Why Claude Meylan’s Skeleton Creations Are A Window To Watchmaking’s Ancestors
If you think of Swiss watchmaking as a star scholar (or should that be SKOLORR?), what would its best school subjects have been? Design and Technology, of course. History, certainly, given the import most brands place on heritage. It would on track for an “A” in Physics too, given the energetic juggling act that all those components entail.
But there is one other, rather less obvious subject in which Swiss watchmaking would be top of the class, and that’s much-maligned Geography. Not because your stereotypical watchmaker may be eyeing-up the teacher’s pipe and leather elbow patches, but more because this world-renowned industry’s cottage industry has been moulded by the crumpled topography of the Jura mountain range. Back in the 18th century, Jura dairy farmers began to lead a double life as watchmakers when the winter came, literally snowed into their respective villages.
The cradle of this unlikely cottage industry was the serene Vallée de Joux – about an hour’s twisting, ear-popping drive from Geneva. There were four founding families, and one of them was Meylan. In the middle of the 1700s, Samuel Olivier Meylan and Abraham-Samuel Meylan introduced the art to Rolle and Fleurier, where so many prestigious ateliers are still situated, and where the great-grandson Claude Meylan is now reviving his family’s famous name with considerable panache.
Re-establised in 1988, right on the banks of Lac de Joux, the Meylan company continues to perpetuate the unique art of skeletonising watch movements – the wheels, levers and ticking springs all “undressed” dial-side, the sinuous metalwork left behind occasionally and intricately hand-engraved to emphasise the craftsmanship. This extraordinary showcase of ancient ingenuity is writ largest on those Claude Meylan watches powered by an adapted Unitas movement. A legendary pocket-watch design from the Fifties, its broader proportions perfectly suit today’s tastes and provide the perfect canvass on which Claude Meylan’s artisans can work.
The Geography lesson extends to the collection themselves, too. As the natural lifeblood of the valley where Swiss haute horlogerie began, the Lac de Joux’s tranquility and seasonal evolution are reflected by Claude Meylan’s soberly elegant “Lac” creations. And then there’s its modern hometown. Even before watchmaking has made its mark on the valley, the Abbey of Lac de Joux has been emblematic of the surrounding valley. So it’s only right that the most classic and pure of Claude Meylan’s collections was so-named – compounded of course by the brand owing its origins to the very same town; a house in L’Abbaye dating back to 1684.
To own, wear and gaze hypnotically into the ticking workings of a Claude Meylan watch really is to connect with Swiss watchmaking’s very origins. If that means you’re also inspired to re-open your Geography textbooks, well that can’t be a bad thing either, can it?