How Laurent Ferrier became a lodestar of the independent-watchmaking scene

A one-time racing driver, Ferrier decided that his brand would not churn out driving watches – but, instead, it would showcase a balance between lyrical looks and technically advanced movements

“I nurtured a dream of making watches that represented my horological values: simplicity, precision, and pure, uncluttered beauty,” says Laurent Ferrier, the creator of his own, eponymous wristwear label. Since its launch, in 2010, the venture has become one of the leading independent makers within the industry, noted for those key principles of clean, balanced designs and an elegant feel – features that stand out in an industry where maximalism and complicated aesthetics have taken a big bite out of the market.

A third-generation watchmaker, Ferrier was raised in an environment centred around all things horology; he studied at l'École d’Horlogerie de Genève; and he would go on to join Patek Philippe across several stints, where, in total, he spent four decades expanding his know-how as he moved from role to role (making prototypes; being in charge of development; technical and product director). ‘Among many other things, he learned there that everything is a matter of balance and harmony,’ so says his website.

Alongside wristwear, Ferrier also had another love – motor racing – and this is where his background deviates slightly from the norm. An avid racer himself, Ferrier was fixated with aggressive, fierce engines and smooth, elegant bodywork, and in his youth, he participated in some of the most iconic races of the age, including seven appearances at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Laurent Ferrier

It was in this world where he met industrialist and driver François Servanin, and the duo solidified their friendship over a mutual love of speed and mechanics (both finished third in the Le Mans rankings, in 1979).

Decades later, the pair’s pipe dream of creating their own independent watch brand eventually came to fruition, with Servanin – who currently serves as the company’s president – convincing his lifelong friend not to retire, but to create his own pieces from scratch.

From the get go, it was decided that the brand would not churn out driving watches – but, instead, it would reflect the fundamentals that Ferrier had learned throughout his years in the industry: an equalling of lyrical looks and technically advanced movements, all assembled by hand and using only premium materials.

Perhaps most notable is that many offerings within the Laurent Ferrier line feature the signature galet-shape case – influenced by the French word for pebble – which is noted for its smooth, curvaceous surface. The dials are often pared-down and free of any noticeable embellishment, perhaps besides the odd lumed hand and subtle burst of colour, and, quite often, features such as tourbillons are discreetly incorporated. (However, a quick view of each watch’s caseback will show exquisite movements and mechanics.)

Among our favourites within the collection is the Classic Origin, in blue, Ferrier’s favourite colour, with the piece having become an icon of the brand. Not only is it feted for being anchored by an elegant, deep hue (the dial features a subtle gradient that goes from a lighter tone to one that’s much darker; meanwhile, the hours and snailed seconds counter are done in sky blue, and the nubuck strap is in midnight blue), but the assegai hands and drop-shaped indices, both in 18k white-gold, offer incredibly slender detailing. Moreover, the plump shape of the case has an old-school pocket-watch quality about it.

Equally as timeless in looks is the Classic Tourbillon with a black-onyx dial – not only defined by its serious, no-fuss colourway, but one can’t help but be drawn to the 11 Roman numerals painted in white, all of which offer a lovely contrast. Powering the piece is an exclusive movement that’s developed, assembled and adjusted in-house, and makes use of a tourbillon device that’s based on Abraham-Louis Breguet’s principle that he introduced at the beginning of the 19th century.

With more of a robust, modern feel is the Sport Auto, what Ferrier says would have been ‘the ideal timepiece to wear during each of’ his and Servanin’s races. Perhaps the first thing one immediately notices is the use of contrasts: the cool shades of blue against the industrial feel of the grade-5 titanium case; the interplay of rounded and firmer curves on the exterior; finishes that are either circular satin-brushed, mirror-polished or vertical satin-brushed; and, of course, lumed hands and indexes that provide a clarity of legibility for high-octane pursuits.

And, of late, is the Classic Moon, shown at this year’s Watches and Wonders. Making use of an elegant annual calendar, as well as a moon phase complication – a first for the brand – it is an intricate, technically sound creation in a 40mm case with curved lugs and bezel. To help restrain everything from looking too busy, our choice of colourway is the grey-blue, which brings a muted foundation that lets the sharp white fonts and Roman numerals sing on their own.

Up top is another fantastic detail, as the 31 is coloured in azure hue – all numbers from 1 to 30 are in a pastel shade – and, at the bottom, the moon phase can be seen in aventurine glass, so that the eye is drawn equally to both ends of the dial. Because it is, ultimately, all about keeping the balance.

Laurent Ferrier

Laurent Ferrier

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