Philippe Dufour and his secretive genius
by Gary G.
Amsterdam, November 16th 2021– This includes an important sub-element: inspiration. Kari Voutilainen’s recent biography states that Kari was inspired to start up his own independent atelier after a conversation with Dufour.
Behind the scenes, Philippe encourages and counsels other independents, including Romain Gauthier (whose Logical One knocked my socks off). He shares freely of his insights and helps troubleshoot difficult technical problems encountered by his colleagues.
More publicly, he is a central figure in the Le Garde Temps, la Naissance d’une Montre project along with Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey. Philippe is working actively with watchmaker Michel Boulanger (an expert restorer and professor in his own right) to pass along the “secrets” of making a high quality watch by hand so that they can be preserved and passed on for future generations.
Innovation plays a role here as well, with many of the techniques being captured via 3D video. So, thanks in part to Philippe, the Boulangers and Gauthiers and many others to come are poised to become the Czernys and Lizsts of horology.
Finally, Dufour’s adaptations of earlier innovations are themselves inspiring new watches. A recent example of this is the dual-escapement Legacy Machine 2 by MB&F, whose founder Maximilian Büsser says was very much inspired by the Dufour Duality.
Two MB&F Legacy Machine No.2s flanking their inspiration, a Philip Dufour Duality. All feature two escapements linked by a differential.
Two examples of MB&F Legacy Machine No.2 flank their inspiration, a Philippe Dufour Duality: all feature two escapements linked by a differential (photo GaryG)
Dufour and I
Suffice it to say that I feel presumptuous simply typing the subtitle above! It has, however, been my distinct privilege to meet Philippe on a number of occasions and get to know him a bit, and so perhaps I can be forgiven a few personal observations.
In addition to his role as a giant of horology, he’s also important to me as a person for the following reasons.
And I mean really funny. In a way that is both clever and plays off of who he is and how people react to him. At a dinner earlier this year, he kept glancing at a watch whose edge was poking out from under his right sleeve until we begged for a look.
After describing it as his “next Duality” and getting our salivary glands on overload, he pulled up his sleeve to reveal a Chinese-made watch with exposed dual balances!
One of our group has a close relationship with a major manufacturer (I’ll call it RolBregVach to protect the innocent), and more or less believes that the sun rises and sets on the brand. Specifically, he spends a fair amount of time reminding us of the brilliant hand-finishing that is, to him, a hallmark of the brand.
Knowing this from prior interactions, Philippe looked fondly at the Chinese watch, smiled, and said, “With a bit of bzzz bzzz on the edge of the movement plates with a motorized tool, this could be a RolBregVach!” Howls all around.
When he presented me with my Simplicity, he told the tale of a terminally ill woman who had approached him the prior week with a request to make Simplicities for each of her three sons as mementoes of her love.
With what I realized only later was a twinkle in his eye having hooked me with this touching but completely fabricated tale, he said, “Gary, I had to tell her no – but I hope that you feel good that you’re getting one!”
End Part III
Read also Part IV about the Simplicity of a Genius