Bovet 1822 Lands In Melbourne - Fresh Blood, Castles And The Monsieur Bovet

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John Mayer once said in a Hodinkee video that he uses his IWC Big Pilot as a desk clock when he travels, propping it up with the strap like a chump. He should have just used a Bovet with its fold-out stand.

As a Melbourne local, watch enthusiast and low-impact exercise aficionado, I often walk up and down Collins Street on my lunch breaks. Usually aiming for an uphill stroll to the Paris end, I like to get my heart rate up and clear my mind off the stresses of watch retail. As I do, I gaze into boutique windows to see if there’s anything new for me to lust over. I pass Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin and as I start to run out of steam, Cartier. Pressing my nose up against the glass looking for a Polaris Perpetual Calendar, 222 and a Crash as I go. No luck yet.

On a particularly lazy summer day a few weeks ago, I decided to walk downhill. Past the Time+Tide Studio, The Hour Glass, and even the relatively affordable Oris and Bremont stores. Gravity assists me down Collins Street on these low-energy walks and on this occasion, it landed me right in front of a window that I hadn’t peered into before. A brand new Bovet 1822 boutique, standing proud and fresh on a street that rivals the most exclusive in the world. ‘Where did this come from?!’, I think to myself. I then proceeded to head-butt the door as I tried to walk in, not realising that it wasn’t open. That’s a shame, I wanted to spend 200% of my kid’s inheritance that day.

Generational wealth destruction aside, I was surprised to see a brand like this breaking into our relatively small watch market. Surely the Rolex-obsessed Australians wouldn’t be interested in Bovet, would they? Their ornate watches don’t exactly blend in at the pub but after going in and trying one on for the first time, I can safely say they should. Wearing a Bovet while you’re chugging your seventh VB is the ultimate flex.

Pay attention Aussies, Bovet is here and they are bringing the heat.

S&S lands in Australia.

Digging deeper into Bovet’s sudden arrival in Australia, I discovered that the boutique is run in partnership with S&S. A Vietnamese luxury group that represents brands like Richard Mille, Audemars Piguet, and Grand Seiko. Plus automotive companies like Rolls Royce and Lamborghini. They even operate a high-end end real estate arm in association with Christies. Talk about fingers in many pies.

S&S was established in 2013 and is still independently owned. I’ve spoken about this in my other articles but when a company manages to hold on to ownership like this, they’re able to focus on long-term sustainability rather than short-term gain. This is where I see S&S’s thinking with the move to Australia. Although our market is still underdeveloped, getting their foot in the door early will pay dividends in the long run.

Just Some Normal S&S Group Stuff

If S&S can come into Australia and disrupt the established players, they have a good chance of cementing themselves as the place to go for niche high-end brands. I know corporate values can sometimes have shallow execution, but with S&S having kindness as a part of their five values, I have high hopes that they can change the way the community is treated.

In what is a stale industry at best, I welcome the arrival of more options even if it does ruffle the feathers of the big boys in the Australian watch market.
Come on S&S, we need a multi-brand that that treats people well!
Feel free to bring a McLaren or two along with you.

A Bovet Boutique in Melbourne?

At first, I was confused. Who’s walking up and down Collins Street with a 150k lump in their pocket, ready to drop it on a transforming pocket watch? With my experience in the retail industry, even at the high end, I couldn’t imagine the appeal. After all, Bovet watches are all about regal craftsmanship and oversized ostentation. The tall poppy syndrome afflicted Australian public wasn’t going to have that.
Oh boy was I wrong.

As I stood on busy Collins Street before my appointment with Minh (the manager), I looked up at the facade of a building I had never paid any attention to before. Its historic charm seems to match the aesthetics of the brand well.

Cashmore On Collins

The building, on the corner of Elizabeth and Collins Street, was named after Michael Cashmore, the first Jewish settler in Melbourne and owner of a haberdashery in the 1840s. What a name for one of Collins’s streets more influential characters, Cashmore (More Cash?). Cashmore on Collins as the building is named, was the first Brick Building to be constructed in Melbourne. Not sure what they were made from before, convict carved sandstone blocks perhaps?
After learning about the heritage of Cashmore On Collins, it seems all the more fitting that S&S Group chose this building for their first boutique in Australia. With the history of firsts, it’s perfect.

The Facade Of The Bovet Boutique In Melbourne
The Interior Of The Bovet Boutique In Melbourne

Walking in, the boutique is regal, to say the least, with one desk for consultations, some blue armchairs and a rather sparkly chandelier hanging from the roof. Safe to say this is exactly the kind of castle-themed environment I should feel uncomfortable in. I am a bogan from Queensland after all.
If you don’t know what a Bogan is, here’s how Google defines it;
"an uncouth or unsophisticated person regarded as being of low social status. "some bogans yelled at us from their cars"

Yes, I’ve done my fair share of car yelling. Only nice things of course.

The Monsieur Bovet

In my complete ignorance, I wasn’t expecting to try on anything that would suit my taste (and wrist size) during my visit to the Boutique, but Minh, the boutique manager, assured me that the brand had something for everyone. I was pleasantly surprised when he brought a tray over with The Monsieur Bovet elegantly resting on it: pocket chain and all.

The Monsieur Bovet

The Case

Perhaps the most polarising aspect of The Monsieur, and most Bovet pieces, is the case. At 43 mm it’s a big boy by today’s shrinking standards. The material is polished titanium and with a thickness of 12.3 mm, it’s deceptively light. You would expect a watch that looks like this to be made from gold so when you first pick it up and feel the lightness, your brain will take a few seconds to recalibrate.

A Surprisingly Thin Case - The Monsieur Bovet

Where the watch starts to get a little unconventional is in the ways you can wear it. Bovet’s patented Amadeo convertible system is in use here. Allowing you to choose one of four different configurations: On the wrist with closed dial, open dial, pocket watch and my personal favourite, desk clock. John Mayer once said in a Hodinkee video that he uses his IWC Big Pilot as a desk clock when he travels, propping it up with the strap like a chump. He should have just used a Bovet with its fold-out stand. He must have been dreaming with a broken heart.

The Monsieur Bovet In Desk Clock Mode

Transformation of The Monsieur Bovet is done using blue cabochon buttons at the top and bottom of the case, where the lugs would be on a more conventional watch. Squeeze them and off pops your strap and with a solid ‘click’, you’re in pocket watch mode, just don’t forget to wear your monocle.
Interesting note, the chain for this watch is in 925 sterling silver, I’m thinking that using titanium here would have felt a little flimsy.

The Dial(s)

Let’s start with the front, or is it the back?
In their signature style, Bovet has decorated the surface of this dial with a spiralling guilloche in a deep teal blue. Each section of the spiral fans out and accommodates a Breguet style numeral. The accuracy of the spacing here is satisfying, even if the dial doesn’t quite look symmetrical because of it. Time telling is courtesy of hands that have a design that I’ve dubbed ‘squiggly wiggly’. Whoever polished these hands has my respect, the curves are intense.

The Monsieur Bovet's Spiralling Guilloche

Flip the watch over and you’re greeted with an off-centre, miniature version of the dial with the same finishing as mentioned earlier. Albeit this time with a more conventional-looking handset. Being connected to the same gear train as their more squiggly brothers on the reverse side presents a complicated problem. If one set of hands were to turn clockwise, then the other must turn counterclockwise, right?

The Reverse Dial Of The Monsieur Bovet

To remedy this Christopher Nolan-level time reversal issue, Bovet has patented their reverse-fitted hand system. No Idea how this works, but I’m sure it’s very complicated. Moving on.

I'm drawn across the universe to someone I haven't seen in a decade, who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space. Maybe we should trust that, even if we can't understand it. - Interstellar

The Movement And A Castle

In-house and ‘Swiss Handcrafted’ down to the hairspring. The movement of the Monsieur Bovet has a seven-day power reserve with a single barrel (wound and set via the top-mounted crown), a seconds display at six and a power reserve indicator at nine. They’ve managed to keep it looking symmetrical with the balance wheel having a matching wheel from the gear train opposite. A nice touch that is only possible if you design and manufacture everything yourself.

A Balanced Movement

Saying that the best part of the movement in the Monsieur Bovet is that you don’t have to look at it all the time sounds horrible. It would be like saying my wife’s best view of me is when her eyes are closed. But that’s not at all what I mean here.Having the option to wear it with the movement hidden when appropriate makes it all the more special when you flip it over to show off what’s underneath. It’s a bit like when I come home from work and get showered with love and adoration… Just like absence makes the heart grow fonder, the Amadeo system makes the movement more beautiful.

On another note and perhaps just as interesting as the movement itself is the place where it was born. Deep in the hills of Neuchâtel, a historic villa called Château de Môtiers houses the Bovet Manufacture. Although the site was the birthplace of the brand, it wasn’t until 2006 that Pascal Raffy, Bovet’s sole owner, purchased the Château back off the Neuchâtel state which had possession of it since 1957. The upkeep was so costly that the state didn’t want to deal with it anymore. Their loss.The Bovet family originally occupied the, let’s call it was it is, castle, starting in 1835 and it’s nice to see that watchmakers are filling its halls once again.

Does Bovet Have A Place In Australian Watch Culture?

You may be thinking, ‘But why, Mitch, does this brand need to exist in Australia?’. To which my answer would simply be that it doesn’t.
Bovet is a watch brand for the wealthiest collectors of the irrelevant, the ornate and the slightly absurd. No one needs a 100k watch that can sit on your desk or hang from your pocket. But then again, we don’t need the Mona Lisa, that smirk adds nothing practical to our lives. Yet every year ten million people stuff themselves into the Louvre to see her. Yes, that’s right, ten million people visit the Louvre for one painting. And it’s closed on a Tuesday, I learnt that the hard way…

The Monsieur Bovet's Spiralling Guilloche

Art (and Bovet) doesn’t need to justify its existence in any market. It's reason to exist is in The Mona Lisa’s eyes or floating on one of Monet’s water lilies. It exists to make you feel something.

Most of us won’t ever be in the position to own a Monsieur Bovet, or any of Bovet’s other watches for that matter. But we can always walk past the boutique in Cashmore on Collins in Melbourne, gaze in at the watches and be reminded that this hobby that we love doesn’t have to be explained. We can just enjoy it for what it is; Art.

Book an appointment to visit the Bovet Boutique in Melbourne HERE and always make sure you check whether the Louve is open before you go.

As always, see you in the next one. x