Jérôme de Witt is the founder of the DeWitt manufacture and inventor of the 400 models created in eleven years with the engineers and designers of the Research and Development department. His wife, Viviane de Witt, former owner and manager of a Paris auction house, author of four books on art, including two on jewellers, joined the company in March 2012. Today the couple runs the manufacture in harmony with respect for values and men, in a constant search for beauty, outstanding quality, and the most advanced horological innovations.
|Jérôme & Viviane de Witt|
Through their prestigious aesthetics and their extremely inventive technology, backed by numerous patents filed to protect their innovative features, DeWitt creations have enjoyed an unabated degree of international success. This enviable reputation first and foremost reflects a fascinating human adventure and the determination of men and women passionately dedicated to their art and who lavish particular and personalised attention on each horological creation – thereby endowing them truly exceptional value. At DeWitt, each timepiece is placed under the exclusive supervision of a single outstanding master-watchmaker, who acts as a guardian of the Brand’s unfailing respect for its fundamental values
Passion, tradition, creativity, integrity and horological excellence: such are the ethical values cultivated by DeWitt within a deliberately daring brand vision – that of nurturing a different, noble and authentic breed of Haute Horlogerie merging time-honoured know-how with exceptional technical expertise.
The Dewitt Heritage
Measuring instruments were long regarded as the exclusive preserve of the most eminent members of society. Seeking to control the relentless forward march of time, emperors and sovereigns around the world were determined to seek ways of quantifying it. Montres DeWitt essentially owes the wealth of its cultural heritage, a unique phenomenon within the international luxury industry, to its founder Jérôme de Witt. The great-grandson of Leopold II of Belgium, Jérôme de Witt is the direct fifth generation descendant of King Jérôme of Westphalia, the brother of Emperor Napoleon 1.
The imperial family has always cultivated a love of fine watchmaking. In 1798, prior to his departure for his Egyptian campaign, Napoleon Bonaparte purchased three timepieces – a repeater watch, an almanac travel clock and a perpetual repeater watch – from a watchmaker named Abraham-Louis Breguet. Upon his return a year later, the future Emperor brought back to the watchmaker one of the timepieces damaged during battle, and demanded a new one as a replacement. Breguet immediately accepted, thereby marking the start of a lengthy cooperation with the imperial family. In 1810, Abraham-Louis Breguet would create the very first wristwatch in History for the Queen of Naples, Caroline Murat, the sister of Emperor Napoleon 1.
|DeWitt Family Tree|
Jérôme de Witt was determined to imbue this House with the values conveyed by his heritage. The entire range of DeWitt timepieces, from aesthetic conception to the creation of the movement, thereby embody the codes of the Empire period. Marrying tradition and modernity, the DeWitt watch collections are immediately identifiable by 24 tiny imperial columns adorning the bezel and the middle section (of the watch, thereby creating a harmonious effect of depth and well-balanced proportions.
The Dewitt Spirit: The Quest for the Exceptional
Consistently fascinated by mechanical watchmaking, Jérôme de Witt is eager to share his passion with lovers of the Art of Horology. Inspired by the cultural heritage of his illustrious ancestors, the founder of the brand bearing his name harbours a great sense of respect for the watchmaking artisans who have for centuries devoted their knowledge, dexterity and patience to transforming the passage of time into authentic works of art.
|DeWitt Concept Watch WX-1|
|DeWitt Répétition Minutes Tourbillon GMT Antipode|
The Manufacture Dewitt
It took DeWitt a mere five years to establish its creative reputation within the highly exclusive circle of avant-garde Haute Horlogerie brands. Since 2008, the company has been settled in Satigny, Geneva, at the heart of the Meyrin industrial zone that is already home to a number of watch manufacturers. Like many other players within the watch industry, DeWitt aims to become a full-fledged watch Manufacture that is both independent and self-sufficient in terms of production. The Satigny headquarters are entirely in tune with the company’s desire to achieve full verticalisation of its activities.
Bringing all operations involved in the watchmaking process under one roof guarantees an optimal response to demand for the Brand’s exclusive creations. Original, innovative and highly exclusive, the watches created by the DeWitt artisans naturally need to be crafted according to the specific criteria inherent to small series. The integration of the various stages leading from production to the finished product enables DeWitt to maintain optimal control over the global quality of its creations.
Committed to ensuring the continuity of watchmaking traditions, DeWitt is currently one of the world’s only watch brands to continue exercising the art of guilloché-work performed by hand engraving on historical 18th and 19th century rose engines.
The process is also aided and abetted by a set of state-of-the-art ultra-modern machinery, installed on the first floor. The definition of new and original micro-mechanical solutions, the very heart of the unique DeWitt approach, is achieved by a team of particularly well-trained men and women specialising in the most complex systems. Together, they represent an exceptional range of skills, experience and qualifications.
At present DeWitt can rely on a 70-strong workforce united around a single-minded passion for Haute Horlogerie. The executive management of the company is in the hands of Nathalie Veysset, who is striving to optimise the development of the DeWitt watch collections while positioning the corporate image in the segment of exclusive customised models.
In due course, the ultimate goal of the verticalisation process is to develop a set of original movements that will be produced entirely in-house. The creation of “home-made” calibres represents the culmination of an ideal approach to watchmaking. It is all the more important for DeWitt, a House characterised by an avant-garde spirit expressed through the technical content and aesthetic form of its watches and naturally calling for a highly personalised process in order to satisfy a clientele of connoisseurs and devotees of extraordinary creations with genuinely high added value.
The DeWitt Museum
Montres DeWitt devotes part of its premises to the history of watchmaking craftsmanship. Located at the entrance of the building, in the reception area, the DeWitt Museum immediately immerses visitors into the fascinating world of the history of watchmaking machinery. Within a hushed, tranquil setting decorated with warm and prestigious colours embodying the brand universe, the Museum presents one of the world’s largest collections of tools – over 250 in all – retracing almost three centuries of hand-crafted watchmaking.
Dewitt and the Art of Guilloché
Guilloché is a time-honoured engraving technique in which a very precise repetitive pattern is mechanically etched into an underlying material with the finest detail. This method was already used centuries ago to decorate dials and watch cases, making it probably one of watchmaking’s oldest professions. Today, original rose-engine machines are true museum pieces and this craft has practically disappeared, now mastered by no more than a handful of guillocheurs worldwide.
The guilloché technique was invented in the 17th century. It was originally executed, using a very simple form of lathe, on soft materials such as ivory and wood to produce decorative ornaments for architecture and furniture. As more sophisticated machines were developed in the course of the 18th century, guilloché was gradually applied on hard metals and on a relatively large scale as industrial demand grew rapidly.
Two types of machines are to be found. The first enables the engraving of straight lines or undulations, whereas the second type is specifically designed for circular patterns. However, the principle is the same in both cases: a smooth plate, fixed to the guillocheuse, follows a regular vertical or circular movement (depending on the type of machine) and is decorated by a burin attached on a horizontal axis. Different shaped rotating wheels, operated manually and also called “rosettes”, guide the movement of the guillocheuse to create a circular pattern. To engrave straight lines or wave patterns, the machine is guided by different shaped “rakes”, positioned vertically.
The quality and the complexity of these miniature engravings, sometimes no more than a tenth of a millimeter, depend entirely on the delicate touch of the guillocheur, for whom the machine is only an extension of his hands. He must be careful not to carve too deeply and ensure that a consistent force is applied for each thread. “Rosettes” and “rakes” represent the repertoire of the guillocheur, and an important part of his artistic work is to imagine new combinations of shapes and to apply them in such a way that they will produce a harmonious and pleasing pattern.
Particularly well-known in the field of exclusive watchmaking, the guilloché technique was, however, also used to decorate many other small luxurious objects: expensive pens, cigarette lighters, snuff boxes, jewellery, mirrors, hair-styling accessories, etc. Although used mainly on precious metals, such as gold or silver, guillochage was also used on organic materials such as wood, ivory or even coconut.
In contemporary Haute Horlogerie, DeWitt is now one of the very few remaining watch-makers to perpetuate the art of guilloché on historical 18th, 19th and 20th century rose-engine machines. Noël Bourdon, DeWitt’s master guillocheur, still passionately cultivates the secrets of this art on the three historical machines of the Manufacture. Though the process of decorating dials or even movement components is extremely time-consuming, there is no substitute for the beauty and elegance of hand-engraved guilloché.
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MONTRES DEWITT SA
Rue du Pré-de-la-Fontaine 2,
1217 Meyrin, GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
Official website: http://www.dewitt.ch