The French watchmaking revival

The winds of change are blowing through the French watchmaking industry. Since Franco-Swiss mechanical watchmaking and art mechanics joined the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2020, the future looks bright for French production and creativity in the field. Parts of the production chain are returning to industrial methods in France, and promising collaborations between France and Switzerland are on the horizon. We look at what the future holds for this sector in constant movement.

When French-made dreams take flight

Combining creative independence with a tradition of excellence, French watchmaking reflects an inventive and lively culture that is far from simply ticking over. And the end is nowhere in sight. In recent years, local forms of craftsmanship have been on the rise, and French watchmaking is no exception. France has good reason to be hopeful for the future of its timepieces, especially given that a traditional technique has returned to its factories: the production of mechanical calibres.

Calibre Initial - Pequignet

Pequignet stands out because it produces its own movements. First, the Calibre Royal, then the Calibre Initial, an automatic three-hand calibre containing 72% French components, which has been included in its designs since 2021. Meanwhile, Yema is revisiting its emblematic Wristmaster model from the 1960s, fitting it with its first ultra-thin micro-rotor calibre. Eighty per cent of the micro-components (bridges and plates) are French-made in its Morteau workshops. Finally, Apose took up the challenge of going 100% French with its no°3-100 collection that emanates an elegance that is timeless and quintessentially French: a movement by Pequignet, hands by the La Pratique factory and bracelets crafted from offshoots of Longchamp leather.

But that’s not all! Some houses are boldly unveiling 100% French designs made with recycled parts. Take Semper & Adhuc, which specialises in assembling watches fitted with movements dating back to the golden age of French production. In collaboration with Lip, the brand has created “l’Instantanée”, a watch made entirely in France that combines a Lip R100 movement with a Semper & Adhuc watch.

L'instantanée - Semper & Adhuc x Lip

A powerful watchmaking alliance between France and Switzerland

French and Swiss mechanical watchmaking know-how is synonymous with excellence throughout the world. And even though there are more and more initiatives designed to get French brands back onto the world watchmaking stage, the two countries still need each other if they are to succeed. Collaborating is a way of asserting their expertise and maintaining their reputation. That is why the two countries are combining the talents of their craftsmen and the network of cutting-edge companies to set up long-term projects and invent characterful designs.

G100 movement

Reflecting this initiative, Humbert-Droz in Besançon has joined forces with the Swiss movement manufacturer La Joux-Perret to relocate the assembly of mechanical movements on an industrial scale to the French Jura region. As a result of this partnership, France has seen the creation of the G100, a new three-hand automatic movement with the date, meticulously assembled in the capital of watchmaking: Besançon. French brand March LA.B now fits all its automatic models with this movement. Finally, the family brand Herbelin produces its fine timepieces by imbuing imaginative French design with Swiss mechanical expertise.

Bringing French flair to timepieces

In addition to production, French watchmaking has no shortage of creative character. The new watchmaking generation liberally mixes artfulness with an avant-garde approach, producing ever more innovative watches.

And that’s certainly true for Beaubleu. Inspired by the work of Galileo, the brand gives traditional watch hands a circular twist. Its latest collection – Vitruve – includes three automatic watches with innovative designs that blend architectural lines with the artistry of circles. And artistry is top of the agenda at Trilobe as well, eliminating received ideas… and watch hands! As a tribute to René Char, the house has created the Matinaux watch, which features a new way of telling the time, using three rings and three indicators.

For FOB Paris, creativity translates as a skilful blend of inspiration from the past, and a futuristic pioneering spirit. Its vision has led the house to brilliantly reinvent the fob watch as part of its Legacy collection. The watch has an adjustable wrist cuff and can also be worn on a chain or around the neck, or even kept in a pocket.

Last but certainly not least, B.R.M. Chronographes. The brand has achieved the feat of machining its cases at its own factory, and designs watches inspired by automobiles, in particular the racing cars by the finest pop-art painters of the 1970s and 80s.

French watchmaking seems unstoppable.

Beaubleu - Vitruve Origine
Trilobe - Les Matinaux
FOB Paris - R100
B.R.M Chronographes - Art Car

In its aim to accelerate the development of French watchmaking, jewellery and tableware, Francéclat studies and understands markets, drives creativity, stimulates innovation and brings the right people together to boost their international reach.