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A One Handed Watch, A Hawaiian Shirt And Simon Brette

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The usual characters I come across are suit and tie wearing stuffed potatoes, people that you absolutely wouldn’t want to sit next to at a dinner party.

There are only a few characters in the watch industry that are truly larger than life.

I’m talking about people that break the mould in a business that, on the surface, promotes creativity and personal expression, but underneath, can stifle it with out-of-date values. The usual characters I come across are suit and tie wearing stuffed potatoes, people that you absolutely wouldn’t want to sit next to at a dinner party.

There is one rare gem, however, that I would not only sit next to, but probably smoke a joint with at said dinner party. That person could only be Wei Koh, Founder of Revolution and The Rake.

Wei Koh
Wei Koh, The Man Himself

It’s refreshing, to say the least, to see someone talking about watches wearing a Hawaiian shirt rather than a grey single-breasted special from Saville Rowe.

This is a rather odd way to start an article about a new independent brand, I admit, but my mission for The Subdial is to promote “unpretentious” watch culture after all. And Wei is just about the most unpretentious guy in the industry. He simply doesn’t give a shit, and I love it.

I recently watched his interview with the independent watchmaker Simon Brette. His slightly chaotic energy paired so well with Simon’s laid back, humble demeanour. I felt like I was siting there at the table, just the three of us. Shooting banter back and forth about watches and life.

Simon Brette
Simon Brette

It’s at that moment that I felt the spark that a lot of us have felt. The spark of a deep desire for a new object made by someone we’ve never met, but feel like we’ve known all our lives. I had to know more.

Who Is Simon Brette?

Simon is the newest member of the (entirely made up by me), ‘independent watch god club’ that includes people like Rexhep Rexhepi, Kari Voutilainen, Max Busser and Roger Smith. Quite a group, and one that he absolutely deserves to be a part of. I haven’t seen a new brand burst onto the scene at this level, maybe, ever.

In his early years, Simon was exposed to independent craftsmanship through his father. A carpenter by trade, he created pieces independently. You can absolutely see the influence of his father in his debut watch, The Chronomètre Artisans. See the bowtie spline in the image below, an element that is often seen in Japanese joinery. In writing this post, family is a word I kept coming back to. Simon’s parents and siblings influence him hugely.

The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription by Simon Brette
The Bowtie Spline

After training as an engineer in 2011, Simon spent time honing his craft working for brands like Chronode, MCT and MB&F. Until eventually, when his daughter was born in 2011, he decided to go back to his family roots. Independence.  You might think this would be a difficult decision, to give up the stability of working for an established company and go out on your own. But In all honesty, it seemed like it was always going to happen.
When you are as creative and driven as Simon is, it’s hardly a decision at all.

Simon Brette

The importance of human values in his watchmaking is paramount. His philosophy of bringing together the most talented artisans in their fields to make something without compromise sounds familiar when you think of the brands he used to work for, MB&F especially.
Although obviously an incredibly talented guy, his success is shared with the people around him. He’s open when talking about all the help he gets. In a way, this is a traditional way of thinking about watch production. Hire the people at the top of their game and have them do what they are best at. Knowing your limitations is often the best way to create something spectacular.

‘In-House’ isn’t always the best way to do things.

What Is The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription

The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription, Simons first model, is a distillation of his personal history, professional experience and the collective skills of his collaborators.

The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription
The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription

The watch has a case in zirconium with rose gold details. The dial has an incredible ‘dragon scale’ engraving in gold and opens to reveal the incredible finishing of the gear trains below. I’ll get into the nitty-gritty on the watch in part two of this series, but I will just mention one thing that I noticed as soon as I saw it.
There’s no part of this watch that has lacked any attention.

On some pieces, you can see that the majority of the time and care has been spent on one aspect. The finishing of the movement over the case dimensions, for example. We can’t focus on all things at all times, we're only human.
With The Chronomètre Artisans, however, the real value is that every single part has been obsessed over by someone who’s only job is to get it right.
Every part is a work of art that adds to the whole.

The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription
Look at those incredible screw heads
The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription
Come on....

If I can’t have the entire watch, I’ll just take one of the incredible concave screw heads. Thanks, Simon!

What Is A Souscription Watch Anyway?

I’ve seen this term pop up in a few watches lately, and until now, I haven’t known what it meant. A quick google searched cleansed me of my ignorance.

In 1796, Abraham Louis Breguet, the legendary inventor of the tourbillon, created the first-ever pocket watch with one hand on the dial.
When offering this watch, he required his clients to pay an initial deposit. This covered the manufacturing costs and allowed him to produce something that he otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. It was basically a more credible version of Kickstarter from the 18th century.

Breguet wrote ‘souscription’ in his books when taking these orders, I guess the name stuck.

This is a great way to bootstrap your way to a watch company, although I wonder how it would work if you didn’t already have a reputation within the industry like Simon does.  

Simon Brette Is A Man Of His People.

We’ve all seen it, a wooly haired conductor standing in front of a few dozen musicians. Wildly flailing their arms around in a pattern that seems like random. It looks, to me at least, like the movements of that stick have no discernible effect on the music we hear. But somehow, the bringing together of artists by this one person bears the fruit of music so beautiful that you forget you’re as uncultured as me.
To me, Simon Brette is a conductor. And no, I don’t mean he has wooly hair and wildly unpredictable arms. Although I don’t know him very well, so that may be the case…

The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription
The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription on wrist

He’s a conductor in the sense that he gives direction to his team, unifies their vision and plays to their strengths. The Chronomètre Artisans Souscription is at not only a watch that is made by a talented group of people. It’s a watch that feels like it comes from a singular vision. Simons vision.

This one will be big, folks.

Head to simonbrette.com for more.

Cya in the next one.

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