Barthelay A watchmaking delight

October 2003

Barthelay occupies a special place in French luxury watchmaking. At the meeting point of avant-garde design, traditional watchmaking, and Parisian refinement, Barthelay offers precious alternatives.

Barthelay is certainly a traditional company, founded in 1892 in Paris, but Roland Barthelay, its current director, is anything but a traditional person. He sets himself apart from the comfortable and lavish world of the Parisian watchmaker-jeweller by his straight talk and forthright manner.

In the 1970s, Roland Barthelay became aware that French watchmaking, up to then very tradit-ional in its approach to style, would do well to look towards the new trends that were shaping design. With his decision to give his timepieces more contemporary lines and shapes, Barthelay brought a breath of fresh air and creativity into the profession. Known for his bold approach, he considered himself to be a 'builder' or a 'dresser' of watches. His success became largely due to the elegant fusion of the latest fashion trends with a veritable watchmaking savoir-faire based on the brand's long family heritage.

From this careful blend of artisanal values and proper Parisian refinement were born collections appreciated for their special attention to design in terms of volume and sensual forms, for their delicate colours and precious materials.

Another singularity in his approach, contrary to many other watch brands seeking to find 'refuge' under the 'Swiss Made' label, Roland Barthelay emphasized above all the 'French quality' of his watch products. He was also one of the first to use modular collections. Rather than produce many different shapes, Roland Barthelay opted for different versions based on a few very carefully designed models. “From a defined shape that I keep precisely for its adaptability, we can subtly modify it to be in tune with the latest trends, which, without exception I might add, always come from Italian jewellery.”

B08 and B09

Two emblematic collections illustrate these choices: the B08 and B09 collections. We also must mention that Barthelay, unlike most of his French jewellery colleagues, gives his collections very simple and straightforward names.

The B08 Collection is intended to be 'hyper feminine'. It is one of the rare chronographs that was specially developed uniquely for the ladies. Its design is soft. The elliptical case offers a curved surface with a volume that 'softly melts into the wrist'. It comes in several versions comprising white or whisky-coloured brilliants, sapphires, and rubies in delicate harmony. Its 'sumptuous' version is in grey gold with a gold bracelet decorated with brilliants. For its sporty look, a steel case is mounted with either a leather bracelet or a flexible steel band.

The B09 Collection is more masculine. Its rectangular design, whose roots go back to 1967, exudes particular strength emanating from its 'strong curves in the form of an arc'. The massive steel case may be set with diamonds or may have a silvered or anthracite grey dial, although a mother-of-pearl dial is also an option. Mounted on a crocodile bracelet, in a wide choice of colours, the B09 is equipped with an automatic ETA movement. Its goal is to be the best compromise between force and elegance.

Next step: the Far East

With a very attractive price/quality ratio (price tags range from 3,700 euros to 10,000 euros), Barthelay is very present in the Middle East where it has already conquered many markets. Today, the French brand is setting its sights on developing new markets, mainly in the Far East where its method of combining pleasure, taste and attention to detail should certainly be an advantage.