By Laurent Martinez

During a visit to my friend Morgan Maillard, the head watchmaker at the Vacheron Constantin boutique in New York, he shared his journey of becoming a watchmaker in France and mentioned one of his friends, the independent Master Watchmaker Theo Auffret.

This piqued my interest, and I decided to delve deeper into the work of this young craftsman.

Theo Auffret

The golden age of French watchmaking was in the 18th century, marked by the establishment of the first French horological school in Paris. When thinking of the famous figures from that era, names like Jean-Antoine Lepine, Ferdinand Berthoud and the watchmaking genius Abraham Louis Breguet come to mind.

From left: Jean-Antoine Lepine, Ferdinand Berthoud and Abraham-Louis Breguet.

Today, when discussing the horology industry, Switzerland is often the first country discussed, with brands like Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, and Blancpain, among others.

However, behind these renowned brands, new names are emerging, including F.P. Journe and Laurent Ferrier, independent master watchmakers known for producing grand complications in small quantities. When researching French watchmakers, one name that consistently stands out is Jean-Baptiste Viot, a discreet watchmaker who serves as an inspiration to these talented young watchmakers.

Among his former apprentices is Theo Auffret, a rising star within the small community of independent master watchmakers.

The Auffret Paris Tourbillon Grand Sport was short-listed in the 2022 GPHG.

Theo Auffret’s journey as an independent master watchmaker is fascinating, reflecting a blend of traditional craftsmanship and modern innovation. His mentorship under J.B. Viot and subsequent training in Switzerland underscore the importance of historical expertise and contemporary techniques in his work.

It is remarkable how seamlessly he integrates old techniques with new technology, maintaining a balance between tradition and innovation. Theo is an avid reader who draws inspiration and ideas from various sources, including Breguet’s work from the 18th and 19th centuries (the Empire period), as well as contemporary timepieces like the first Richard Mille RM01 watch.

Auffret stands at the crossroads between the old generation of watchmakers, craftsmanship, and the new era. He is proficient in working with sapphire dial cutting and laser welding machines, combining high-end traditional techniques with modern industrial processes for decoration.

Tradition and New Technology

The goal is to preserve both worlds. Most independent master watchmakers today adopt a similar approach, remaining flexible with more traditional methods to customize watches and better serve their clients’ desires. Unlike high-end watch groups, small independent watchmakers prioritize craftsmanship over profitability, focusing on creating unique pieces rather than mass production.

Theo utilizes old techniques while integrating new technology into his work. He has developed his own methodology, starting with in-house conception and prototyping, followed by filing in a “dossier de plan.”

All design and drawings are done in-house, with a significant amount of work done on paper followed by computer work (CAO and CN). While initially, all processes were done by hand when developing the first prototype, there has been an evolution in his approach, collaborating with trusted subcontractors for specific parts.

In his workshop today, Theo has a station de decoration where he performs tasks like chamfering. He takes great pride in the fact that everything is done in-house, including assembly, tuning, testing, and quality control. He specializes in chronometry and ensures his tourbillons function flawlessly. In his own words, “Any piece leaves the place when the team is proud of their work”.

Two Brands

 Similar to Abraham Louis Breguet, Theo has developed two brands: a high-end timepiece collection featuring a series of ten tourbillons (his specialty) and a new series comprising fourteen to fifteen pieces for 2024. The entire process, from conception to realization, took three years and includes two models —classic and sport. The aim is to produce a maximum of thirty watches per year.

The high-end collection is financed by Theo’s second brand, Argon, also designed and conceptualized at the same location.

This company is jointly owned by Theo and Guillaume Laidet, who already manufactures and distributes brands like Nivada Grenchen. Each partner brings expertise to the table, with Guillaume contributing watchmaking skills, creativity, and experience, while Theo provides production capacity.

The new Space One line is set to launch this month, following ten months of development, with a different approach to engineering and production.

The Space One Tellurium

Targeting a series of 1,000 units, Theo’s philosophy mirrors Breguet’s Souscription (subscription) strategy in the 19th century, where a lower quality line was manufactured to finance high-end timepieces.

The Blued Titanium Space One

The partnership involves Theo the watchmaker, Guillaume the entrepreneur, and the Richard group, which manufactures bracelets, hands, and cases, providing logistical and technical support across three continents. The company retains 100% control over distribution, handling production and shipping internally, as creating a “jump hour/astronomy” complication watch priced around $2,000 leaves almost no margin for a distributor network.

The market for “Space 1” is global, while Theo’s tourbillon watches primarily target the Asia, the United States and the Middle East (specifically Dubai and Saudi Arabia), with around three watches reserved for foreign collectors residing in France.

The primary region of interest is Asia, particularly Singapore, where collectors are more open to new designs and concepts compared to other countries, contrasting with the United States, where the culture leans towards established brands. Today’s collectors seek high-end, unique pieces with exceptional quality. As margins are minimal, more effort and time are dedicated to each timepiece, ultimately increasing its value.

Theo’s typical clients start with mainstream luxury timepieces like Rolex, then progress to higher-end brands like Patek Philippe or Vacheron Constantin before exploring independent watchmakers like F.P. Journe, eventually culminating in independent craftsmen producing very limited series.

A new group of collectors invests in young independent master watchmakers, placing orders early to acquire unique pieces. Watches from this new generation of watchmakers are not typically sold at auctions; collectors prefer to retain them, unlike older-generation pieces from watchmakers like Philippe Dufour or George Daniels, which occasionally appear at auctions.

Theo is the only master watchmaker in Paris, while others are located in different parts of the country, such as Remy Cools in Annecy (producing twelve timepieces per year), Cyril Brivet-Naudot in Quimper (producing two timepieces per year), John Michael specializing in automata, and Pascal Coyon in Osgore (producing between five and ten timepieces).

It’s noteworthy that these talented watchmakers share the same clientele, with their watch prices ranging between 50,000 and 200,000 euros. Theo recently collaborated with the renowned Petermann Bedat located in Lausanne on the UniWatch model.

This new generation maintains close relationships, with Theo having good rapport with Vincent Deprez, Simon Brette, and Raoul Pages. He only accepts down payments for watches produced the following year, avoiding orders extending over multiple years to preserve the company’s autonomy.

With all his numerous ideas in mind, I suspect that Theo’s ultimate goal is to establish an atelier in Paris for assembling and finishing timepieces, doubling as a showroom.

My conversation with Theo was enlightening, providing insights into how these talented new watchmakers perceive the future of high-end watchmaking. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they collaborate and support each other, reminiscent of Breguet’s era. While most of them prefer independence for creativity and quality, they face constant scrutiny from large luxury groups seeking to acquire new talent to expand their empires, often struggling in terms of creativity.

Here’s to the new generation of young independent watchmakers; may they continue to pepper the high-end watch landscape with beautiful and mechanically masterful creations.

instagram photo credits: @antoinedelagedeluget,  @laurent_xavier_moulin

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com


By Laurent Martinez

The wonderful thing about the love of watches and horology is that you learn something new every day. You can learn about amazing companies, industry insiders, collectors, watchmakers and watches by reading books and articles, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos, and of course, talking with fellow enthusiasts. 

Oftentimes, you hear the same names—the famous watchmakers that have left a legacy behind or big brands that everyone wants.

However, sometimes you come across an unfamiliar name that’s worth learning about.

I was recently listening to John Reardon’s Collectability podcast, which focuses on Patek Philippe, while also reading George Daniels’ book about Abraham-Louis Breguet. As you likely already know, Breguet is recognized as one of the very best watchmakers of all time; he was also an excellent businessman who was ahead of his time.

In the book, Daniels explained that many collectors may be disappointed to learn that Breguet only built a few timepieces himself. He actually had a team of exceptional watchmakers to whom he gave a lot of freedom to develop and manufacture watches and clocks. Breguet would then inspect each piece to validate the work before sending them to clients.

A friend of mine, who is a watchmaker specializing in servicing grand complication pocket watches made by A. Lange & Söhne, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and other high horology brands, told me that he wanted to show me a watch signed “Louis Raby” and find out if I knew that name.

Who was Louis Raby?

The truth is, little is known in detail about watchmaker Louis Raby. I reached out to the archive of Napoleon III The Empereur in Compiegne, France, hoping to get some information. Unfortunately, they could not tell me anything.

His name appears in Dictionnaire des Horlogers Francais published by Tardy as “Raby – succeda a A. Benoit a Versailles.” In 1867, “il exposa une montre en aluminum” (he exhibited a watch in aluminum), which was an extremely rare and difficult metal to use and work with during the nineteen century.

Between the author G. H. Baillie (who wrote the book Watchmakers and Clockmakers Of the World), publisher Tardy, and one other spelling variation (Rabi), it can be pieced together that Louis Raby was the third or fourth generation of a watchmaking family working in Paris for approximately a century and a half.

In the book The Art of Breguet by George Daniels, he describes Louis Raby as being one of Breguet’s most talented pupils, surpassing even the Master in the execution of his own pendule sympathique. More details can be read in that book on pages 90 and 180.

A Breguet Pendule Sympathique from 1814.

Fine finishing

After doing this research, I sensed that Louis Raby had a lot of credentials and that his work would be spectacular. My intuition was correct; when I saw the Louis Raby pocket watch in person, it was magnificent. Even my friend Don Loke, who was the former head of the technical department at Breguet, was speechless upon seeing the quality of the watch. He said it was, “one of the finest finished watches from the 1800s that I have ever seen.”

The Louis Raby piece in question is a splendid quarter repeater pocket watch with an instantaneous jump calendar with day, date, month, and moon phase. It is also the first pocket watch Don saw with a gold train through the repeating mechanism.

The level of quality and work on this 300-plus-part timepiece is outstanding. Don details the hard fire enamel white dial, followed by the blue enamel moon phase disk. In this video, Don presents the watch in detail including all parts of the movement. It is a real journey of beauty.

What makes these timepieces so valuable is a compilation of many things, but mostly name (provenance), complication, dial, screws, and quality. This was probably a pocket watch commissioned by the Emperor since the quality of the work is so remarkable. Don shares how he services a watch and the process he follows. It is a work of art. In the video he shows us how to put back the dial and hands – and the meticulous work it takes to do it.

I invite you to watch the video to not only discover this astonishing piece but also find how a watchmaker services a timepiece by walking us through the complexity and precision of timepieces. The video ends with the presentation of his next project and introduces us to his watch collection called D Loke, which includes his double escapement patent.


Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com


The watchmaker’s new Queen of Naples Coeur 9825 is a rose gold valentine to love.

Breguet enhances the technicality of its annual ode to Valentine’s Day with a new invention that mimics a beating heart. The luxury watchmaker’s 2021 Reine de Naples watch, released in time for the lover’s holiday on February 14, features a minute hand in the shape of a heart that slowly expands or contracts as it makes its way around the elongated oval dial.

The new Breguet Reine de Naples Cœur.

The hand on this Breguet Reine de Naples Cœur (Heart) edition is centered at the 6 o’clock position. Mimicking a beating heart, the hand stretches as it moves across the top half of the dial, and become more rounded as the hand reaches the lower part of the dial.

To propel the unusual minute hand, Breguet devised an oval-shaped cam (shaped to mirror the case) located under the dial. The cam controls two independent arms that together make up the hand. Each rotating arm moves at a different speed, creating the illusion of a beating heart.

The red heart-tipped hour hand points to minutes along the hours indicators, which are set with small hearts every five minutes. The watch dial itself is sapphire and finished with translucent white lacquer. The hour is indicated by a dot of purple lacquer within a window just above the minute hand.

The Breguet Reine de Naples Cœur 9825, showing how the hour hand expands and contracts as it rounds the dial.

Breguet enhances the romance here with a generous use of rose gold for the 36.5mm by 28.45mm oval case and sets diamonds along the bezel and again around the dial just beneath the crystal. The sapphire-crystal caseback allows a view of the new automatic caliber 78A0 that features an in-line escapement with a silicon escape wheel and balance spring. Though we were not provided with pictures of the movement, Breguet has undoubtedly finished the caliber to its usual superlative level.

The brand notes that the Reine de Naples, one of the brand’s most successful collections, is inspired by Breguet model no. 2639 made in 1810 for Caroline Murat, Queen of Naples, who commissioned it.

Breguet will make twenty-eight Reine de Naples Coeur watches and will offer them at its own brand boutiques. Look for each watch to be presented in an envelope clutch bag finished in grained calfskin leather and dyed vermilion red to match the strap. Price: $46,100.


Each year we take a moment to note the anniversary of the first tourbillon, the whirling regulation device Abraham-Louis Breguet patented on June 26, 1801. Breguet’s invention helped make pocket watches more precise by counteracting many of the negative effects of gravity on timekeeping precision.

Abraham-Louis Breguet

As is the case each year, Montres Breguet has provided us with a few visual reminders of how Breguet’s invention eventually started more than two centuries of tourbillon development by watchmakers.

A Breguet tourbillon

That development, however, was surprisingly slow. Found primarily in pocket watches and the occasional clock, the tourbillon wasn’t adopted for serially produced wristwatches until the 1980s, though a few prototype wristwatches with tourbillons were developed by Omega in 1947 and even earlier by special order at other Swiss manufacturers and by the French maker LIP.

Breguet Tourbillon N°1188

Breguet also reminds us that Abraham-Louis Breguet created only thirty-five tourbillon watches, with fewer than ten known to survive (including the No. 1188, pictured above).

The Breguet N°2567

The House of Breguet possesses several additional historical tourbillon pocket watches, including No. 1176 sold by Abraham-Louis Breguet in 1809, and No. 2567 sold in 1812, along with original records that list every single Breguet historical creation.

Many original Breguet tourbillons can be found in the Breguet Boutique & Museum in Place Vendome, Paris.

Here are just a few recent Breguet tourbillon watches that bear witness to the legacy of the man who devised the device, and whose name is on the building.

For 2020, Breguet adorns the dial of its Extra-Thin Self-Winding Tourbillon with a touch of deep blue, by using the traditional grand feu enamel technique.
Engraved caseback of the newest Breguet Extra-Thin Self-Winding Tourbillon.
Breguet this year offers its Marine Tourbillon Équation Marchante 5887 with a rose gold case with a gold dial.
The eye-catching engraved caseback of the Breguet Marine Tourbillon Équation Marchante 5887.