Ludovic Ballouard Sees Time In Crazy Ways, Then Brings His Craziness To Life
Everyone dreads the scholastic rite of passage that is meeting the careers counsellor. You go in there with high hopes and maybe some crazy dreams and come out thinking you’d be lucky to get a job stacking shelves in a supermarket.
Ludovic Ballouard was given two choices by his careers counsellor when he relayed his love of building model aeroplanes – watchmaking or making dentures. Imagine how different the horological landscape would have been if Ludovic had chosen the latter.
Chances are there would have been no Sonnerie Souveraine – the groundbreaking chiming masterpiece that Ludovic assembled and regulated for indie legend François-Paul Journe; the 2013 Opus XIII, the complex double-retrograde watch he designed for Harry Winston’s renowned Opus collection would have looked entirely different; and the watch world would be a place with a little less whimsy and humour. A giant of a man with a beaming smile and unruly hair, this outgoing Frenchman is a blast of fresh air to the independent watchmaking scene, and the watches themselves more than reflect his personality.
Despite his vocational affinity and non-pareil mastery with the craft, Ludovic didn’t spend his whole life, up to that careers meeting, tinkering with watches in a dark basement (as so many do). His childhood, spent in Brittany, was backdropped by the coast’s rugged natural beauty and soundtracked by the sea. However, Ludovic did have a passion for building and flying radio-controlled model aeroplanes. It was this gift for manipulating minutiae that led to the career advice that Ludovic actually took seriously. He went to watchmaking school in Rennes and fell in love.
However, Brittany isn’t exactly known for its glut of watchmaker jobs, so Ludovic decided to try his luck in Geneva. To say he hit the horological jackpot with his first job isn’t an exaggeration – rather than spend time apprenticing with little-known names or jobbing for faceless service centres, Ludovic started work for Franck Muller, the watchmaker singlehandedly credited for “bringing sexy back” to watchmaking in the Nineties.
After three years there, and seven years with Journe, by May 2009 Ludovic felt that the time had come to start his own brand.
In many ways the timing couldn’t have been worse. Just eight months earlier Lehman Brothers has collapsed, sending the global economy into a financial tailspin; people just didn’t have the money to invest in a new watch, let alone invest in a brand-new name.
Ludovic persevered and in December 2009 he launched his Upside Down watch – a wonderfully romantic, yet technically complicated timepiece that features upside-down hour numerals that instantaneously flip to the right way around when it is their “time”.
The watch world was also on board with Ludovic’s creation, with Montres Passions magazine awarding him the Special Prize of the Jury during the 2010 Watch of the Year event.
After experimenting with different material iterations of the Upside Down, in 2012 Ludovic launched his second watch – the Half Time. Playing again with perceptions of how time can be read, this featured a ring of Roman numerals that has been split in half and mismatched. The hour is represented by a matching of the two halves at 12 o’clock. Made in platinum and limited to just 12 pieces, it was a treat for true Ludovic Ballouard aficionados, of which, thanks to Ludovic’s unique brand of watchmaking, there are now many.
And to think he could have been stuck making dentures.