can express it in different ways – different colors, engravings, different techniques on dials. But at the end the Timepiece must “talk” to you, just like a beautiful carpet, painting or a dress.

Are you going digital? Are smart watches in the future of Bovet?

I always say one hand is globalisation and one hand is luxury and the two need each-other. When I need to make a decision, I turn my phone over and tell everyone that I won’t be reachable for the next three hours. Globalisation makes communication faster, things easier but then what are the limits? Where do you stop time like the time you take to make a Timepiece where you have to be fully concentrated? 

I respect Digital but it is not my world. For Bovet, I have a clear idea for connected Timepieces for one day, but it is not a priority today. 

How long does it take to make one watch?

It depends. It can go from one month up to two years. The movement is the essence of the timepiece. A timepiece is a movement, an art to be beautifully dressed with BOVET’s so Unique cases and dials. There is no time frame. 

How many people work on one watch? And how many do you produce per year?

Seventy Artisans and each contributes to every single timepiece. We produce 2000 a year.

How many watches do you have?

Last count was 368 exactly! I have collected ten watches from other brands but the rest is all Bovet! Passion over Reason!

Who is your buyer?

The Pure Collector is our main buyer. He is the mechanic who studies all the details.

Then you have the one who is coming to Collections. And the third one can be the very wealthy person who likes watches and slowly discovers that there is more to Bovet than a watch.

Would you like your kids to take over? 

It’s my dream! My daughters Audrey (23) and Alexandra (15) would be the ones. For Audrey it’s clear. If Alexandra joins, the mixture of the two of them would be amazing. Audrey is the artist and Alexandra is the organised and disciplined one. I would love the two to work together! In a longer future I also very much hope that my Son Amadéo will join them. For the time being he is only 12 and I do not want to pressure him in any way. This being said my intuition is that he will be one day be a great asset and inspiration for the House.

I have asked one thing of them. Respect your house and build yourself through a respectable diploma whatever the diploma may be. When you have done this and want to join the House of Bovet you will be most welcomed but you prepare yourself. You won’t enter a House where you will be giving lessons to everyone. You will need to convince them instead of imposing on them. Lead by example. And once you have followed these principles then I will be happy! They will have to wait for the moment when they are ready to give an opinion, however long this may take. 

Have you ever fallen?

There are different types of falls (love, family, work). I don’t think in terms of falling but understanding that in life sometimes experiences and decisions make you say “Stop now!”, take the time to think, and start again. 

How do you deal with stress?

I’m useless when everything is going well. I get bored. It’s amazing but when things go wrong I find the energy, the ideas three times more than when things go well. I need a good challenge all the time. 

I believe in god and believe that every single human being has a destiny. And mine is to be the shoulders and I accept it and am proud of it.

How about simple life wisdom to the kids out there?

To have fun is more boring than working. You have to deserve to have fun. If you don’t earn your position, it is the beginning of the end.

People must not forget about their civic duty- a simple hello, goodbye and a smile. You can be the richest person in the world but don’t expect me to respect you. You can only impose one thing on people – a sincere smile, which can never be bought. To be generous and open minded does not mean to be weak at all. It is exactly the contrary!

NEVER SELL  YOUR SOUL! The worst is when you don’t have a project in life, a belief. You realise one day there is no sense in your life, and that’s the worst. Be solid on your values, on the tradition you want to defend (it doesn’t mean old fashioned). Understand that a compromise is acceptable but comprimission is a No Go!

And this is all based on one word: Wisdom. Wisdom can come very early but has to be cultivated every single year of your life. Each decade has its own value. In the 30’s you wake up, in the 40’s you consolidate, in the 50’s you understand that you have passed more than half of your life.  And every morning enforce it!

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