WORDS: SAANIKA SARDESHMUKH
“One should invent for the needs of art; it would be a mistake to think there is nothing left that deserves deeper study”
FROM THE INVENTION OF THE TOURBILLON TO IMAGINING HIGH-FREQUENCY TIME MEASUREMENT, LOUIS MOINET’S CENTURIES-OLD JOURNEY OF TURNING HIMSELF INTO A LEGENDARY WATCHMAKER HAS SPAWNED INTO A COVETED LUXURY WATCH BRAND TODAY
One fortunate day in 1768 in Bourges in a well to do family of farmers, a little boy was born. A boy that nobody would have then thought would later write his own fate and become a legendary man in the world of watches. This little boy was Monsieur Louis Moinet, who was later known as a genius watchmaker, sculptor, and painter. Growing up, he was introduced to the world of watchmaking where the exposure and knowledge helped him distinguish his mastery in classical subjects. He spent all his free time with the watchmakers and learned about the practicality. Louis always had this unspeakable and irresistible attraction towards the quintessential land of fine arts – Italy. As soon as he turned twenty, he moved from France to Rome. There he increased his knowledge base in architecture, sculpting and painting for five years. Louis Moinet executed the energy of wanting to learn more and mastering the art of Horology. Soon, he became well acquainted with the French Academy, an academy that brought together the most illustrious and brilliant artists of the time.
While in Italy, Louis went to Florence to learn and perfect his skills of the art of stone carving. Knowledge was his weapon; he saw no end after his return to Paris. He was appointed as a Professor at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in the Louvre. He was an impeccable man; he believed that learning had no end. He studied in detail the practical and theoretical engineering of watches. His hard work and genius watchmaking skills led him to create some of the most extraordinary clocks for eminent figures of his era such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Tsar Alexander Ist, American Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, King George IV of England, King of Naples Marshal Murat and Marshal Ney, among other crowned heads of the lengths and breadths of Europe, and soon the world. Moinet didn’t wish to stop and there was nothing holding him back. He went to Switzerland, the land where they say time itself is created. He acquired his horological tools and instruments and also met the most talented watchmakers, including Swiss watch and chronometer maker Jacques-Frédéric Houriet, among many others.
Abraham-Louis Breguet, the namesake of the exquisite brand Breguet. A man with an aptitude to spot talent, Breguet immediately recognized Moinet’s worth and passion for horology and knew that Moinet was going to create miracles. Breguet asked Moinet to be his personal advisor; they worked closely until one sad day in 1823 when Breguet passed away. All was not over for Moinet. 1816, the year of the contrivance of the Chronograph was the year that took Louis Moinet from a skillful horologist to the originator of Le Tourbillon. Le Tourbillon, indicated by the central hand measured even the sixtieth of a second, was in reality what the watch industry needed. 1816, although a year of a revolutionary invention, also marked one of the biggest mistakes of Moinet’s life. He never patented this creation.
Louis Moinet is also the father of high-frequency time measurement. He created this first chronograph to time the passage of stars and planets. He devoted 20 years of his life to writing the ‘Traité d’Horlogerie’ which comprises detailed descriptions and diagrams of the finest watchmaking techniques. As a maker of precision instruments, Moinet was involved in maritime, astronomical and civilian horology. These inventions later led him to be the appointed President of the Chronometry Society of Paris. As Moinet succeeded, he was described by his peers as a “gifted artist”, an “eminent scholar” and “a specialist in transcendent horology.” Now when we remember Louis Moinet, we remember him as one of the greatest horologists, whose motive was “the development and encouragement of watchmaking, one of the finest sciences of the human mind.” “Horology is a science and a liberal art: You need to be a meticulous and scrupulous mechanic, and to have sufficient knowledge of physics and geometry,” wrote Moinet in the treatise.
He added: “One should invent solely for the needs of the Art… a true artist cannot remain behind his times… it would be a mistake to think there is nothing left that deserves deeper study.” His contribution to the world of watches is immeasurable. His spirit lives on through Jean- Marie Schaller, who as a founder and creative director of the brand revived the prestigious name and work of the master watchmaker. Today, Louis Moinet is an independent watch brand, located in Saint-Blaise, Switzerland, specializing in the creation of high-end timepieces often featuring exotic materials and innovative technology, underpinned by the philosophy of limited edition mechanical art. The use of extremely rare materials, such as tropical fossilized palm wood and dinosaur bone, or wondrous meteorites hailing from the Moon or Mars was a signature feature of Louis Moinet which still lives on and sets the brand apart from the rest. Jean-Marie Schaller makes it a point that all timepieces that are made, are very exclusive, limited edition and unique. The little boy from Bourges grew up and wrote his own fate, became the namesake of one of the most prestigious watchmaking brands in the world. He set an entirely new bar for horology.