Another remarkable pocket watch we discovered on our tour was tucked away on the first floor in the very far corner. Here, in a case dedicated to pieces made by those still studying at watchmaking school, is a piece that inspired Philippe Dufour to create the Duality. Made in 1933 at the Watchmaking School in the Vallée de Joux, signed by the student, Jean R. Graef. Six of these watches were made with perhaps the most famous being the one signed by Albert Piguet which sold at auction in 2019 for CHF 250,000. From our research we believe that Graef was one of three son’s belonging to Otto Graef, at the time, the owner of watch brand Mimo, who would go on to buyout Girard-Perregaux. It is in connection to Girard-Perregaux that we find the next reference to Jean, as there was a company established in America called Jean R. Graef Inc and appears to be the sole importer of Girard-Perregaux watches into the country. This watch is the only one we know of that bears Jean R. Graef’s name and it would suggest he attended the school before entering the family business.
This piece has a single barrel running two balance wheels through a differential and is clearly finished in the classical Vallée de Joux style that Dufour so often cites. Often quoted as saying he “did not invent anything”, this watch is proof of the traditions upon which Dufour bases a lot of his work.
We couldn’t finish our conversation about the pocket watches on display at the museum without mentioning one that was, at one point, a world leader. Produced by Charles Ami LeCoultre, a watchmaker known for his prowess in complication development, this piece incorporates 22 different functions besides telling the time. Finished in 1878, its yellow-gold case is peppered with sliders and pushers controlling the various chiming, date, and time-telling functions. The completely skeletonised dial puts this multifaceted and multi-layered movement on full display, although it does detract from its legibility slightly.