Philippe Dufour was born in 1948 in Le Sentier, in the Vallée de Joux, to a mother and father who were both watchmakers. At the age of fifteen, he attended the Ecole d’Horlogerie in Le Sentier, where he excelled in his studies. Upon graduation, in 1967, he joined Jaeger-LeCoultre, spending time in their after-sales department. Whilst there, he worked closely with Gabriel Locatelli, who became a mentor for the young watchmaker, educating him on “all the things you don’t learn at watchmaking school,” Dufour recalls.
In the following years, he worked for a few different manufactures, including Audemars Piguet, before focusing on restoring antique and vintage watches, on behalf of collectors and auction houses. In doing so, he became enamoured with the pieces which were created in the Vallée de Joux between 1800 and 1920, before any sort of industrialisation was introduced. He realised that the ébauches created here had been used throughout Switzerland, Germany, and even Britain, making this the epicentre of traditional watchmaking.
Born in the Vallée de Joux himself, Dufour became determined to bring back this long-lost style of watchmaking. As he puts it, “I never invented anything, I just took inspiration from what was done before me.” He has only produced three series models in his time as an independent watchmaker - the Grande et Petite Sonnerie, the Duality and the Simplicity.
Early on, Philippe Dufour was made aware of his dedicated following in Japan through a friend of his, Antoine Preziuso. The idea was born to create a watch that catered to the sensitivities of that market, which had long appreciated fine craft, alongside understated and balanced design. Between 2000 and the present day, it is understood that around 215 Simplicities have been made. It is also believed that there is a current waiting list of a few dozen clients, who are still waiting to receive their watches, if the watchmaker chooses or is able to fulfil their order. More recently, the watchmaker committed to creating a further 20 pieces, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Simplicity.
This particular example captures the quintessential design of the Simplicity - a 34mm white gold case, matched by a silver guilloché dial. In fact, it is the same configuration as the watch which Dufour made for himself, and which he wears on a regular basis. The solid silver dial has a sunburst guilloché finish, and features a painted, black minute track and applied Arabic numerals and index markers. The watchmaker's name sits discretely in a cartouche at 12 o'clock.
This example was delivered by Dufour in February 2009 and was sold in March 2010, through Kamine in Kobe, Japan. The watchmaker's following in Japan is such that more than half of the Simplicity watches he created were sold in the country. The movement carries the unique serial number - in the "N. 14X" format - engraved in a golden cartouche.
To describe the Simplicity, one must start inside out. As one might expect, the movement is superlative both in terms of construction and finish, bearing resemblance to similar pieces created in the Vallée du Joux, during the early 20th century. Dufour is admired for the quality of his finishing, which he achieves entirely by hand, by utilising traditional tools and techniques. The bridges are made from rhodium-plated brass and finished with classic Geneva stripes. The seamless transition between the stripe and the angling on the side of the bridges demonstrates the watchmaker’s level of skill.
The smallest details – from the black polish on the escape wheel cock, to the dramatically sharp points of the bridges – are thoroughly thought out. Though his approach can be particularly burdensome, Dufour chooses to prioritise these traditional techniques, harking-back to what he considers the golden age of watchmaking.
This white gold Philippe Dufour Simplicity was delivered in February 2009 and sold in March 2010 through Kamine, in Japan. It comes with its original outer box, inner wooden box and International Guarantee and Certificate of Origin. It also comes with an alligator strap and white gold tang buckle, from Philippe Dufour.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Philippe Dufour Simplicity will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.