Louis Erard - From the Jura to Yorkshire - (Author, Neil Hollier, Head of Watches)
You might say the re-birth of a Swiss watch company is not all that uncommon of the last two decades, with many houses and family names from the past finally getting their names onto the dials of watches which reflect their standards better than anything else possibly could. Although with Louis Erard there is far more of a story to tell. We will start from the beginning - it goes a little something like this…
Back in 1929 at the age of 36 Mr Louis Erard and Mr André Perret joined forces to form the Louis Erard Company based in La Chaux-De-Fonds in the canton of Neuchâtel. The two men were brought together by sharing the same ideal: that flawless craftsmanship, watchmaking expertise and impressive complications could be married in the manufacture and then sold at affordable prices, thus opening up the world of ‘Haute Horlogerie’ to the general market. It then took a further two years of hard work before watches bearing the Louis Erard name were produced in 1931, quite an impressive short period considering the amount of work required to start up, acquire premises and a workforce. The company continued to grow and by 1937 they had grown their workforce to over 60 staff.
Independent watch houses in Switzerland are no strangers to financial difficulties, with most having gone through quieter periods in their history, as did Louis Erard. Between 1942 and 1980 they had to stay afloat by providing casing services to many other watch houses. In this time the Perret family parted ways with the brand and Louis Erard became a Public Limited Company for the first time. In the early 1990s the company again came under major financial strain and it changed hands and was then transferred Le Noirmont in the Swiss Jura. It would be another decade before the brand had life flowing through it once more.
In 2003 the brand was bought out by a consortium of private investors headed by Alain Spinedi, the current CEO. Alain is no stranger to watches and certainly has the credentials and experience to know what it takes to forge a reputable and quality brand through products and clever marketing. His knowledge acquired as Vice President of Sales at Swatch Group for 10 years and then CEO of Sector watches was always going to help when bringing something back from the brink. A truly inspiring man with whom I have had the pleasure of sharing a conversation over a hot coffee. Since this meeting I have found a wonderful quote which not only conveys what Louis Erard is all about but also their leader’s passion for what he does:
“Travel with us on a journey that goes beyond time yet also brings time within our grasp.”
In the years that have followed much has been achieved and there is much to be proud of. In 2009 Louis Erard launched its first in-house module which they developed with Soprod SA. This was a big achievement, met in a short space of time. It keeps alive the original dream of Mr Erard and Mr Perret to bring ‘Haute Horlogerie’ watches to the market at affordable prices. Things didn’t stop there: in 2011, the brand’s 80th birthday, they decided to celebrate the milestone by releasing a comprehensive new range called the ‘Excellence Collection’. It was the perfect way to showcase the expertise of mechanical watchmaking that they hold close to their hearts. Through using their exclusive horological complications, the true identity of Louis Erard has never quite been as visible as it is now.
The brand has continued to grow, adding brand ambassadors such as Severin Luthi (the captain of the Swiss Davis cup team who in late 2014 led his team to victory for the first time in their history), which have provided stronger exposure for the brand. Over 200,000 watches have now been produced in Le Noirmont, an incredible achievement. They now operate in 40 countries worldwide with official agents totalling close to 650. However, this presence across Europe and Asia had yet to find its way over to the UK until late last year when Ogden of Harrogate became one the first official agents for Louis Erard. We are very proud to help pioneer them in this country and to pass on the values of horolgical watches at affordable prices. I have selected my favourites from the brand, and I’m sure you will agree that these are fantastic timepieces which would be a credit to any collector’s inventory.
I will start with the Regulator. This comes in manual wind or automatic form, with a contrasting dial for each type of movement. The manual wind has a very simple yet elegant flat white dial and blue steeled hands. It’s very clear to read and really has a high class appeal about it. Make no mistake, this is a very elegant and reserved timepiece. However, the Automatic has a different feel about it, with much more detail on the dial. It is more built up with 4 different layers applied to the dial. Available in a choice of either silver toned or black with Côtes de Genève decoration. Whilst the hand wound watch is much more seamless in its design the automatic has a far more defined design, the contrast in the engraving and shades making each part much more singular. That said, the dial fits together like a well thought out feat of engineering. The 4 screws holding the centre section to the dial give it an added masculinity, and this really helps cement the fact that this watch is not only a great looking timepiece but offers horology and engineering at its finest. To say I love the Regulator would be an understatement. So you “get the look but what about the movement?”, I hear you say. It comes with a SW200 calibre, with Dubois Depraz 14072 complication. The hand wound watch is not lacking either, with Louis Erard having developed their own in-house movement for it. Then finally the price… If you consider the other regulator watches on the market from Chronoswiss and Jacquet Droz you’re looking at a minimum spend of £5,000. Taking that into consideration the Louis Erard regulators are incredible value priced at £1345 for the hand wound and £2250 for the automatic.
Now is the time to get the name of one of the unsung heroes of contemporary watchmaking on your wrist: Louis Erard. I could find 50 reasons why you should, but the one that stands out is that this is a brand that knows not only what it stands for and what it wants to become, but also has values and ideals it wishes to maintain. The main one of these is to produce horological watches at affordable prices. So far they are delivering.