At Eiseman Jewels, our commitment to providing the very highest level of service, quality and expertise is evident in the exclusive brands we choose to align ourselves with, such as high-end clockmaker L’Epée 1839. We sat down with Arnaud Nicolas, the CEO and Artistic Director of L’Epée 1839, to get his thoughts on one-of-a-kind mechanical clocks, creative inspiration and doing what he loves.
For those who may not be familiar with the brand, tell us about L’Epée 1839 and your role at the company.
I am the CEO and Artistic Director of L’Epée 1839. L’Epée 1839 is the only manufacture in Switzerland to specialize in the design and production of high-end mechanical clocks. Based in Delémont in the Swiss Jura Mountains, it is an independent brand that has developed an exceptional collection of table clocks. Our newest collection, The Creative Art, was launched for the 175th anniversary of the brand and focuses on three themes:
- Creative Art: These are artistic pieces first and foremost, often developed in partnership with external designers as joint creations. These clocks surprise, inspire and even shock the most seasoned collectors. They are intended for those consciously or unconsciously looking for exceptional objects that are one-of-a-kind.
- Contemporary Timepieces: Technical creations with a contemporary design (Le Duel, Duet, etc.) and minimalist, avant-garde models (La Tour) incorporating complications such as retrograde seconds, power reserve indicators, moon phases, tourbillons, chiming mechanisms or perpetual calendars.
- Carriage Clocks: Lastly, classic travel clocks, also known as “officers’ clocks.” These historical pieces issued from the brand’s heritage also feature their fair share of complications: chiming mechanisms, minute repeaters, calendars, moon phases, tourbillons and more.
All pieces are designed and manufactured in-house. Their technical prowess, combination of form and function, very long power reserves and remarkable finishes have become signature features of the brand.
L’Epée has a rich history. Tell us more about that and the brand’s heritage.
L’Epée has been a prominent clockmaking firm for 180 years. Today, it is the only manufacture in Switzerland to specialize in the production of high-end clocks. It was founded in 1839 by Auguste L’Epée and became the principal supplier of several famous clockmakers and went on to win many gold medals at World Fairs. L’Epée clocks have been given as gifts by the French and English governments to distinguished guests during their official meetings. When the Concorde began its commercial flights in 1976, L’Epée fitted the cabins with wall clocks. And in 1994, the brand demonstrated its penchant for challenges by constructing the Giant Regulator — the largest pendulum clock in the world, which is featured in the Guinness Book of Records.
How has this history shaped the brand today?
The history of the brand has shaped us today in many different ways. First, L’Epée has always been at the forefront of watchmaking — as proven by the six gold awards earned for major advancement in watchmaking over the years. Second, Mr. August L’Epée was a visionary with a great sense of humor (he purposely established L’Epée on August 1, 1839, the month of his first name).
Third, L’Epée 1839 has always mixed watchmaking together with other technologies. So nowadays we have a line dedicated to watchmaking art, the technical line, and The Creative Art line that mixes form and function, which is the basis of our freedom in creations.
What inspires the designers at L’Epée?
Everything is a source of inspiration, but we find much of it in our childhood dreams. All of our products in The Creative Art line should bring a smile to their owners or to anyone who sees them. All L’Epée 1839 creations have a story to tell, and if you listen carefully, you will be taken on an interesting journey.
What is one thing we may not know about L’Epée?
L’Epée makes exceptional products, and every single kinetic creation of The Creative Art line is embued with a specific dedicated movement that has been specially developed. This is a huge challenge in many ways, but it’s also the only way to achieve our unexpected designs. And this is possible only because we have very talented people who love challenges. But we are independents and we are producing pieces only in limited editions, so we need the support of collectors, art enthusiasts and of every single buyer. Without this support, we will not be able to remain independent and The Creative Art line will disappear for sure.
In your opinion, what makes L’Epée stand out from other high-end clock manufactures?
Our philosophy! This is what makes L’Epée 1839 stand out from other high-end clock manufactures. My team is made up of talented, highly educated people who are always seeking to discover. Our clocks are not composed of an outside body and a movement inside it — as all the other high end manufacturers are doing. Our creations mix form and function to reach design objectives. Lots of engineering and development are embedded in every single creation.
Your partnership with MB&F has lead to a variety of impressive collaborations, including the new Medusa dual-configuration clock. How did this partnership begin?
The partnership with MB&F started with my friend Max Büsser, who is an amazing partner and friend. We have a lot in common when it comes to our business philosophies. I was looking into doing something special, something no one has done before — I love to go where no one has gone before. And I wanted to celebrate our 175th anniversary.
After speaking with Max, we decided to do something together in a totally different way — a co-creation with fantasy and aesthetic originality. And so came Starfleet, our first co-creation. And we enjoyed working on the new project together so much that now we have to continue the story!In general, do you have a favorite collection or timepiece? What makes it your favorite?
I do not have a favorite creation. For me, every creation is like a child, and you cannot choose between your kids — you love them all!
What do you love about the art of watchmaking?
I love the creative part. I love the hand work that is behind it. I love all of the imagination and all the challenges that have to be overcome to make it the best it can be. I love the fact that the product has to be as perfect in functionality as it is in aesthetics. And I love working with a talented team that is always there to help and support.
What new creations are coming in 2019 that we should be watching for?
We have several new creations in the works this year. Four have already been released: The “Time Fast D8”, The “Medusa” in partnership with MB&F, the “Sun Clock” with Baccarat, and “Space Module” was just introduced at Baselworld. Three additional designs will be introduced later this year.
To see the incredible designs of L’Epée 1839, visit Eiseman Jewels at NorthPark Center in Dallas.