or as long as she can remember, Alcée Montfort has enjoyed making things. Growing up near Angoulême, her mother would help her create mosaics, dip candles or experiment with sewing. The pride that comes from seeing an object take shape has never left her. After a degree in engineering and fundamental physics, Alcée got her first internship at Hermès, in the silks workshop.
“I was doing research into silk scarves and was quickly drawn into this world. As a scientist working with craftsmen and women, I was fascinated by their need to build a bridge with future generations,” she says. Pride in the finished object, the need to reconnect with reality through finely honed gestures, a sense of beauty that brings joy to the heart – all these impressions took her back to happy childhood memories.
Pride in the finished object, the need to reconnect with reality through finely honed gestures and a sense of beauty that brings joy to the heart took her back to happy childhood memories.
- After working at Hermès, Cartier and TAG Heuer, Alcée Montfort is the founder of Maison Alcée, whose first product is a boxed set from which to assemble a desk clock.
Keeping the flame alive
Her next experience took her to Cartier and Richemont, where she helped restore antique timepieces and jewellery. This was the first time she’d come into contact with watchmakers; a particularly patient breed who, on discovering a movement, take a few moments to contemplate the mechanisms that will occupy them for the coming days, even weeks, as they gently “bring time back to life.”
Alcée Montfort then left France for Switzerland and a job with TAG Heuer, rapidly rising through the ranks to head a workshop where Heuer 01 and 02 movements are assembled. “I’ll never forget my first day,” she says. “One of the watchmakers, the oldest one there, confessed his fear that his profession might one day disappear, because he had no way to pass on his knowledge. Some watchmakers like to cultivate an air of mystery when others want nothing more than to share their expertise.”
- The company offers three designs. Shown here, Persée Nuit with black PVD treatment.
On her return to France, moving to Reims with her husband, she felt the time was ripe to make her childhood dream come true through what she conceived of as a more personal approach to luxury. “When you’re surrounded by virtual reality, creating something with your own hands, something you can be proud of, isn’t easy,” she observes. Her response was to set up a company, Maison Alcée, whose first proposal is to build, at home, a mechanical desk clock. Not an ersatz of a clock. An authentic timepiece assembled from 233 quality components, with an accompanying book.
“Our aim is for others to learn this expertise and to have the enjoyment of a beautiful object they created themselves,” says the founder of Maison Alcée, who plans to open the concept to other crafts. She developed the project with her husband, supported by French master watchmaker Thierry Ducret and Swiss designer Antoine Tschumi. As is often the case in watchmaking, the first step was to create the movement that would equip the clock. Before you can teach others, you must first learn yourself…
Maison Alcée’s first proposal is to build, at home, a mechanical desk clock. Not an ersatz of a clock. An authentic timepiece assembled from 233 quality components, with an accompanying book.
Parts made in the Jura region
The clock, which delivers a power reserve of 12 to 14 days, has a design that invites contemplation and will complement any modern interior. “Working on a desk clock has the advantage that the movement is similar to that of a wristwatch without the same degree of complexity, because of its size,” Alcée Montfort insists. “We also wanted to rekindle interest in what may seem like a slightly old-fashioned object.”
Virtually all the parts are made in the Arc Jurassien, between France and Switzerland, with a choice of three designs that range in price from €4,600 to €5,800. There is also the option of a passing hour strike. More complications will follow, as additional modules. After an initial roll-out of 50 sets in 2022, a new series will be released this spring.
- It takes around a dozen hours to build the clock. Only the regulating organ is supplied pre-assembled.
Only the regulating organ is supplied pre-assembled. For the rest, it’s up to us to delve into the heart of the movement that takes around a dozen hours to assemble. An accompanying book guides us through the process, with the occasional pause to take in the theory behind what we are doing: bringing a timepiece to life, like generations of watchmakers before us!
The contrast with our always-on lives could not be greater. “We have a lot of very busy customers, entrepreneurs in particular, who want to disconnect from the virtual world and at the same time reconnect with the physical world. For some, the experience of building this clock can be likened to a retreat or therapy. You’re in your bubble, focused on the task in hand. It’s a form of mindfulness that’s not at all daunting.” Hence the choice of a book, with actual pages to touch and turn, rather than online tutorials: a means of fully reconnecting with the physical world and real-life sensations.
“A form of mindfulness that’s not at all daunting.”