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Japan: Philippe Dufour a master in his empire

FAR EAST TRAVEL JOURNAL

January 2018


Japan: Philippe Dufour a master in his empire

Having seen the portrait of the watchmaker Philippe Dufour, who hails from the Swiss canton of Vaud, at the Seiko research and development studios, Europa Star had the privilege of meeting Yoshi Isogai, owner of the Shellman watch boutique in Tokyo and the exclusive distributor of Philippe Dufour watches in Japan. Put simply, out of the 200 Simplicity models produced by Dufour, Isogai has sold... 127!

How did Philippe Dufour achieve such a status in Japan, his market of choice? “At the beginning, in 2000, the challenge was to convince collectors that Philippe Dufour models could be worth twice the price of a Patek Philippe for example, by explaining the traditional craftsmanship involved in producing them.” To do this, Isogai distributed images of the components crafted and assembled by hand by the watchmaker in the Vallée de Joux, without the use of machines. “We were aided in this communication work on behalf of Philippe Dufour by the Japanese media and journalists who were able to understand what is so special about him. In particular, a programme shown on the national public television channel made him famous in Japan.”

And that’s not all, continues Isogai: while the watch itself is attractive as an object, the simple, authentic personality of Philippe Dufour is, too. “Collectors began wanting to wear an object created by a craftsman like him. Furthermore, the Simplicity’s small diameter of 34 mm also made it ideal for the Japanese market.”

Duality by Philippe Dufour
Duality by Philippe Dufour

The value of models created by Philippe Dufour has never stopped growing, as demonstrated by their popularity at auction: at the watch sales held by Phillips in New York at the end of October, a Duality model (in platinum, with serial number 00) was sold for nearly a million dollars. The collector who had purchased it for 150,000 dollars a decade ago made a decent margin. Nonetheless, the watchmaker is in no hurry. “I have a long waiting list of clients waiting for his future watches,” says Isogai, gazing dreamily at a black and white portrait of the “master”.