Olivier Jonquet: One Man On A Mission To Revive France’s Independent Watch Industry
So just imagine starting an unheard-of brand and then making the bold decision to not even put a name on the dial; nothing, not even a tiny signature somewhere so that people know it was you that made the watch.
Well, that’s precisely what Olivier Jonquet did with his first-ever launch, the Elie. Considering the amount of effort he went into trying to create an entirely French-made watch, you’d have thought he’d had his name front and centre – the pride in making a decent watch is nothing compared to the pride of making a watch against the odds. But no, this beautiful, vintage, cushion-shaped design is entirely unsigned; Olivier opted instead to place his name on the caseback along with the model’s unique number.
Olivier’s rather singular quest started back in 2013 when he saw a watch much like this in a vintage boutique in France. It was the reaction he had to this watch that ignited the desire to start his own brand, with the proviso that everything be made in his mother country.
He sold his personal watch collection and set out on a personal odyssey to gather together craftsmen and manufacturers, even managing to source around 70 France Ebauches calibre 233/69’s from the 1970s and which he had fully serviced just an hour’s drive from the Swiss watchmaking heartland that is the Jura mountains, on the French side of the border, naturally. Olivier even went back to school to train for his watchmaking certificate!
For his subsequent Carosse and Capitaine designs, the vintage movements have been replaced with the trusty handwound Swiss Unitas 6498 – an iconic base calibre originally meant for pocket watches in the Fifties, and perfectly suited to today’s preference for a larger men’s watch. Olivier opted for the Top Finition version, meaning it looks suitably high-end, with its Côte de Genève hand-finish and a ratchet wheel emblazoned with stars and a stylised sun motif.
But it hasn’t been a total overhaul; elements of Olivier’s original Elie are still there. The cases still come in that distinctive cushion shape (maybe this will become a bit of an Olivier Jonquet signature in the future) and the straps are hand-made by some of France’s famous leather artisans.
Aside from the much more flamboyant design, the other thing you immediately notice is that Olivier’s name is now proudly displayed on the dial. Seems our man of mystery is embracing his moment in the limelight after all. And who can blame him, when the result is this perfectly executed?