One museum, one city, eight partners

When the MIH issued invitations to work on a unique project aimed at safeguarding and showcasing watchmaking heritage, various regional experts from different fields came forward. These artisans, all based in La Chaux-de-Fonds, were eager and proud to contribute their technical expertise towards the different aspects of the watch, to develop a finished product of outstanding quality.

Atelier XJC – the design

XJC is an artist-led and products design studio and a familiar name in luxury and craftsmanship. In its laboratory of ideas, one of the main activities is researching new materials and production processes. They came up with the design for the watch, which was developed ahead of the creation process and subsequently adjusted during the course of the project, and gave it its original shape.

“It’s always interesting to see a project mature and evolve in line with proposals from its participants. The design brief for the watch was to work from an original, pared-back display while taking inspiration from the MIH. Our thinking was focused on that goal, but right up until the end we were making changes. There were also certain constraints that pushed us to be original.”

Xavier Perrenoud, designer

Atelier XJC
Xavier Perrenoud, designer

The MIH Gaïa watch is a quite a unique project. What made you want to be a part of it?
“The fact that it is a collaborative project gives it a certain authenticity, transparency and logic in relation to the museum’s values. Today, the public wants to know the provenance of the products they buy, and this project is a window into the modern design of a horological piece.”

What positive impact do you think this project has as something “made in La Chaux-de-Fonds”?
“The MIH Gaïa is a way of highlighting one of the hubs of Swiss watchmaking – La Chaux-de-Fonds – and its expertise, as well as showcasing the local talent.”

Just like the MIH Gaïa watch, the design of a timepiece is always the result of a collaborative process. What are the differences, difficulties and benefits of working in this way?
“It’s always interesting to see a project mature and evolve in line with proposals from its participants. The design brief for the watch was to work from an original, pared-back display while taking inspiration from the MIH. Our thinking was focused on that goal, but right up until the end we were making changes. There were also certain constraints that pushed us to be original.”

What are the areas of activity, successes and expertise that can be attributed to your company?
“We specialise in providing creative direction for luxury brands and businesses focused on craftsmanship; our main priority is to work on the vision and the aesthetic unity which comes from that. Product design comes next and is closely linked to that first step.
Following an approach based on perpetual innovation, XJC has developed an “ideas laboratory” which explores different skills to create a piece. This allows us to invert the design process by not working from a commission. We could work from a particular technique, material, or form, for example.”

Timeforge – the technical plans

Timeforge is a company specialising in watch design and the development of high-end watches. They took care of translating the design into production-ready terms and supplied the technical plans for the watch, which are wholly owned by the museum.

« The interactions which take place between the different specialists allow us to acquire new knowledge and push our limits ever further. »

Jérémy Freléchox et Axel Leuenberger, co-founders

Timeforge
Jérémy Freléchox et Axel Leuenberger, co-founders

The MIH Gaïa watch is a quite a unique project. What made you want to be a part of it?
“The MIH has always been an awe-inspiring place for us as watchmakers. To be involved with one of its projects and have the chance to help create the MIH Gaïa watch was my motivation and driving force.”

What positive impact do you think this project has as something “made in La Chaux-de-Fonds”?
“The main impact is that it promotes the expertise of our region and its inhabitants, and the resulting unique artistic creation.”

Just like the MIH Gaïa watch, the design of a timepiece is always the result of a collaborative process. What are the differences, difficulties and benefits of working in this way?
“Firstly, it provides an opportunity to expand the scope of your knowledge through exchanges with different industries. The interactions which take place between the different specialists allow us to acquire new knowledge and push our limits ever further.”

What are the areas of activity, successes and expertise that can be attributed to your company?
“Timeforge is a design office specialising in watchmaking and micromechanical engineering and our main areas of expertise are:
– The design and production of watch mechanisms, from simple mechanisms to grande complications.
– The calculation and optimisation of micro-gears, on both existing products and new developments. Our customers are not necessarily watchmakers, and they come from practically all over the world, but they all share a need for reliable, effective solutions. We are supported by a very well-known expert in this sector, Mr Michel Belot. Now retired, he devotes some of his spare time to passing on his experience and expertise to us. We have also taken on the task of preserving his work.
– Private label and product design specifically for watchmaking. We use our expertise to help our customers create new products. We cover this domain in partnership with Thierry Fischer, an exceptional designer who shares our premises.”

Sellita – the movement

Sellita has a long history in both the assembly and design and manufacture of quality automatic movements. One of its Swiss-made mechanical movements is at the heart of the MIH Gaïa watch, and was adapted to meet its requirements.

“The project is very exciting in its own right, as the watch is so elegant and beautiful. Through its originality, the MIH Gaïa watch presents a vision for watchmaking and a unique aesthetic that are perfectly in tune with the MIH’s values. The concept of a watch made entirely in La Chaux-de-Fonds is wonderful, and further reinforces the already very strong links between the city and the museum. This geographical connection really brings the project together and showcases the unique expertise we have in this city.”

Miguel Garcia, CEO

Sellita
Miguel Garcia, director

The MIH Gaïa watch is a quite a unique project. What made you want to be a part of it?
“First of all, it’s crucial to support our museum. “The MIH plays a central role in preserving and promoting the art of watchmaking. As a watchmaking business, the preservation of this heritage is obviously something particularly close to our hearts. And the project is very exciting in its own right, as the watch is so elegant and beautiful. Through its originality, the MIH Gaïa watch presents a unique vision for watchmaking and a unique aesthetic that are perfectly in tune with the MIH’s values.”

What positive impact do you think this project has as something “made in La Chaux-de-Fonds”?
“The concept of a watch made entirely in La Chaux-de-Fonds is wonderful, and further reinforces the already very strong links between the city and the museum. This geographical connection really brings the project together and showcases the unique expertise we have in this city. “

Just like the MIH Gaïa watch, the design of a timepiece is always the result of a collaborative process. What do you think are the differences, difficulties and benefits of working in this way?
“The MIH watch uses an original method of displaying time, based on discs. This may at first seem like a trivial decision, but it has major technical implications and requires great care in terms of developing the exterior and also assembling the watch.”

What are the areas of activity, successes and expertise that can be attributed to your company?
“Sellita was created in La Chaux-de-Fonds in 1950, and we have a long history in assembly as well as design and manufacture of quality mechanical movements. Over the years we have become an essential mainstay of the Swiss watchmaking industry. It therefore seemed a natural step that a Sellita movement would drive the MIH Gaïa watch.”

Stila – the case

The company Stila contributed their expertise to create the case for the watch. The result is a very finely crafted outer enclosure, demonstrating to collectors that the MIH Gaïa watch has a standard of workmanship on a par with the luxury watch brands.

Jean Singer & Cie – the dial

The manufacturer Jean Singer & Cie SA produces dials for the best-known watch brands. This family-run company offered the museum the full breadth of their experience in producing high-quality dials, in particular taking up the challenge of manufacturing the distinctive domed central disc seen on the MIH Gaïa watch.

“The project demonstrates something that is often forgotten: that here in La Chaux-de-Fonds we are in a position to create amazing things with the extraordinary watchmaking expertise of subcontractors that are still family-owned.”

Joris Engisch, director

Jean Singer & Cie
Joris Engisch, director

The MIH Gaïa watch is a quite a unique project. What made you want to be a part of it?
“We wanted to support the MIH by offering our company’s services. We are celebrating our 100th anniversary this year and this is a great way to mark this milestone together.”

What positive impact do you think this project has as something “made in La Chaux-de-Fonds”?
“It demonstrates something that is often forgotten: that here in La Chaux-de-Fonds we are in a position to create amazing things with the extraordinary watchmaking expertise of subcontractors that are still family-owned.”

Just like the MIH watch, the design of a timepiece is always the result of a collaborative process. What are the differences, difficulties and benefits of working in this way?
“The one and only difficulty per se is to ensure we understand what our clients want and know how to interpret this in technical and aesthetic terms. Once all this is clear, nowadays nothing is impossible. The toughest thing is making choices, since the possibilities are infinite.”

What are the areas of activity, successes and expertise that can be attributed to your company?
“Over the years we have built up a real expertise in new technologies for vapour phase surface treatments, known as PVD. The colours developed by Singer are known far and wide, and have names such as Singer blue no. 5 and Singer blue no. 11. Our competitors also use these names for placing orders. Besides this, the traditional expertise Singer has acquired over the century we have been in business gives us a certain credibility with clients.”

Brasport – the strap

The company Brasport specialises in leather watch straps, as well as other small leather goods (such as cases, card holders and cigar cases). Brasport was created in 1946 and is committed to innovating in its sector. This partnership therefore gave the MIH the opportunity to combine the MIH Gaïa watch with the highest quality leather.

Cornu & Cie – the buckle

Cornu & Cie is a manufacturer specialising in metal straps, folding buckles, clasps and metal tongue buckles – and inventiveness is its watchword. This is a value it shares with the MIH as part of this venture.

Laboratoire Dubois – the reliability tests

The museum approached Laboratoire Dubois to guarantee precision and compliance with standards the MIH Gaïa is not designed to be kept behind glass but to be worn on a daily basis. The laboratory has specialised in testing, analysis and checks for the watchmaking industry since the 1970s. Incidentally, its founder Henri Dubois won the 2014 Gaïa Prize in the Entrepreneurship category.

”I appreciate the fact that the project involves different local participants from the watchmaking industry; we can each make an individual contribution in our own specialist area. Creating a watch represents the pooling of many different skills and crafts. Here, in the capital of watchmaking, we have all of these assets.”

Patrick Dubois, CEO

Laboratoire Dubois
Patrick Dubois, president

The MIH Gaïa watch is a quite a unique project. What made you want to be a part of it?
“The people who dreamt up the project at MIH had an infectious enthusiasm that made me want to offer the Laboratoire’s services for our area of competence – reliability.”

What positive impact do you think this project has as something “made in La Chaux-de-Fonds”?
“I appreciate the fact that the project involves different local participants from the watchmaking industry; we can each make an individual contribution in our own specialist area. Creating a watch represents the pooling of many different skills and crafts. Here in the capital of watchmaking we have all of these assets.”

Just like the MIH Gaïa watch, the design of a timepiece is always the result of a collaborative process. What are the differences, difficulties and benefits of working in this way?
“Joining forces is very inspiring and requires a great deal of communication; it’s an enriching experience. Of course, this can sometimes bring certain complications into the process.”

What are the areas of activity, successes and expertise that can be attributed to your company?
“We specialise in testing, analysis and checks, whether for movements, exterior or straps. In this context, we provide quality control and reliability testing for watches on behalf of our watchmaking clients. We also operate in

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Atelier XJC

Xavier Perrenoud, designer

La montre MIH Gaïa est un projet qui sort des sentiers battus. Qu’est-ce qui vous a donné envie d’y participer ?
« Ce projet participatif fait que nous avons une authenticité, une transparence, une logique par rapport aux valeurs du musée. Aujourd’hui les publics aiment savoir d’où viennent les produits qu’ils achètent, ce projet est une fenêtre sur la conception moderne d’un objet horloger. »

Quel(s) impact(s) positif(s) reflète(nt) pour vous ce projet “made in La-Chaux-de-Fonds” ?

« La montre MIH Gaïa permet de valoriser l’un des foyers de l’horlogerie suisse – La Chaux-de-Fonds et son savoir-faire – ainsi que de mettre en avant les talents qui s’y trouvent. »

Tout comme la montre MIH Gaïa, la conception d’un garde-temps est toujours le fruit d’un travail commun. Quelles sont les évolutions, les difficultés et les bénéfices de ce processus ?
« Il est toujours intéressant de voir un projet prendre de la maturité et évoluer en fonction des propositions des participants. Pour le design de la montre le but était de travailler sur un affichage original et épuré en s’inspirant du MIH. Nous avons réfléchi dans cette direction mais, jusqu’au dernier moment, des changements ont été opérés. De plus, certaines contraintes poussent vers l’originalité. »

Quels sont les domaines d’activité, les succès et les expertises à mettre au compte de votre entreprise ?
« Nous sommes spécialisés dans la direction créative pour des maisons dans domaine du luxe et du craftmanship : nous travaillons avant tout sur la vision et la cohérence esthétique qui en découlent. Le design de produits est la suite intimement liée à cette première étape. Dans une logique de perpétuelle innovation, XJC a développé un « laboratoire d’idées » qui explore des savoir-faire pour créer un objet. Ainsi l’on inverse le processus de conception en ne démarrant pas sur un mandat. Cela peut être, par exemple, sur une technique, sur une matière, sur une forme, etc. »