Fine Watchmaking is excellence in watchmaking
The techniques of watchmaking in symbiosis with the applied arts
High Horology is a philosophy where tradition and mechanical craftsmanship takes precedence in the world of wrist watches. It is a foundation that prides itself on embracing heritage and to cherish the aptitude required to build these very complex complications.
Through a foundation known as Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH), High Horology provides a forum where their goal is to “inform, train, recognise and organise” mechanical watches and what they bring to mankind.
Since 2005, they have a great partnership with watchmaking brands to help embrace and promote the cornerstones of Haute Hhorlogerie which are:
In order to support these ideals, brands must produce timepieces with the best quality and to meet certain standards in mind. FHH sets out to inform watch enthusiasts and the public by providing public forums, a huge knowledge base, and also training for potential watch smiths in this specific industry.
Through this and other programs such as formal certifications, establishing haute horlogerie values held sacred by the Council, the FHH is committed to educate and create a great future for traditional, high horology. The FHH Council then worked together to establish a white paper on Haute Horology and to lay down the foundations on what constitutes ‘fine watchmaking’.
After various meetings, the full white paper, which is available here, is “ the result of a methodological consideration of the notion of Fine Watchmaking and its defining values. It presents a clear definition and system of categorization for all of the various players.”
Based on this, let’s explore the various brands that help build FHH and the values it represents.
Under the FHH definition, Historic Maisons are “Watchmaking companies that perpetuate a tradition and a heritage.” They are brands that have stood the test of time and demonstrated time and time again what fine watchmaking should possess and the traits that made tradition continue.
They are brands that have gone through many struggles and tribulations to survive and represent fine watchmaking and the dying art in advance of modern technology.
Here is a list of Historic Maisons recognized by the FHH:
In order to be considered in this exclusive group, the FHH evaluated each brand whether it fit the Foundation’s criteria of having an authentic and uninterrupted history (since the officially recorded date of foundation), a brand which respects the spirit of its founder (at the time it was established), and has a distinct conservation strategy. The latter means the brand owns or is assembling a heritage collection that conserves and makes use of archives.
I think we can all agree that these brands meet or exceed these expectations. Historic Maison brands worked hard to be where they are today and spent extensive time and resources to establish a reputation of being known as a respectable and highly-regarded watchmaking brand.
Contemporary and Luxury Brands
There’s a distinct differentiation between ‘contemporary’ and ‘luxury’ brands with the former being defined as “brands which belong to the present day and are characteristic of modern times.”, while the latter described as “multi-product luxury brands which invest in the art of technical and/or precious Fine Watchmaking with creativity, innovation, and excellence.” The differentiation between the two verticals can be seen as minute to some, but requires distinct changes within the watch community.
In order to hold the high standards that people expect from the foundation, it’s best to know which brands represent modern times and which brands like to push the envelope in terms of design and philosophy.
For these types of brands, they still need to meet the Foundation’s criteria of a company that develops/continues an authentic, documented history that is specific to the brand, established with the intention to contribute to progress in watchmaking. And has an active conservation strategy that includes assembling a heritage collection that conserves and makes use of archives.
When you see who’s listed as luxury brands, it makes sense why the FHH recognizes them as a ‘fashion forward’ label, pushing the boundaries of horology while not forgetting the traditional roots which are,
- Louis Vuitton
Meanwhile, the following ‘contemporary’ brands are extensive, representing modern times:
Artisans – Creators
Last but not least are the independent artisans. The Foundation defines them as “ Independent watchmakers and creators who draw on the specific expertise and who generally carry out the manufacturing, sale and after-sales service of their products.”
Independent manufactures still have to meet the Foundation’s criteria of a company that develops/continues an authentic, documented history that is specific to the brand, established with the intention to contribute to progress in watchmaking. And has an active conservation strategy that includes assembling a heritage collection that conserves and makes use of archives. These artisans recognized by the FHH are:
While they still have to adhere to Foundation standards, as an independent, however, these manufacturers are not tied to any conglomerate and are not associated with any other major brand. These creators are critical to the Foundation and are the ones representing a unique aspect of fine watchmaking based on dedication, passion, and a love for the craft.
As an independent manufacturer, these artisans are free to let their creative language speak through their timepieces and are bound to no restrictions, creating memorable and distinct examples of Haute Horlogerie.
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