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Jean Dunand

Keith W. Strandberg

"I love the magic of dials, as they are the face of the watch," explains Thierry Oulevay, who in just three years has established Jean Dunand as a boutique watchmaker with the professed specialty of building one-of-a-kind timepieces. Oulevay’s partner, complications wizard Christophe Claret, may assemble the brand’s three highly complicated models—the Grand Complication, the Tourbillon Orbital, and the Shabaka—but Oulevay is responsible for giving the watches their unique character, endowing each piece with special inlays and guilloché engraving. "The dial—the visage—conveys art, emotions, the soul of the timepiece, and that’s what fascinates me most about the watch," he says. "It’s the craftsmanship of the watch that I enjoy."

A 17-year veteran of the watch industry, Oulevay is keenly aware of collectors’ desires for absolute exclusivity. "I wanted to create a brand that would focus solely on the most complicated watches by combining innovative movement technology and artistry; that’s why the brand is named after the Art Deco artist Jean Dunand," he explains. "Christophe Claret liked the idea of mixing art inspired by the Art Deco period with innovative complicated mechanisms. Today, you cannot venture into a new watchmaking concept without having a movement partner." For Claret, who usually performs work for brands on contract and without acknowledgement, it’s a way to participate in the development of a brand as a full partner. With his support, Oulevay has been able to focus on the extreme, catering to a clientele that demands timepieces that will never be found on another person’s wrist.

"Every model is a patented world premiere, and every watch we put on the market is different to make sure that no two owners wear the same watch," says Oulevay. "We start from scratch on a movement or new caliber each time, so there is a lot of R & D involved. It’s very expensive and time consuming, so we have new watches only every two years or so."

The watches are manufactured at Claret’s facilities in Le Locle, at the heart of the Swiss Jura, while Jean Dunand maintains its headquarters in Geneva, resulting in a relationship that resembles watchmaking’s centuries-old parallel between the mechanical and decorative arts. "Traditionally," says Oulevay, "the Jura is perceived as the center for movement making, while Geneva has been the capital for the habillage, everything surrounding the movement: the design, the case, the dial, the ornamental aspects of watchmaking. This has created the magic and fame around Geneva." For Oulevay, this time-honored formula seems to still be working, one piece at a time.

Jean Dunand, 570.270.6160, www.jeandunand.com

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Photo by René Gaens
Copyright by IWC