In Bienne, an Independent Watchmaker Opens his Ateliers, and his Soul

Time seems to slow down with each step from the city traffic on Bienne’s rue de Boujean to the majestic Villa Renfer. Facing the Suze river, the elegant 1860 house is a well-hidden yet easily-accessible gem that draws the mind to pause and admire. For watch lovers though, or anyone else who enjoys the sophisticated charm of a carefully preserved past, the true magic comes when Hervé Schlüchter opens the door to the Ateliers inside.

Today, March 20, the first day of Spring, Hervé Schlüchter is officially inaugurating his Ateliers in Bienne. Even in our city, widely considered the capital of the watch industry, hosting a new, independent, high-end watchmaker is a notable event. Most brands here are recognized for producing extremely high quality timepieces in sizable volume. There are a few local exceptions, focused on haute-horlogerie, a craftsmanship more typical of the Vallée de Joux further west. But what characterizes Schlüchter is not so much the category of watches he produces, rather it's the universe created from his philosophy.

Schlüchter grew up in Le Bémont, a village in the Jura mountains, north of Bienne. A student of the revered Philippe Dufour, his mentor, he has been crafting the most challenging complications for the past twenty-five years. At Bovet, where he spent most of his career, he would devote hundreds of hours to movements where the tourbillon was often just the first step.

When he explains his approach to watches, it's clear that meaning is everything. Creare Durare, his signature, literally “creating to last”, captures both the care he pours into his productions and his hope that they will perpetuate his being for generations to come. It's as much about the watches he makes as who he wants to be as a watchmaker.

The Ateliers is a living museum. Tools that have made time over decades, sometimes even a century, are methodically aligned according to the chronology of the tasks performed. Schlüchter does everything, as if every part of every watch to bear his name must borrow a bit of his soul. As he sits on his stool, masterfully caressing the metal with his file, his face lights up. His gestures are graceful yet sharp, gentle yet denting. “For it to be practical and fluid, it must be perfect”, he says, as he continues to artfully angle the bridge in his left hand.

No one knows exactly when the first watches from Schlüchter’s Ateliers will be on the wrists of those who already placed a “souscription”. If they did, then the watchmaker would feel that he has lost his freedom. Freedom is a condition of his vision, a requirement for his peace of mind, the guarantee that he will have the time to do things well.

“Tree of Life” is the name of the first collection, architected around the notions of grandparent, parent and child. In other words, past, present and future. Hervé Schlüchter is on a mission: a mission to be true to himself, to his values, to the history of horology. Time will tell how the world of collectors and critics respond to his production. Until then, a new season begins in the history of Bienne watchmaking.

You can find out more by visiting the Hervé Schlüchter website