Henry-John Belmont is a name we invariably associate with Jaeger-LeCoultre. Indeed, that La Grande Maison, as it's known to all, has risen to its position at the pinnacle of watch manufactures is thanks to his work. French-born and holder of an MBA from INSEAD in Fontainebleau, Henry-John Belmont earned his stripes with Yema, a watch company founded by his father which, at its height, produced no fewer than 1,300,000 watches a year. After taking over from his father at the head of the firm, the brand was bought by Matra as a prelude to the creation of a watch division, in partnership with Thomson, to counter the quartz crisis. This was not to be: Yema was taken over by Seiko and Henry-John Belmont left France for Switzerland.
It was here that he began his career at the head of Jaeger-LeCoultre, in the late 1980s, during which time he worked from the existing industrial base to rekindle the manufacture that was destined to become a great name in fine watchmaking. And so Henry-John Belmont put Jaeger-LeCoultre back at the centre of the watchmaking stage, making it all the more desirable in the process. In the early 2000s, it was taken over by Richemont, alongside IWC and A. Lange & Söhne. It was Henry-John Belmont who, with Franco Cologni, integrated all three brands into the group. He went on to take charge of the group's industrial production, and in this capacity guided Montblanc towards success as a watchmaker. His own success mirrors the remarkable vitality he instills into all he does.
By way of introduction, I can only say that Philippe Dufour needs none. His name is the first that springs to mind as synonymous with excellence in watchmaking. Indeed, in Japan, where he teaches the intricacies of his art, he is a living legend, although I imagine he would never think to claim this title for himself. Philippe Dufour proves wrong the adage that "no man is a prophet in his own land".
After completing his watchmaking studies in Le Sentier in 1967, he found his first job with Jaeger-LeCoultre. Leaving behind the forests of the Vallée de Joux, he took up a new position in the Caribbean, with General Watch Company. Returning to Switzerland in 1974, just when the quartz crisis was starting to bite, he was hired first by Gérald Genta then by Audemars Piguet. However, Philippe Dufour was too much of an individualist at heart not to go it alone, an adventure he embarked upon first as a restorer and later with watches under his own name. Since 1992, the year he presented his first timepiece, a completely original grande sonnerie minute repeater, Philippe Dufour has established himself as a reference among watchmakers. A reputation that has only ever grown stronger over twenty years or more.
At the end of his studies, his teacher told him "you're just good enough to be a watchmaker." Some fifty years after this rather disparaging remark, we can truly say that "good" will never be "enough" for Philippe Dufour.
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