From Bienne to Your Dream Watch with Miguel Bolea

Every time I think I’ve just about seen it all in the world of Bienne watchmaking, someone proves me wrong. Miguel Bolea did just that. He is the founder of DYW Bespoke. DYW stands for “Develop Your Watch”.

The journey begins in his office, which you enter from Bienne’s most iconic location, Place Centrale. The city’s “central plaza” is known for being the only crossroads in Switzerland with unregulated traffic. No lights, no signs. Harmony is the key word here, as pedestrians, buses and cars calmly manage to always, somehow, find a path for each other. While the plaza feels safe, one feels even safer sitting with Bolea on his cushy sofa just above the bank that occupies most of the building.

Miguel Bolea was born and raised in Bienne. It’s here, and in the broader Jura region, that he learned the ropes of the watch industry. Eterna, Porsche Design, Zodiac (Fossil Group), Burberry and Gucci are among the names on his resume. His experience built the foundations for the venture he started just over 5 years ago.

DYW was born around several of Bolea’s dreams. One was to enable watch collectors to design their own watch, in a meaningful way. Not through an automated configurator. But also not through a process so customized that it would be unattainable. Another dream was to deliver a timepiece with a Tourbillon, the complication that always most captured his imagination.

Bolea then went on to select high-end suppliers in the Swiss watchmaking valley, both in Bienne and across the region. Working with each one, he built an offering flexible enough for the end result to be truly personal, but with a process sufficiently rationalized to be cost-effective.

Bolea often likes to compare his project to Lego, his childhood favorite toy. “I designed a unique case shape, to give the watches identity. But even that can be modified. I provide options, my customer makes the decisions. It’s a journey we’re in together.”

“Swiss madeness” is at the heart of the concept, with the case, dial and all other components made or finished in Switzerland. All the way to the packaging: “built by a company in Le Locle with Novonappa leather from the French Haas Tanneries; the warranty card is in Swiss wood, engraved in Bienne”, he adds.

What I personally found exciting when Miguel started pulling out the pieces of his “Lego” and showing me what had or could be done was the level of possibilities. They seemed endless but also nicely contained in a framework the entrepreneur had set based on his understanding of the industry. You feel like you can play around but not really go wrong.

“For instance, he explains, I just delivered a piece with a sapphire dial. The dial was pre-cut and metalized, so that it appears smoked. Underneath you can see the plate, hand-hammered for extra texture”. Clients can also personalize the movement with an engraving or special decoration, or opt for a signature on the dial.

So how does it all work? And, you may wonder, how much does it all cost? Originally, when the focus was on the Tourbillon, also entirely Swiss Made, the entry price was around 15,000 CHF. Of course, depending on the options chosen, it can go quite higher. Especially if one choses the beautiful Métiers d’Art dials that Bolea introduced to his offering. More recently, a new base model came into being: a three-hand watch, with all of the above but no Tourbillon. The automatic movement is also made by DYW’s partner Chronode. Starting price here is 6,000 CHF.

While of course the destination (a high grade watch designed according to your taste) sounds amazing, so does the journey. It typically takes 5 to 8 months to have a watch made, and, if you want to join, Bolea will take you along with him. That can include a road trip across the Swiss Jura to visit the different suppliers and make final choices. Upon request, the watch can also be hand delivered to its new owner, anywhere in the world.

I remember meeting Miguel Bolea a few years ago, at the inception of his vision. I’m impressed at how he’s managed to convert his ideas into beautiful, finished products, on his customer’s wrists since September 2020, when the first piece was delivered.

Made in Bienne was created to share some of the “behind the scenes” of the capital of watchmaking, the making of that personally fascinates me so much. I’ve been humbled witnessing so much skill, so much know-how, as different brands have kindly opened their door to this blog. I do feel that ordering a watch from DYW would take things to the next level, giving one access to a level of “insiderness” that no standard manufacture tour could provide. While the Tourbillon price keeps this at the level of a “happy few”, the new three-hand offering suddenly makes it a lot more attainable. I bet some of you are quite tempted!

To find out more, you can visit Miguel Bolea’s website.

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