Those who innovate

When Swiss watchmakers and Italian designers meet


December 2016

The surprising collaboration between Bovet and the Turinese designers at Pininfarina delivers a new opus: the Ottantasei. A fourth tourbillon for which the guiding principle was: lighter, lighter, lighter!

The surprising collaboration between Bovet and the Turinese designers at Pininfarina delivers a new opus: the Ottantasei. A fourth tourbillon for which the guiding principle was: lighter, lighter, lighter!

On the face of it, the alliance between the historic, neoclassical watch brand Bovet Fleurier of Val-de-Travers, relaunched by Pascal Raffy, and the Italian designer Pininfarina from the region of Turin, famous for its designs for Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, as well for buildings, boats, pens and even coffee machines, appeared somewhat unnatural. And yet the same “family” spirit seems to reign in both these companies, personified on the one hand in the person of Pascal Raffy and on the other in Paolo Pininfarina, who represents the third generation of the Italian company – and who is determined to maintain this spirit despite the takeover of his company, currently in progress, by the Indian group, Mahindra.

The fruit of this unusual collaboration is a series of round, ultra-designer sports watches, in style both technical and fluid at the same time, some of them including the Amadeo® convertible system and the futuristic Pininfarina look which sticks out like a sore thumb in the horological world of Valde- Travers. Six have so far seen the light of day – Ottanta, Ottantadue, Ottantatre, Cambiano, Sergio, and the most recent addition to the family, Ottantasei.

“Today, we’re launching a fourth tourbillon which is not an evolution but something completely new for both of us,” states Paolo Pininfarina at the brand’s headquarters in Cambiano. The challenge was how to combine lightness and robustness. “There’s a difference in scale but many common aspects between automotive design and watchmaking, notably the same attention to finish and a quest for performance.” For the heir to the Pininfarina dynasty, any object that leaves his workshop has to be transformed into an “art object”, whatever the field. And it is here, perhaps, that the ambitions of Paolo Pininfarina and Pascal Raffy coincide.


“We are artisans of time, we don’t think in industrial terms,” affirms Pascal Raffy. “We’re both defenders of tradition, we respect the heritage from which we make a living today and we’re paving the way to the future. The key to success in the luxury sector is to have a clear identity, limited series and genuine craftsmanship. But good taste too, not showiness!”

For him, Ottantasei is the fruit of a certain maturity. This fourth tourbillon, with its ten-day power reserve, follows the codes of the collection but is built around a single word: “light”, in its dual sense of luminosity and weightlessness. We find the same guiding principle in, among other things, the four large sapphire crystals which occupy the main surfaces of the case, and the system of casing-up via the back, which gives an even greater sense of transparency and lightness. The net weight of the metal for the entire case is 51.66g for the gold and 15.54g for the titanium version... Driving organ (and its power reserve indicator), display, regulating organ: three distinct circles which define the basic functions of the movement – again, nothing could be clearer. The characteristics of the single barrel spring is extraordinary: 1.04 meters long and a developed force of 1kg, providing 240 hours of energy.

“Our chief inspiration for the case design was the cockpit of an aircraft, because it’s a space which demands high visibility for the pilot, who has to have everything under control,” says Hugo Cicaré, a designer at Pininfarina. “We’d already taken inspiration from that in the past for automotive designs.” It took two years to develop this timepiece. The retail price is CHF 165,000 for the titanium model and CHF 185,000 for the red gold model.



“When we work with the designers at Pininfarina, the baseline is that we never tell them that what they’re suggesting is impossible,” explains Christophe Persoz of Bovet. “We’re open to everything. We try out things and often, they result in innovative solutions. They’re designers by profession anyway, they’re already used to working with technical constraints in automotive design. And what is really interesting is the contrast between tradition and the contemporary look, which has given rise to a pure, high-tech dial. What’s more, it was important to have symmetry between the design elements of the watch, as with all our timepieces. Painstaking care is taken with the details. Lastly, the watch is ultra-lightweight: the titanium version weighs 66 grams and the red gold one 113 grammes. And the movement itself is lighter than the rubber strap!”

The Italian brand had already taken an interest in Swiss watchmaking ten years before its partnership with Bovet. “Our partner explained to me that they made the watches themselves: we just had to choose which models to market. But that came to nothing, it was a simplistic idea, we just chose between A or B, we didn’t build anything together,” Paolo Pininfarina recalls. “What fascinates me with Bovet is the attention to detail down to the minutest scale. We design something and then we reduce it all proportionally!”

The goal of this project was not to boost sales at all costs, Pascal Raffy insists, even if the collection has struck a chord, especially with Asian and American collectors. The prime goal was to boost Bovet’s respectability: “That sends out the signal that we can innovate while sticking to tradition. And you can’t put a price on that.”

Source: Europa Star 5/16 Winter 2016 Magazine Issue