I am Neuchâteloise (a region of Switzerland) and every Neuchâtelois has among his ancestors a watchmaker. Being from Neuchâtel only on the papers but loving the town, fate had to repair the lack and made me meet watchmakers in different dimensions about whom I wrote articles on my web site. After that, fate ,being satisfied, thought that I could go further and asked Roger to initiate me into the secrets of how a watch works and now, and now I am a true Neuchâteloise !
Roger, engineer in mechanics, took it into his head to make his own watch and he managed ! He participates to the exhibition Time to Watches to show it and invites me to present it together with him. His watch is not just any watch. Roger is particular, he has a strong sense of aesthetics, the usefulness of things and how they function. We have great conversations on the subject. Moreover, his head never stops thinking. He finds all kinds of solutions ; some of them make my life easier and more beautiful in my ballet studio. In addition, he has a general culture that exceeds average knowledge and he trains himself in different areas on his own. But I get lost, there are so many things to say about him. Coming back to his watch, it has the shape of a ring, it is an annular shape and therefore it was necessary to adapt the movement, the case, the hands and to introduce novelties. He owns five patents for it, but it could be more. It is the first time in the entire history of watchmaking that such a watch is ever made! I repeat, it is the first time that such a watch has ever been made. Yes, some watches have a jewel in their centre, but below it the movement runs while at Roger’s watch there is a real void ! Professionals, collectors, watchmaking as well as jewellery students who saw it, found it extraordinary, a success, ingenious, beautiful.
Kai zen. It is a Japanese notion that marketers reduce to a single word, kaizen, and that means constant improvement. Whenever one invents something, one can get satisfied with it and reproduce it endlessly or, as the Japanese do, permanently find things to improve and therefore really develop the idea, the creation. This is something Roger practices continuously. In order to avoid a misunderstanding, I asked help from the Cultural and Information Centre of the Embassy of Japan in Bern and I received the image you see on the right. I sincerely thank the manager of that service. I often say : « We are nothing without others ».
As far as I am concerned, I did not have the impression of applying this notion. All that I know, is that since my childhood I like to take things back, to make them more beautiful, easier and it is a pleasure when I succeed. I certainly don’t have the same vocabulary as Roger, but definitely the same intention !
The adventure with Roger. I entered watchmaking by tangent. See the articles on the Fabrique d’Horlogerie Froidevaux, Neuchâtel, and Abraham-Louis Breguet whose links appear at the bottom of this text. It has been almost five years since I wrote the first one, three for the second and year and a half ago I wrote one on Beaumarchais who started his life as a watchmaker, he even became watchmaker to the king ! So, he was watchmaker among an incredible amount of trades. And there, I find something in common with Roger : the diversity of centres of interest, all well comprehended and deepened. Roger, I met him seven years ago and he first joined my adventures. It is thanks to him that the Watchmaking Museum of Château des Monts, in Le Locle, is enriched wtih documents, relating to the factory of Mr Froidevaux, left my late friend André Oppel. He is the one who told me that the museum might be interested. It is also the one who, when I told him I wanted to see something relating to watchmaking in Paris, told me to visit the Breguet museum. That is how I discovered the latter and thus my admiration for the spirit of this man started. Then I followed some of Roger’s episodes in which I participated from near or far :
- of the four friends of the beginning of his adventure, there remains one ;
- in order to have a list of his suppliers, parts and everything related to his watch, he created an Excel spreadsheet, which is absolutely effective. He doesn’t need to seek during painful moments the place where he could have classified this or that. He has everything at hand. I have been thinking for a while that I am going to do something similar. I just did it for the passwords and other information of the various companies and platforms I deal with ; each one has its logic and it is complicated to remember everything. A sequel should see the light of day and make my life easier. With an Excel spreadsheet, one finds everything immediately ;
- the search for investors. A whole chapter !
- December 30, 2021 Roger was in my ballet studio and received a call from an old student friend desiring to invest in his enterprise ! This magnificent news in my studio made me feel part of his adventure : I witnesses a crucial moment, I witnesses the confidence this friend has in Roger and I find that magnificent ;
- Roger needs a platform, a web site, to publicise his watch and, as usual, he studies the possibilities offered on the market. He discovers that many of the offices that offer a site for their clients are, in fact, only using pre-formatted sites, like mine. Very often I feel limited when I want to highlight this or that. But anyway, I am the one who writes all my articles, makes all my pictures and montages. Roger doesn’t like to depend on others, he knows in advance what the site should look like and he starts learning how to make his own platform. There too, he succeeds. If you look at it, all the information appears on a single page that you scroll down. Nothing can escape you. This manner is unusual, which may surprise some, but Roger doesn’t care. I told you, Roger is particular. For him, the most important thing is that everything is at hand ;
- for his website he needs photos. Some, he orders, but most of them he takes himself ;
- he needs a film or two ? No problem, he makes them ( management, production and editing) ;
- he participates to the exhibition Time to Watches in Geneva and designs how to best use the space he has. The exhibition has not yet finished that Roger knows already what he is going to change next year. He also knows what his watch will look like next year, in two years, in three years. I told you, Roger doesn’t stop thinking. If he was Chinese, his name would be :
I recognize the last ideogram, the one of the man ; it is the only one I know. I find fascinating the human being ability of transcribing orally and in writing what they saw, all what happened to them in so many different ways ! When I showed the ideograms to Roger, he also recognized the same as me, and told me that Limburgish, his mother tongue (now you know he is Dutch), is the only European language to modulate vowels like Chinese. With Roger one gets richer all the time.
I take the opportunity to thank Mr Jaycee Fan, marketing director of the watch trade Behrens that also participated in the exhibition. He was kind enough to translate into Chinese the expression that characterises Roger so well. I will say a few words about this company later.
- I resume :
- moreover, Roger is a simple man, he likes to joke, and is deeply honest. For instance, his ring-shaped watch can be decorated with different objects : metal balls, semi-precious or precious stones and even tiny sculptures. If a client buys his watch and knows somebody who could make him the sculpture he desires, it is possible. Similarly, if an artist wishes to propose sculptures that could appeal to his clients, the client negotiates directly with the artist without Roger asking for a commission. For me, that is called nobility of soul ;
- this nobility of soul is the one that I find in Abraham-Louis Breguet when he makes his subscription watches in order to be repairable by any watchmaker and not just his own. That fascinates me !
French. I love languages and French in particular. There is a pun between « watchmaker », the name « Roger » and « Run Roger ! » in Limburgish that cannot be translated. What you can see is that « Roger » and « horloger » (watchmaker) finish with the same rhyme. Roger told me that there was something better in Limburgish : »Hol Roger I » (run Roger !) which has exactly the same number of letters as the French word watchmaker and also the same letters with only one at a different place. That suits him so well. Doing some research, I discover that the first French watchmaker of which we have trace, 1292, is Jehan L’Aulogier whose name in French is also close to watchmaker and, of course, I like this name !
Predestination ? According to what I said before, there must be something like that. The fact is that at the age of 12 he tweaks his alarm clock so that instead of ringing at a specific time, it sends an electric current through a cable so that the curtains in his room open. How did he do it ? I didn’t very well understand, the main thing is that it worked : a pin which held together the first ring of each curtain, in the middle of the window, was withdrawn by an electrical charge emanating from the clock and the curtains opened pulled by a weight on each side. He tells me also that he used to buy old appliances and take them apart to see how they worked. If you were looking for an inquisitive mind, you found it !
The idea of his watch. If the idea of an invention often appears suddenly, one knows that things do not arise from a vacuum and that there is a lot of work sometimes conscious, sometimes unconscious behind… Roger had already worked in the watchmaking industry, but as his head never stops thinking, one day, the idea of making a ring-shaped watch with an empty centre that could accommodate an interchangeable decoration appeared to him, landed in his brain, was born. That is the beginning of the adventure. This is one question that he was often asked during the exhibition. It is indeed a fascinating subject. I often say that it is not because you eat fruit that you will have a fruity thought. There are very interesting theories on the subject, including that of physicist Jean-Pierre Garnier Malet although he declares that he only recalls a vital principle that the ancients knew.
I speak of intuition and Roger speaks of certainty. That is his way of being. He knows since ten yeas that his watch will see the light of day and that day is coming. He knows that his watch will have this or that characteristic and not a different one because it is the way it has to be. He says, Ferrari does not put his name on the tyres ; they have to be changed anyway, so why to lose time ? Think about it.
Roger during the exhibition : I see him talking to all kinds of people, industry professionals, collectors, students. He finds topics of conversation because he travelled around the world for three years by bike, so he knows almost the whole world, he knows several cultures, speaks six living languages in addition to Latin, he loves the arts, cars, mechanics, music, has designed furniture, he sails, he will never run out of ideas. Although he was there for his watch, speaking to a young craftsman who tells him that he has created a special piece, Roger gives him a hint to go further. That is all Roger. I tell myself that the beings who have a noble soul are those who should govern us.
Hooke and Huygens. It is the name of his company. When it becomes time to name his company that is taking shape, he does some research (not surprising knowing now how he functions) and realizes that these names are not associated to companies although they really innovated in watchmaking. The first is English and the second Dutch. They also made a lot of inventions, but both invented the spiral balance wheel, which made it possible to increase the precision of time measurement – until then it was measured in hours only. Since their invention, the first in 1665 and the other in 1670, without one knowing that the other was working on it, time has been measured to the nearest minute. It was also Hooke who in 1675 invented the lever escapement for clocks in order to regulate the energy in clocks and Huygens invents the pendulum clock ! It is quite fascinating to see how their inventions follow each other and are the basics of current watchmaking ! I tell myself that Hooke and Huygens, who must sleep among other stars, must wake up hearing their names mentioned so often !
Behrens Watches. In my world things get linked without me being aware. First I had taken pictures of people present at the exhibition and who appear in this article. Among them were people from the management of Behrens and I gave them my business card so that they could see the result. Hazard, a famous companion of my life, made that there was an error in the card and in order to avoid them difficulties, I send them a message of correction. Wanting to know more about them, I took a look on their platform and learned that the leaders paid homage to the German Peter Behrens, father of modern architecture and of industrial design at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. The enterprise was created in 2012. I find that great. I like people who love history, it says a lot about them, and I tell myself that Peter Behrens must also wake up in his star hearing his name so often. I am tempted to write a tale where I would bring Hooke, Huygens and Behrens together over a starry cup of tea.
My adventure in Roger’s adventure. One day Roger told me that he would need me during the exhibition. I accepted immediately. He said that I knew about the subject, that I liked people and that I could speak different languages. I am not far from believing that fate played his part… Then, he took time to show me how his watch functions so that I could answer visitors’ questions and because I was interested in it. For me it is an experience, an adventure, a training, a life journey ; it is also a way of participating to the watchmaking history as a whole and of Neuchâtel in particular. I tell myself that I can leave this world in peace. Good, but seeing Roger’s watch next year holds me back !
Expressions with clock, hours, etc. This paragraph is also linked to French. It turns out that the students who passed by Roger’s stand told their friends to pass too. This is how a student, called Inés, arrives and tells me that it was her friends that had told her to come. I congratulate her and she says : « Well, there was no need to reverse a clock to make me come ! » It was so evocative and welcome that I thought the expression existed. The explanation was totally different, but, I told her that I was going to introduce it into my vocabulary and mention it my article and she posed for me.
I have to look for more English idioms and expressions with these words.
- A whale of a time ;
- Crack of dawn ;
- Only time will tell ;
- Turn back the hands of time ;
- Time is on my side.
An idiom to come : It is time to have an H&H watch ! and probably, in a couple of years, it shall be enough to say « It is time to have an H&H ! » when you mean that it is necessary to do, have, something unique…
History. I like history. I very often repeat that the most important branch in our studies should be history. Without history we would not be who we are. We must know it in order to avoid mistakes, we must glorify those who have paved the way for us and Roger does so by naming his company after the two watchmakers who marked the beginning of watchmaking :
- Introduction : in the beginning there is the observation of day and night, the phases of the moon, the observation shadows moved, the division of time into day and night and each one into 12 in order to organize daily life. Those who achieve this feat ate the Babylonians ! It is linked to a duodecimal system for counting : they counted the different phalanges of the hand with their thumb, that was 4 X 3 = 12, twice and so we have 12 during the day and12 at night. That is wonderful ! There are thrilling platforms on the Web to track all of this, which allows me to jump to those who managed to regulate the speed of the gears :
- 1657 – Hooke invents the anchor escapement for clocks ;
- 1670 – Hooke and in 1675 Huygens invent the balance spring , independently of each other, increasing watch precision from hours to minutes. Therefore a minute hand was added ;
- 1750 – Thomas Mudge invents the free and self-starting lever escapement ;
- 1776 – Perrelet invents the self-winding watch.
These inventions are the basics of today’s mechanical clocks and watches. They are the gears that inspired Roger to create his ring-shaped watch into which he put eight barrels in order to give it a power reserve of a week.
Time has come ! Time has come to part, it is also time to repeat that Roger’s watch is ingenious, never seen before and it is time for your to head to Roger’s website : https://hookeandhuygens.com/#History.
Links in English to :
- Hoole & Huygens watch and feet by Zully ;
- Fabrique d’Horlogerie Froidevaux S.A. Neuchâtel – Switzerland ;
- Abraham-Louis Breguet ;
- Jean-Pierre Garnier Malet (physicist).
- Links in French :
- René Froidevaux, l’homme et le patron de la fabrique d’horlogerie ;
- Documents horlogers d’André Oppel au « Musée d’horlogerie du Locle – Château des Monts » ;
- Une montre parmi les affaires d’André ;
- Abraham-Louis Bregue bis (la maison, l’homme) ;
- Histoires d’entreprises ;
- Pierre-Augustin de Beaumarchais, homme de génie.
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