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 number of different manufacturers, 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 was 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. In response to that, he decided 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 are a few dozen clients, still waiting to receive their watches. More recently, the watchmaker committed to create a further 20 pieces, to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Simplicity.
An Early Example
It is understood that this is one of the earliest Simplicity watches to have left the watchmaker's bench, with the movement carrying a number below 35 and having been delivered to its original owner in April 2004. Further to this, whilst the model was more commonly produced in white-gold, fewer pieces were cased in rose-gold, making this example all the more unusual, and rare. Upon the request of the client, this watch is also accompanied by two sets of dials and hands, which can be changed over based on the wearer's preference.
The Simplicity’s round, rose-gold case features a matching rose-gold crown and measures at 37mm in diameter, making it larger than the 34mm Simplicity, the more restrained offering from the watchmaker. The extended lugs contribute to its presence, allowing the piece to assert its presence comfortably on the wearer's wrist.
In contrast to the case, the solid silver dial has a sunburst finish, and features a painted, black minute track and applied Arabic numerals and index markers. An inner chapter, with a mesmerising guilloché pattern and Dauphine-style hands, features a discreet cartouche with the watchmaker's name. Meanwhile, the sub-seconds register at six o'clock is finished with concentric circles and possesses black, painted markers. This example is accompanied by a separate dial and hands. The second dial included is created from white lacquer, while the Breguet-style hands are rendered in blued steel, giving the wearer the option to return to an even more classical style.
To describe the Simplicity, one must start inside out. The movement is a heavily reworked version of the Valijoux calibre VZSS, a movement that has powered many of the finest watches over the last century.
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 rose gold Philippe Dufour Simplicity comes with its original box and International Guarantee and Certificate of Origin (dated April 2004), in addition to two dials and two sets of hands.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Philippe Dufour Simplicity will be subject to 20% VAT.