There’s an unspoken pride that comes with wearing a piece of jewellery from Chaumet — thanks to the charming tale that christens every piece. For example, the Joséphine ring is a simple eternity band with a V-notch that is widely copied by both fashion and fine jewellers alike. This design is particularly illustrative of Chaumet’s prestigious past as a jeweller to royalty. It pays homage to the maison’s first muse, Empress Joséphine, with a tiara that worked its way into a ring design that “crowns” the finger. Then there’s the Liens collection where precious metal is fashioned into a casual knot or a link that mimics the bond of a relationship.
The worlds of jewellery and horology have always gone hand-in-hand, perhaps due to the meticulous craftsmanship that could easily be applied to both departments such as the delicately executed visual details of both a jewellery piece and a watch. Hence, horology is not new to the 239-year-old French jeweller. In fact, one of the earliest timepieces that the house owns in its archives dates all the way back to 1811 — it was ordered by Empress Joséphine’s son, Eugène de Beauharnais for his wife. Throughout the years, timepieces have always been a complementing feature to the core jewellery collection — there’s the Hortensia cocktail watch that is more like a piece of jewellery with a time-telling feature or the more classic Liens watch for everyday wear that bears a cross-like link, connecting the watch to its strap. What’s missing at Chaumet is, however, a watch that tells its own story, one that is as compelling as the rest of its jewellery icons.
This year, Chaumet pushes the boundaries of its jewellery realm and plunges deeper into the world of horology with an entirely new watch model, the Bolero. Named so after the genre of slow-tempo Latin music and dance, this watch is crafted entirely out of gold and is not just another watch to complement a certain collection; it’s a watch that will define Chaumet’s horological offerings now and in the future. Still rooted in its jewellery’s heritage, its virtuosity is apparent in the brilliance of its polished gold and the most impressive construction of bracelet. The link bracelet is super supple and malleable, almost like a dancer’s graceful moves, which languidly hugging the wrist like a second skin. Quite the opposite of its traditional collection development, the link bracelet design is extended to a bracelet and a ring, which completes the Bolero collection.
Jean-Marc Mansvelt, CEO of Chaumet.
Here, Jean-Marc Mansvelt, CEO of Chaumet, speaks to T Singapore about the concept and design behind the brand’s efforts to create the watch that is to become Chaumet’s horological icon.
TOK WEI LUN: What role does the watch play in the house of Chaumet?
JEAN-MARC MANSVELT: As you probably know, Chaumet is a jeweller first, but we have many watches almost since the beginning. But really, [the watch is] more of an object for the parure (set of jewellery that’s worn together), rather than to tell the time. For instance, [that’s] what we have done over the two exhibitions — the ones in Beijing in 2017 and last year in Tokyo. It was interesting to see the watches, some of them were beautiful watches. And you could see the style of Chaumet, not as watchmakers but really as a jeweller. We have treated watches as we do for our jewellery pieces. And [with] the Bolero, which is obviously a piece that is invented today for the women of today, has the same spirit in terms of the attention to details and in particular, the bracelet.
TWL: What prompted Chaumet to introduce a new watch?
JM: We were missing a true, modern, beautiful watch that could be a strong signature, the emblem of what we try to express through Chaumet — which is the choice of distinction. Chaumet pieces, as you know, are not pieces worn by everybody. When you wear a Chaumet piece, it expresses your personality and the fact that it sets [you] a little bit apart [from others]. We considered that we have that in terms of jewellery, but maybe we were still missing this sort of approach for watches, which was the initial brief for Bolero.
Independent, strong women personalities embody the new Bolero collection. Among those featured in its ad campaign is an architect, a pilot, an art collectors, and a prima ballerina, Olga Smirnova (pictured here).
TWL: What was the inspiration for its name, Bolero?
JM: There is a strong connection between Chaumet and culture and art — through paintings, writings, sculptures and many different aspects, but obviously through music. You would have probably visited the 12 Place Vendôme (Chaumet’s flagship boutique, high jewellery workshop and creative studio in Paris since 1812). It was built before the French Revolution. That’s the place where Frédéric Chopin spent the last four months of his life. The composer died in this salon. So, there is a strong connection between the arts in general and music specifically. The round shape of this watch is really about the dancing and the movements. As you probably know, that one of the most well-known or well-played music in the world is the music from Maurice Ravel, the famous Bolero.
TWL: How did you go about selecting a collective of strong women to front the Bolero campaign?
JM: It was a choice. What was important for us was that obviously you could describe Bolero through the design, through the object. But we thought it was even more important to express Bolero through those personalities. So, the choice of these personalities was really to choose women, not because they are famous, but because they have a life [and made] strong choices in their career. And the mix of portraits is also [representative of] what we see all around us today. A woman who does everything, a modern woman with a real career, but with different perspectives. So, it [is]... the pianist, the dancer, the pilot, the architect…
TWL: Is this watch inspired by any watches in Chaumet’s history?
JM: There was a watch in the ’90s that was very much like this one (a round watch with thick rounded bezel). We had [it] reworked, slightly adjusted the shape and design, and all the details in order to [make it] even more refined, and even more from a jewellery approach. Now, many more of our watches historically are [imbued] with this sort of very warm and [delicate] sort of [technical] miracles. Some of these pieces are usually shown in our exhibitions. Some of them, by the way, were not for women initially, but were for men. But equally worn by women like an accessory... that you don’t see that it is a watch to some extent. That was sort of the mix of inspiration [for Bolero]. But it took quite a long time [to develop], as usual, for watches. It took two to three years of work, in order to really refine each and every detail. I think it is a beautiful watch. And we will see how people will react and wear it.
The Bolero timepiece and ring.
TWL: How should the watch be worn — snug on the wrist or loosely perhaps so as to showcase the movement of the bracelet?
JM: Personally, I think it looks much more beautiful when it is [worn] slightly loose because then really there is this sort of fusion between the object and the person. And I think from a sensorial point of view, you would [distinctly] feel more of the “second skin” effect when it is [worn] slightly more tightly. But then at the end I think, what is important is [how] each and every single person is going to choose [to wear it].
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