Régis Huguenin-Dumittan, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Suzanne Rohr, Laurent Tissot and Théo Bregnard
The 2019 edition of the Prix Gaïa yielded a rich harvest, with three new winners distinguished for their outstanding watchmaking careers; the new Horizon Gaïa scholarship awarded to a young student; and the launch of the subscription to the museum’s new watch, the MIH Gaïa.
On September 19th, the watchmaking world met at Club 44 in La Chaux-de-Fonds for the presentation of the Prix Gaïa. After winning the 2017 Jury Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Suzanne Rohr, a renowned enamel artist, distinguished herself in the Craftsmanship and creation category. Anita Porchet, to whom she passed on her knowledge, was at her side in this important moment and retraced the pioneering and courageous path of this artist. The historian Laurent Tissot, whose career path was narrated by one of his former students at the University of Neuchâtel, was distinguished in the History and research category. The Spirit of Enterprise award was presented to Karl-Friedrich Scheufele. Jacky Ickx, a racing-car driver and long-time friend, recounted the highlights of his life with originality and humour. Launched during the previous edition of the awards, the Horizon Gaïa scholarship saw its first winner in the person of Aude Moutoussamy, who will conduct research on the appropriation of social media by watch brands. Finally, the long-awaited new MIH watch was presented to the public. Inspired by the Prix Gaïa trophy and the museum’s architecture, this piece, a work of close collaboration between craftsmen and local companies, is on sale until mid-January 2020.
The truly one-of-a-kind Prix Gaïa, considered as the Nobel Prize of Watchmaking, was awarded for the first time in 1993 by the Musée international d’horlogerie (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds, a city whose economic and social history is closely linked to the industry. By means of this distinction, the town wished to show its gratitude to the spiritual heirs of the watchmaking culture that permeates the museum’s collections, as well as the city itself.
Craftsmanship and creation: Suzanne Rohr
The Jury for the Prix Gaïa payed tribute to Suzanne Rohr for her pioneering role in and her mastery of the art of enamelling, her perseverance and her independence in apprenticeship, as well as her work to train others in these skills.
Born in Geneva in 1939, Suzanne Rohr grew up in a family immersed in the classical arts. Interested in drawing and painting from a young age, she demonstrated her passion for achieving finesse and perfection in every stroke. When she finished school, she discovered an exhibition of enamel work at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva which she greatly admired. She then went on to train as an enameller and painter of enamel miniatures in the enamelling department at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs in Geneva where she studied under Elisabeth Juillerat and obtained her federal diploma in 1959. She was the only student in her class. In recognition of her achievement, the Department of Education in Geneva offered her an additional year’s training in the jewellery class. That same year, she won the Hans Wilsdorf Foundation competition prize for creating a ladies’ bracelet which included a watch in its enamelled decoration.
In 1960, unable to find an in-house position, Suzanne Rohr opened her own studio. This marked the start of her freelance career which she has continued to the present day.
From 1960 to 1968, Suzanne Rohr strove to find her calling. She also created enamelled jewellery, cups and artwork using cloisonné and champlevé techniques, or decorated with silver and gold leaf. It was in this same period that she met the famous Genevan miniaturist, Carlo Poluzzi. He would become her mentor for the next 28 years. Working closely with him, she refined her technique and dedicated herself entirely to enamel miniatures. She sold several of her miniatures in La Côte-aux-Fées, Le Locle and Neuchâtel and undertook work for watchmaking brands in Geneva.
From 1967, Suzanne Rohr began her partnership with Patek Philippe where she met connoisseurs of her art. There, she could express her own point of view and, also, obtain gold of the finest quality, an essential pre-requisite for producing the perfect painting. From 1970, she could rely on regular commissions and on the constant support of the Geneva-based firm and from the Stern family who showed their loyal trust in her for nearly 50 years.
Fascinated by the art of miniatures, the harmony of shapes and the beauty of colours, Suzanne Rohr’s heart’s desire was to share her passion for this art and see it continue to be appreciated in the 21st century. In 2017, Suzanne Rohr and her former protégée Anita Porchet were jointly awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for the high level of perfection in their work.
History and research: Laurent Tissot
The Jury for the Prix Gaïa paid tribute to Laurent Tissot for his contribution to the renewal of our understanding of the economic, social and cultural history of Swiss watchmaking at an academic level, influenced by his many research studies, wealth of publications and strong communication skills.
Born in Fribourg on February 5th 1953, Laurent Tissot attended Collège Saint-Michel in Fribourg until 1974. He then continued his studies at the University of Lausanne, where he obtained a degree in political science in 1978 and a doctorate in 1987, whilst working in the Paillard archives in Yverdon. In the interim period, he was a research assistant to Professor Grüner at the University of Bern, and subsequently an assistant to Professor André Lasserre at the University of Lausanne. As well as his training in political science and economics, he also specialises in history. Laurent Tissot became the first assistant at the University of Lausanne (1986-1988, 1991-1992) and also stood in for Professor André Lasserre between 1986-1987. A grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation followed and experience at the London School of Economics and Political Science - Business History Unit.
Through all these experiences, step by step, Laurent Tissot has developed his academic career. He was a lecturer at the University of Fribourg from 1994, then assistant lecturer (1995-1998), associate professor (1999-2002), research supervisor (2002-2006) and then professor (2006-2018) at the University of Neuchâtel.
Involved in a wide range of local and international bodies, he was notably the President of the Scientific Council of the “Institut l’homme et le temps” (Man and Time Institute) in La Chaux-de-Fonds (1999-2006), organising conferences and publishing a number of works. From 2007 to 2009, he held the position of the vice dean of the Arts Faculty at the University of Neuchâtel, and then was dean of the same from 2009 to 2011.
Since the 1990s, Laurent Tissot has used his drive, as well as his expertise in the fields of history and economics, to further our understanding of the history of the watch industry. For more than 20 years, through his own research and by supervising the work of other researchers and research groups, by organising conferences and publishing numerous works, he has undertaken to completely renew the economical, social and cultural historiography of Swiss watchmaking, which has been often mythologised by the past.
Following on from the pioneering work of François Jequier and his publication on the Fleurier Watch Co, Laurent Tissot’s work provides an additional element to the history of watchmaking. He has notably worked to develop the history of watchmaking as an academic discipline. In light of this, he has become a key figure in reforming the history of Swiss watchmaking in line with current research approaches. Throughout his career, he has campaigned to consolidate the technical history of watchmaking and to examine the history of watchmaking in light of international as well as national social and economical issues (notably in the French-Swiss Jura Arc), providing a more complex and finer understanding of aspects specific to this industry. He has overseen the vast majority of recent research in this area: the general history of the watch industry in the context of Switzerland’s economic history; the history of research and development; the history of migrations in the watch industry, the history of the watchmakers’ cartel, the history of industrial districts, etc.
Through his powers of persuasion and personal networks, he has also helped many students and PhD students gain access to watch companies in order to reveal a previously unseen history. Far from being confined to the ivory towers of university life, his special contacts with the industry have made numerous brands more receptive to preserving their heritage.
In addition to his own research interests, he has ensured watchmaking features in the closely related research fields of his colleagues, notably in disciplines such as sociology, regional economy, ethnology and migration studies.
Spirit of Enterprise: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele
The Jury for the Prix Gaïa paid tribute to Karl-Friedrich Scheufele in recognition of the dynamic growth and international renown which the family company has enjoyed thanks to his leadership, and for developing new watchmaking entities which emphasise the value of people, craftsmanship and innovation.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele was born in 1958 in the city of Pforzheim, Germany, where he lived until the age of 15. In 1963, his father Karl Scheufele III, who managed Karl Scheufele GmbH, founded in 1904 by his grandfather, acquired the Geneva-based watch manufacture Chopard. Karl-Friedrich then moved to Switzerland with his parents and sister, and enrolled in the International School of Geneva. He served an apprenticeship with a master jeweller in Geneva, before studying at the Faculty of Business and Economics (HEC Lausanne). When he returned to Geneva after a journey of initiation around the world, he joined the family business in 1979 and learned the skills practised there by spending successive periods working in all departments.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is currently Co-President of Chopard. He is in charge of the Chopard Manufacture and Fleurier Ebauches, which he himself founded, along with the men’s watches division of the company and various management aspects. With his younger sister Caroline, he is involved in the company’s marketing, advertising and communications projects. In each of these tasks, he shows the greatest commitment to innovation, craftsmanship and attention to detail as core values. Chopard employs some 2,000 staff.
Chopard has built its reputation thanks to iconic collections such as “Happy Diamonds”, “Happy Sport” and “Mille Miglia”, but it is also renowned for its jewellery creations and for its technical expertise, encapsulated in the L.U.C. collection.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele successfully balances his professional commitments with his personal interests. His passion for classic cars, for example, led Chopard to forge partnerships with the famous Mille Miglia race – in which he has participated every year since 1988 – and also with Porsche Motorsport. Always looking for rare treasures, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is also an avid collector. Over the years, he has amassed a vast collection of mechanical watches and clocks for Chopard which are of particular interest from both a technical and historical perspective. Exhibited at the L.U.CEUM, this collection retraces the history of time and the development of Chopard.
In 1996, he brought his vision of fine watchmaking to life by founding Chopard Manufacture in Fleurier, thereby reconnecting with the tradition of mechanical movement production and with the heritage of Louis- Ulysse Chopard.
In seeking to enrich the museum’s collection, Karl- Friedrich Scheufele discovered the history of horologist Ferdinand Berthoud and acquired the brand in 2006. In 2015, he launched the first model from the Chronométrie Ferdinand Berthoud brand and won the “Aiguille d’Or” at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2016. The following year, he won the same prize for the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike timepiece.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele is also a lover of fine wines, a passion which he shares through another entrepreneurial venture: three wine boutiques called the “Caveau de Bacchus” have also been established in Geneva, Lausanne and Gstaad.
Despite his very busy schedule, Karl-Friedrich Scheufele continues to travel around the world with his wife Christine to visit their many clients and to attend key company events. He attaches great importance to his family and takes care to protect his private life. He dedicates his spare time to sporting activities such as racing, skiing and mountain hiking. The values of friendship and human well-being espoused by the whole Scheufele family are conveyed through their charitable commitments to fighting against leukaemia and AIDS, as well as to protecting the environment.
When asked for the one word that best sums up his quest for the absolute in his work, he replies without hesitation: “quality”. Quality craftsmanship, quality communication, quality time and, last but not least, quality of life, both personally and professionally.
Alongside the three categories used to honour leading figures in the watchmaking world, Horizon Gaïa, an incentive grant made possible thanks to the generosity of the Watch Academy Foundation, is being awarded to encourage new talent in the fields recognised by the Prix Gaïa: Craftsmanship – Creation, History – Research, and Entrepreneurship. The grant will finance all or part of an individual project.
The recipient of the Horizon Gaïa 2019 grant is Aude Moutoussamy, who has a Masters in contemporary history from the Sorbonne and is completing a Masters in communication and social media strategy. The grant will enable her to undertake original research on the strategies for appropriating social media adopted by different watch brands, in Switzerland and abroad, by financing her research project entitled “The appropriation of social media by watch brands” for a period of six months.
MIH Gaïa watch
The MIH Gaïa watch unveiled and released on September 19th 2019 – on a subscription basis – in honour of the eponymous prize, the 25th edition of which took place on the same day. The Musée international d’horlogerie introduced its first MIH watch back in 2005, which came with an innovative annual calendar feature. Almost 15 years on, the museum’s latest creation pursues two aims: to raise public awareness of the safeguarding of watchmaking heritage, by funding different projects to restore, document and showcase the museum’s collection; and to promote the expertise of regional watchmakers. The funding will primarily go towards restoring the Grand Magicien, an iconic automaton timepiece in the collection which was made by Jean-David Maillardet of Neuchâtel and his son Julien-Auguste in 1830 as well as François Ducommun’s Tellurium (early 19th century).
A truly inspired watch
The MIH Gaïa watch bears the imprint and character of the places that have shaped it. With its original form and display, this timepiece takes inspiration from the architecture of the museum: a Brutalist building whose subterranean structure, designed by Georges-Jacques Haefeli and Pierre Zoelly, surprises the viewer as it alternates between empty space, concrete and light. This game of hide-and-seek provided the inspiration for the watch case, which combines intricate curves and straight lines. The domed dial echoes the spherical form of the Prix Gaïa trophy, as well as the architectural space.
In an effort to move away from a traditional analogue display without affecting readability, hours and minutes are indicated by two discs instead of hands. Lastly, in homage to the Grand Magicien, the reverse of the watch has a hidden secret: the caseback provides a glimpse of the winding oscillating weight, which is engraved with the name “Musée international d’horlogerie”.
One museum, one city, eight partners
The MIH Gaïa watch is the product of close collaboration between local businesses and artisans, all from La Chaux-de-Fonds, and all experts in their fields recognised around the world for the quality of their work. Atelier XJC came up with the design; Sellita brought it to life with their movement; the designers at Timeforge developed the technical plans; Singer built the dial; Stila provided a bespoke case; Brasport fitted a leather strap; Cornu & Cie made the buckle; and Laboratoire Dubois ensured its reliability by carrying out a series of tests. In partnership with the MIH and the artisans from its antique watch and clock restoration studio, each of these experts unstintingly strove to create a beautiful, high-performance watch that is decidedly unique.
How can I purchase an MIH Gaïa watch?
On a subscription basis. It is available online from now until January 19th 2020, at www.montremih.ch. The cost of this very special piece, made in La Chaux-de-Fonds, is CHF2,900. There is a CHF500 discount available to the first few subscribers who kickstart the production process by supporting the museum. An initial payment of CHF1,000 will be taken when orders are placed, with the balance to be paid upon delivery in summer 2020. If subscriptions do not reach the levels expected, those investments will be refunded in full. The MIH Gaïa watch will also meet demand from museum visitors seeking to own an item that has been produced entirely in the local area when they visit this UNESCO World Heritage site. For this reason, it will be available in the MIH shop. We also think it would make a perfect gift for a connoisseur, or a corporate gift for a VIP guest.
October 10, 2019