The monumental antique clock that greets the visitor announces the tone. Without however revealing the topicality: an extension of more than 1800 square metres and a Bulgari record that is a buzz around the world. Read this in printed form in the Swiss watchmaking journal, JSH 1876 (EPHJ).
Concepto, behind the 8th Bulgari record that’ s making the buzz these days
Valérien Jaquet, who started out as a micro-mechanic before becoming a watchmaker, was my guide. It is difficult to detract him, for the time of a visit, from his workshops, his teams and his business. It is also difficult to get him to talk, as behind the scenes he maintains the discretion so dear to the fabric of the suppliers business.
Even better welcoming for brands
Although the Concepto company he founded in 2006 is rather young, it has its roots in watchmaking history. This is evidenced by the countless historical references scattered along the tour. Here, an old workbench burnished by time, there antique machines, sometimes more than a hundred years old, whose state of conservation and brilliance sometimes contrast with the contemporary aesthetics in which they are displayed. Witnesses to a rich experience, validated by time, these museum pearls sanctify the dynamic, invigorating inspiration that emanates from this hive of skills: from the four who initially started out, two watchmakers and two builders, there are now 130 employees.
The newly expanded building is not visible from the Jura and Biel road at this La Chaux-de-Fonds entrance. For example, this immense conference room, with its generous amount of space wallpapered with mega flat screens. It is adjacent to a brand new cafeteria, intended primarily for employees, but also, thanks to its ‘privatizable’ concept, for prestigious visiting clients. From now on, they will be able to enjoy the gastronomic continuations of the meetings, thanks to the care of an in-house chef. Efficient! A smart way to avoid the inexorable interruptions, those moments when the boiling concentrations are robbed by the circulation of menu cards or the worthy escapades to the surrounding restaurants. No more dictating meal times that stop the momentum, that break the mood.
“De-mining” the processes, engineering efficiency
Creativity, resulting from fruitful exchanges, remains the main driving force behind Concepto. Some come with clear and precise desiderata and a quest for achievability. Others are looking for exclusivity, for the rare. All of them let themselves be carried away by crazy journeys, unheard-of challenges. The vaults of this factory are full of treasures. They have become all the more easily accessible because Valérien Jaquet has made ultra-fluid the flows linking the knowledge of virtual imaging to the technical office and the methods office. These so-called back-and-forth processes, which, when shortened to this point, facilitate decision-making and production start-ups. Everything is going very fast, faster and faster.
Valérien Jaquet talks about flash speed. He uses the word “de-verminer ” (i.e. remove the bug) in relation to all those potential glitches that usually lurk in the process stages. He anticipates them, neutralises them. Far from a theoretical vision, this is real efficiency engineering. A squeeze on deadlines powered by the juice of experience. Beyond the flagship parts which are the subject of media coverage – who can know that they sometimes come from these workshops – there is this drop of organisational oil which greases the wheels of production. It is as useful for large series and volumes as it is for the particular culture of one-off pieces and micro-series.
Four staff at the beginning, two watchmakers and two builders, today a team of 130 people
Media records and series intelligence
By quoting the few brands that publicly acknowledge their sources (see box), it is easy to understand the two key activities of the Manufacture. Internally, we speak of GFX production, for Grand Flux (volumes, series), and of HDG, for Haut de Gamme, i.e. for Tourbillons, Minute Repeaters and for all that the watchmaking galaxy conceals of ‘talking pieces’ or records to be celebrated or invented.
Some records? Among those entitled to be mentioned, there is the XXL tourbillon cage reserved for the Maximus model of Kerbedanz, holder of the record for the world’s largest Tourbillon. JSH Magazine, holder of the title of “Switzerland’s oldest watchmaking media“, had made it its Cover when it was relaunched at EPHJ 2019. Then, during the April 2022 watch exhibitions, it is Bulgari’s 8th record that made the front pages of the world’s media, thanks to the formidable firepower of Jean-Christophe Babin and his teams in Neuchâtel. It should be noted that for the first time, the brand, although particularly well resourced as regards manufacturing premises, has mentioned Concepto, and even claimed it as its own.
Increasing trend: more and more brands are naming their suppliers
The movement factory Concepto is quoted by Breitling, Bulgari, Graff, Hublot, Jacob & Co, Kerbedanz, Louis Moinet, Porsche Design, Rebellion Timepieces, Sinn and others…