We have just come across this new independent watchmaker by the name of Yosuke Sekiguchi who works and practices his craft in Le Locle Switzerland. Here is our preliminary exploration of his amazing new watch – the Primevère.
Pre-release information on the new independent watchmaker and his debut watch – the Primevère.
The introduction was through our friend, Kazuhiko Koyanagi, who is the director of Koyanagi Workshop in Nara, Japan. Koyanagi Workshop is a jewellery shop, carrying a wide range of products, including watches. The watch selection offered is quite large, but Kazu-san has a special interest in independent watchmaking. Among the independents he represent are Czapek, Asaoka, McGonigle, Paul Gerber, Vianney Halter and Jurgen Jurgensen.
Yosuke Sekiguchi is a watchmaker who currently lives in Le Locle, Switzerland. He was born in 1980 in Isesaki City, Gunma Prefecture in Japan. Sekiguchi moved to France in 2003, learnt French with a desire to make watches in Switzerland. However, work visas in Switzerland for Japanese nationals were difficult to come by, and at that time he had no formal training. In 2006, he enrolled in the GRETA vocational school in Morteau, France. However, he found out that he was not entitled to enroll in the school and had to leave. Fortunately, he had made friends with Rémy Bracco, who was a student at the GRETA vocational school. He had rented a room in Rémy’s house, and was allowed to use his workbench to learn watchmaking by having his friends who attended GRETA show him the school’s lessons and homework.
After completing the coursework, but not qualified as he did not graduate from the school, he was hired by Manufacture La Joux-Perret on Rémy’s recommendation. With this employment, he was able to get a working visa for Switzerland. He stayed at La Joux-Perret till 2011. (We note that the Citizen purchase of La Joux-Perret was in 2012.) His work in the firm mainly focused on modifications to the Valjoux 7750 for use in split-seconds, foudroyante and tourbillon applications. From 2011 to 2016, he worked at Christophe Claret, specializing in assembly and repair of complicated watches. One of the watches he made for Claret was the Maestoso with detent escapement, which was presented in Baselworld 2014, and pre-selected for the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) 2015.
While working at Claret, he also took a repair and restoration position at Juval Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds. He continued full time at Juval after he left Claret before leaving in 2019 to launch his own brand, officially becoming an independent in January 2020.
The information on this article on Sekiguchi-san and his watches is based on interviews done by Kazu Koyanagi. Many thanks to Kazu-san for his work and assistance.
Yosuke Sekiguchi Primevère – photographs of the prototype
The target retail price for the Sekiguchi Primevère is set at CHF 51,000 / JPY 6,400,000 for the SS model, and CHF 56,000 / JPY 7,000,000 for the rose gold. Prices are before taxes.
The watch is called Primevère, and what we show here is the prototype. We understand this is a working prototype, but there will be further improvements to the movement which will be implemented on the commercial release. Chief of these improvements is the addition of a shock absorption system for the balance wheel. The prototype as shown lacks a shock absorption system, and we understand an Incabloc type system will be installed.
The name Primevère is the French name for the Primrose. The idea behind its choice as a name is that the flower blooms in early spring, around the time of melting snow. Also fitting that the word primrose’s ethymology is derived from Latin prima rosa, literally ‘first rose’.
The case is very traditional three part case, comprising of a curved bezel, a bombe styled middle and a flat back bezel. Case diameter is a nicely sized 39.5mm, and the lugs are short, smoothly curved and soldered to the case. The crown is a large ribbed design. The case is outsourced, and made by a case maker run by the owner of Juval.
The dial is a very classical styling, and in grand feu enamel. The “Yosuke Sekiguchi” signature and “Le Locle” appears in cursive script below the 12 o’clock marker in two lines. The dial features roman numerals for the hours within a railway track marked for minutes. The subsidiary second sub-dial is sunken, and also features a railway track for the seconds with the 10s marked with arabic numerals. The hands are spade shaped, reminiscent of those on a marine chronometer. In the rose gold version, the markings are in a very beautiful indigo blue, while the stainless steel model has black markings. There is a slight bloom in the marking print, more evident in the blue ink than the black, and the slightly muted intensity of the hue which gives the dial a very vintage, and romantic feel.
Flip the watch, and the movement is rather spectacular. The bridge design is based on a design by Jules Jürgensen, who had also worked in the Jura region during his time. The bridge layout comprise of 4 distinctly shaped bridges, and two cocks – one for the balance and the other for the jewel of the detent escapement lever. Shown below is the a restored original Jules Jürgensen No.12096, manufactured in 1871. According to a ledger left by Jürgensen, the movement took several years for several watchmakers to make. The watch shows the signature Jürgensen style, and is restored by Sekiguchi. The movement was a small diameter pocket watch, but when Sekiguchi-san got it, the balance staff was broken. In his restoration, he replaced it with one he made in the same style, and left the movement as original as possible. The only other work he had done was to polish the set screws and some parts of the movement, intentionally leaving it as original as possible, including scratches. He then cased it in a new Urban Jürgensen prototype case. The hands are also current Urban Jürgensen hands, but the dial is the original grand feu enamel dial from the old watch, and signed “Jules Jürgensen” “Copenhagen”. This watch is part of Sekiguchi-san’s treasured collections. He is particularly attracted to the beauty of the Jürgensen styling, which was renowned to be superbly well finished, but sans flashy decorations.
Side note: Jules Jürgensen was a watchmaking company founded by Danish watchmaker Jürgen Jürgensen in 1740 in Copenhagen. Jürgen had worked as a watchmaker in Le Locle, but returned to Denmark to establish his firm. He died in 1830 and his two sons, Jules and Urban continued the family business. Urban remained in Copenhagen while Jules established himself in Le Locle, giving the family a base in Switzerland.
Note the dial of the vintage Jules Jürgensen is the blueprint for the Primevère. Also, the movement of the Primevère follows the same architecture from the 150 year old watch. The signature layout of the bridge to form a “J” is clearly shown in the new movement. As is the styling of the finishing. In Sekiguchi’s view, the styling for the finishing is based on the Jürgensen school of thought. This is a finishing style which is quite different to the Geneva school. The Geneva school is exemplified by the impressive works of Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. While Sekiguchi feels that these are sophisticated and beautiful, his sense is that the style is somewhat proud, aristocratic and perhaps unrealistic. He feels his own personal alignment is with the Jürgensen style, which shares some basic philosophy of the Vallée de Joux style as exemplified by the works of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Audemars Piguet and of recent independents like Philippe Dufour and David Candaux. A value system which, in his sense is more honest, featuring excellent finishing without excessive decorations. The movement that is delicately finished, but dignified with a strong heart equipped with a large balance.
The movement of the prototype is based on a Jaeger-LeCoultre ébauche which is supplied to a number of brands in the 1800s. The Koyanagi documentation is not clear as to what extent the donor ébauche contributed to the final caliber, but as we understand it, only the base plate is used. The layout of the bridges is fashioned in the style of the “Jürgensen/Le Locle style”, based on the movement of the pocket watch. From the photographs below, it looks like all the bridges are made new in the blueprint of the Jules Jürgensen No.12096.
Other changes to the JLC caliber is that the crown alignment and structure of the barrel is changed from the original flying style to one with a bridge. The balance spring is a modern hairspring and the balance wheel is replaced with a bimetallic screw balance using parts from the 1960s. The wheels are also new, and thicker than the ébauche. This makes the wheels stiffer and improves the durability. Also new is the the barrel’s stopwork mechanism which limits the power delivery from the barrel for a 40 hour autonomy range. This mechanism ensures that the power delivered to the escapement is within the linear range of the mainspring and also protects the detent escapement from tripping at low power. We understand the design and implementation of the detent escapement is the work of Sekiguchi himself, as the escapement bears some resemblance to the work he did on the Claret earlier. But again, the documentation is unclear. Though it seems reasonable to assume that he has demonstrated the capability to make the movement in-house, we are waiting for confirmation if whether the commercial watches will be based on the same JLC ébauche or one which is constructed from scratch by Sekiguchi.
Update: just in, a few minutes after going live. Sekiguchi-san confirmed that he had made the entire movement plate, wheels and bridges of the prototype in his workshop. He had used a hand operated jig borer, and made it out of German Silver. The earlier information that we received regarding the JLC ébauche is incorrect, as it was just the model in which the Primavère’s architecture is based on. He further confirmed that the commercial watches will also be completely manufactured in his workshop.
Further update, March 13. We just received confirmation that the current version of the Primavère is equipped with a Swiss anchor escapement instead of a detent escapement.
The finishing style is one which is plain, yet very accomplished. The top of the plates are finished in a grain, while the anglage is beautifully applied in a 45° angle instead of being rounded. There are numerous inward and outward angles executed on the bridges. The use of gold chatons for the second wheel and as caps for the escapement pinion jewels and the detent pinion adds to the beauty of the movement. As noted, the use of blued screws are dispensed with as Sekiguchi feels this is frivolous, and is generally ascribed to the Geneva school.
From the high resolution photographs we received, the movement finishing is seen to be exquisitely executed. The architecture and layout is magnificently beautiful, and the execution of the finishes applied is of the highest level. Other than styling differences, all the usual haute horlogerie hallmarks are noted to be executed very well. The graining, anglage, perlage, and polishing is top level.
The Yosuke Sekiguchi Primevère is a magnificent watch, and we were impressed beyond the usual. The styling, the aesthetics are very appealing.
The design is beautiful, and rather faithful to the vintage design of the Jules Jürgensen No.12096 which inspired it. We look forward to meeting with Koyanagi-san and Sekiguchi-san to examine the Primevère soon, to photograph it and do a full hands-on comprehensive review. We were to have gone to visit Sekiguchi-san in Le Locle if we had planned to go to Watches & Wonders 2022, but we have decided not to go this year. So will have to wait for another opportunity to visit when we are next in Switzerland, hopefully later this year. We will report back with details when we do. And hope that in examining the watch in person, and speaking to the principals will clarify some of the questions we raised in this exploration. But for now, we hope this preliminary report will highlight this extraordinary independent watchmaker.
Yosuke Sekiguchi Primevère 【プリムヴェール】Specifications
Ref. Ref.39RG-WHBL [39SS-WHBK]
Diameter : 39.5 mm
Case Material : Stainless steel or Rose Gold 18K(5N)
Dial : Grand Feu enamel
Hands : White Gold or Rose Gold(5N)
Crystal : Sapphire
Water resistance : 30 m
Movement : YS-Y01
Functions : Hours, minutes, and Small seconds
Winding : Hand Winding
Frequency : 18,000 beats per hour
Power reserve : 40/ｈ
Strap : Alligator leather strap with Stainless pin buckle or Rose Gold 18K(5N)
Price : 【Preliminary Price】 RG : CHF56,000≒ (JPY7,000,000 Tax-Not Included)
Price : 【Preliminary Price】 SS : CHF51,000≒ (JPY6,400,000 Tax-Not Included)