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Portraits: Happy Birthday Mr. Dufour

by Peter Chong on June 2, 2018

This year, Philippe Dufour celebrates his 70th Birthday. Here is our tribute to this wonderful watchmaker and true gentleman. From the greatest complicated watches, his Grand and Petite Sonnerie, to the Duality and finally the Simplicity. A great master.

 

I received this personal invitation in early April inviting him to celebrate Philippe’s birthday.

 

 

The personal invitation by Mrs. Dufour. The locations of the celebration and the hotel is redacted.

 

Unfortunately as I am traveling in the US before and after June 2, I had to send regrets. But I write this as a tribute to his tremendous genius.

 

First meeting

I first met Philippe in Singapore, probably in early 1996 or 1997. He had a small booth in an Hour Glass event, where he was showing his Duality. The price then was CHF 95k. And I am still kicking myself for not buying one. No.00 was recently sold at a Phillips Auction in NY on 27 October 2017 for US$915,000. a 10 fold return on investment.

 

 

Simplicity! But first the Grand et Petit Sonnerie

I wrote the following in an interview by Monochrome in 2015. Full article on this link, and extract below:

“I was at BaselWorld 2000, and as per my usual practice in those days, I went to the AHCI booth. And met with my old friend Philippe Dufour. He pulled me aside, and showed me his new watch. He took it out from the display case, and handed me a loupe. I examined the watch, and was totally floored. The watch was perfect! Almost…but more of that later.

 

Dufour made his name by creating the world’s first Grand et Petite Sonnerie for a wrist watch. From the heights of the greatest complications, he was prepared to tackle the simplest of watches with only 3 hands.

 

The finishing was totally stunning. I began enquiries, and found out that he had only completed the watch the day before the fair. He had started work on a simple timepiece, having carved his name with the first Grande Sonnerie wristwatches and the very complicated Duality. He said, the simplest is often the most complicated. Work started on 7 September 1999. 7 September is my birthday, so that was a special significance to me, the watch was born the same day as me.

 

Photographed in Le Soliat, Dufour atelier, March 2011.

 

But the initial Simplicity was not totally perfect. It was too small. The case diameter was only 34mm. And it looked too small on my wrist. I told him that, but he shook his head and replied that the classical men’s watch from the Vallee de Joux was that size. I spent the next few months trying to convince him that he needed to make a larger case. Then on a visit to Singapore about a year later, he presented me with a drawing for a Simplicity in case size 37mm. Being Dufour, it was not a simple matter of putting the same movement in a larger case. He meticulously expanded the plates so that it can fit into a 37mm case without a movement ring. And it had to be pleasing to his critical eye in terms of aesthetics.

 

 

Immediately, I got three other friends and we placed a deposit for the first four in 37mm. All in rose gold, all with the lacquered metal dial with roman numerals. By then no 1 was already sold, it was 34mm anyway, so I opted for no 7. It was delivered in July 2002.”

  • end of Monochrome quote

After 16 years of ownership, I still love my Simplicity. And as a tribute the great friendship of Philippe Dufour and to celebrate his 70th Birthday, here are some watchscape photographs of my Simplicity, taken recently.

 

The Dufour Simplicity. Perfect proportions.

 

The click is a very traditional Valee de Joyux design using a long spring which is black polished.

Examplary anglage with many inward and outward angles. Note also the countersinks for the jewel setting are perfectly polished.

Execution is near perfect. Note the black polished stainless steel cap on the jewel of the fourth wheel.

A special for the first 4 Simplicities delivered in 37mm. We have a Dufour logo engraved on the balance cock. All other Simplicity watches are delivered with a blank balance cock.

 

Black Polished Escapement Bridge Cap on a Dufour Simplicity

 

Happy 70th Birthday Philippe. Many happy returns.

 

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2 Comments
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  • Brighty
    June 7, 2018 at 9:53 am

    The sad thing is that, for ordinary mortals, it’s difficult to get access to any of his watches to have a good look and appreciate them.

    I did enjoy your detailed photos though. Closest I can get!

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