While it doesn’t give out prizes for watchmaking, the competition has deep ties with watchmaking family Braunschweig and the brand Emile Chouriet.
The Prix de Lausanne is held at the beginning of each year in January/February, in the Swiss city by the same name. If you haven’t heard of the prestigious award, that might well be because it’s not a watchmaking prize. Rather, the Prix de Lausanne is about performing arts - dance specifically - and it is referred to as the “best ballet competition in the world.”
You might ask what this award has to do with the world of watches. Well, the Prix de Lausanne was established back in 1973 by a family that has shaped the world of watchmaking. And it’s also now supported by a historical brand.
Philippe Braunschweig was at the helm of Porte-Echappement Universel SA (Portescap), which was passed on to him by his father, George Braunschweig. The latter, an electrical engineer by formation, founded the company in 1931 to focus on improving timekeeping reliability.
His work led him to develop the Incabloc system in 1933. The anti-shock system now features in most mechanical watches and protects the fragile spring-escapement pairing.
The love of watch movements was passed down from father to son, and the younger Braunschweig took over the family business in 1958. A graduate from the reputable ETH Zürich, Philippe had one more passion along with watches: ballet. His wife Elvire, in fact, was a dancer, and together with a professor by the name of Rosella Hightower, the trio founded the competition for young dancers in 1973: the Prix de Lausanne.
Dance and watchmaking might not seem like a logical pairing at first, but the two have much in common. They are both striving to master movement and beauty. The intricate connections among the various watch parts and the rhythmic and precise motion of the balance spring, for example, are the expression of a mechanical dance crafted by a master watchmaker.
The connections don’t end there. In 2017, the Prix de Lausanne was sponsored by Genevan brand Emile Chouriet. The brand was recently rebooted, but it has its roots in the late 17th century, where Emile Chouriet worked as a master watchmaker. He too was known for his artistry, specifically the beautiful decorations of his watches, famed for their intricate guilloche patterns, foils, pearls and gold.