Each Bovet timepiece is a treasure. For 200 years, the watchmaker has seamlessly combined artisanal handcraft, like enamelling and miniature painting, and sophisticated old-world aesthetics to create pieces that can catch your eye from across the room.
The Swiss company’s journey is as fascinating. In the early 19th century, a British manufacturer sent Swiss-born Edouard Bovet, as a watch repairer, to Canton, China, where he quickly sold a quartet of pocket watches for the equivalent today of a million dollars. Encouraged by the response, he established his own company, Bovet, in 1822 in London, to supply only to China, and built a fan following of pocket watches with exquisitely enamelled images. The next big chapter in the life of Bovet, the company, came in 2001 when an affluent and passionate watch collector, Pascal Raffy, took over the brand. Buyers across the world were introduced to modern-day Bovet watches that were as exceptional as they were expensive (well above ₹20 lakh).
Now, another chapter in being written in the Bovet history, as Raffy’s daughter Audrey, a graduate from Chicago’s Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in the US, joins the company as vice president to infuse more young energy into the brand to attract millennial and post-millennial buyers.
I met Audrey Raffy, who’s in her mid-20s, in Delhi, while she was in the city to celebrate 200 years of the brand. Bovet watches came to India about seven years ago and are available in Ethos stores across the country. In an interview, she talks about her plans for Bovet, why women no longer see watches as just a piece of jewellery and keeping the brand young.
From law to watches, how’s the experience been?
It’s been a good learning experience for sure (laughs). It’s been two years since I started working with my father. I graduated from law school in May 2020 and joined him in July. I was interested in law but I knew I wanted to join my father’s business as well. Initially, I was working remotely from the US but as the world started opening up, I began attending more watch events physically to understand the newer trends and how pandemic was shaping the market.
It’s definitely a male-dominated industry, we all know that. But, you know, from the past two years, I have seen a change, especially from the client side. There are more woman who are interested in learning about watchmaking, the brilliant engineering behind it, the composition, the movement, everything. It’s no longer just a piece of jewellery to them. And I think this may help push watch brands to include more women in their team.
What do you think has brought about this change?
It’s just the way the entire world is progressing. Not just the watch industry, but otherwise also, it’s finally getting to that point where there are no gender-specific jobs or gender-specific positions. Now, if you’re interested in something and you want to do it, then you do the hard work and you get it. It’s becoming easier now compared to, say, a decade ago.
Were you always interested in making a career in watches?
I was 7 or 8 when my father acquired the brand. My dad would travel and meet different partners across the world and then he would come home and share his experiences with us during dinner. So, in a sense, I grew up with the brand.
How do you keep the traditional Bovet aesthetics intact while creating a modern watch?
That’s the beauty of it, no? It’s a true luxury and honour to take something that’s 200 years old, keep its identity and add contemporary touches to create modern, sporty, sexy watches using different colours, and materials, something which buyers want today. People now want a piece that they can wear to the beach, a meeting as well as to a dinner party.
You work on the design of the watch as well?
Apart from design, I do everything. Designing is my father’s thing. I do share my thoughts on it, though. Like I suggested we go for bright colours and rubber straps and he, being a very classic man and all about understated luxury, said it didn’t really make sense to him. It was hard for him to imagine that you could put a rubber strap on a $400,000 timepiece. But now, rubber is widely used. And not because it’s just nice and all, but because it’s easier to wear, it’s more comfortable, especially if you live in a hot country like India. It’s more durable, and again, that’s what the client wants now, ease, comfort and luxury.
Who’s your client?
If you had asked me this question six-seven years ago, I would have said 40 and above. Now, after the pandemic, clients are coming from the early 20s age range as well. Watches are being seen more and more as investment pieces and not just some decorative item.