Child Of Watch Valley: Why Youthful duManège Could Be The Most Swiss Of Swiss Ateliers
A luxurious skiing holiday in Zermatt? A whistlestop business meeting in municipal Geneva? Perhaps a long weekend of food, drink and clubbing in Zürich? Whatever your reason to visit Switzerland, it’s likely to resemble either of these three scenarios.
But may we add a fourth, very good reason to charter a jet straight to the heart of Switzerland: a visit to “Watch Valley”.
From Geneva airport, driving east, it’s an enjoyable hour of scrolling scenery – the slopes of the Jura Mountains rising to the left, the serene waters of Lake Geneva and the distant Alps to your right – before you arrive at the cosmopolitan city of Neuchâtel, perched on its own eponymous lake. Wake up the next morning in your lakeside cabin at the five-star Hotel Palafitte, invariably to a view of fog, then head north, into the steep, winding foothills of the Jura.
Suddenly, you burst the ceiling of the low cloud, the sky is cobalt blue, and Watch Valley’s verdant scenery reveals itself. What’s more, a whole other city reveals itself – La Chaux-de-Fonds, the highest in Europe. An incongruous grid of Art Nouveau urbanity, surrounded by mountains, cows and snow. Earning UNESCO World Heritage status in 2009, Chaux-de-Fonds is the undisputed “cradle” of 19th-century Swiss watchmaking – home to the world’s finest maisons, all dependent on the cottage industry of suppliers dotted throughout the surrounding valleys.
It is La Chaux-de-Fonds’ horological and architectural renown to which youthful chaux-de-fonnier, Julien Fleury pays tribute with his watch brand, duManège. Indeed, Fleury makes a point of only sourcing bespoke parts and expertise from the immediate area, and duManège is the only watchmaker to put “La Chaux-de-Fonds” on the dial. Watchmaking is literally in its DNA.
In more ways than one, in fact. Fleury was born and raised on rue du Manège, and was always inspired by the ornately frescoed beauty of his street’s Ancien Manège, or Old Riding School (itself home to the offices of top-flight tourbillon maestros, Greubel Forsey). What’s more, Fleury’s father was a local micro-mechanic, his grandfather a dial maker, his great-grandfather the founder in the 1930s of the prestigious Fabrique des Montres Boillat Frères. So it seems the baton has truly been passed, in the timeliest of traditions. And the results speak for themselves.
Things rarely get cleaner, crisper or more classical than duManège’s ‘three-hander’ Heritage line – clearly benefitting from Fleury’s design sensitivity, not to mention an unwavering eye for detail. And it’s detail that really counts with watches, especially when everything else is so pared-back. The judicious placement of the date window, extending elegantly from the “VII”; even the crown’s “shoulder” is mirrored at 9 o’clock, to bring further symmetry.
A sportier stance is lent by DM-Exploration Chrono Mono Pusher, whose chronograph starts, stops and resets via one pushbutton only, making things super-slick in terms of operation as well as looks. Housed in a super-technical case construct, with innovative material inserts such as titanium, the watches of the Exploration line are as tough and reliable as they look and feel.
If you can’t find the time to spend a weekend in Watch Valley, then wear a duManège instead – it’s the heritage and spirit of La Chaux-de-Fonds, distilled in watch form.