In Mulhouse, a start-up wants to relaunch the manufacture of “100% French” watches

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Mulhouse (AFP) – “We were led to fools”: with its high-quality watches that aim to “100% French” manufacture for their latest model, the young company Mulhouse Apose aims to contribute to the “renaissance” of French watchmaking.

“In the beginning, when we said we wanted to manufacture everything in France, or mainly in France, we were not believed,” says Didier Finck, 36, co-founder of SME with Ludovic Zussa, 38. “Manufacturing in France is complex”, the latter abounds. , the majority of French players in the sector actually operating for the Swiss watch industry, a benchmark in the field.

For the movement, all the parts that make the watch work, they partnered with Péquignet, the only French watchmaker to manufacture its own movement.

Based in the birthplace of French watchmaking, in Morteau in the Doubs, this luxury manufactory offered them its “EPM03” caliber. But of the 180 components, 28% are created in Switzerland.

Apose brand creators Ludovic Zussa (g) and Didier Finck (d) pose at the watchmaker’s premises on June 8, 2022 in Mulhouse, Upper Rhine SEBASTIEN BOZON AFP

“Certain skills no longer exist in France”, in particular “since the 1970s with the arrival of quartz”, explains Dani Royer, president of Pequignet, a company with 22 employees that also produces its own watches with “at most” of components. . French for 50 years.

He welcomes Apose’s approach, which “makes it possible to increase the visibility of genuine French watchmaking”.

“Quality French watchmaking”

“Very few of us follow this approach and the more there is this type of approach, the more possibilities there will be to re-industrialize all kinds of components (of the movement) in France”, he believes. “We must keep hoping to recreate quality French watchmaking.”

For the two Alsatian entrepreneurs, the idea of ​​launching their own brand took shape while working for Swiss watch giant Swatch. Didier Finck is on the design side, Ludovic Zussa on the industrial side.

“From the beginning, our goal was to show that we could make a watch 100% in France”, insists Mr. Finck.

An Apose watch model is presented on June 8, 2022 at the watchmaker's premises in Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin
An Apose watch model is presented on June 8, 2022 at the watchmaker’s premises in Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin SEBASTIEN BOZON AFP

“We also wanted to offer another way of reading the time, for example, we didn’t want to overload the dials”, but sober and refined watches, “with a very French + touch”, adds Ludovic Zussa.

After two bank loans of 120,000 and 130,000 euros raised from investors, Apose markets its first production, “N°3”, at the end of 2020.

Each watch is hand-assembled by Romain Thiriet, watchmaker at Apose, at the brand’s premises in Mulhouse (Haut Rhin).

“The challenge is really special with Apose,” explains Mr. Thiriet, 27 years old and also technical manager of the young PME. The man who previously made bespoke watches also aims to “contribute to the renaissance of French watchmaking”.

The transition to a French watch was long and complex.

In Switzerland or Asia, “two or three suppliers can + take you on the road +”, explains Ludovic Zussa. But in France it is complicated: for example, “there has been no dial manufacturer” since 2000, which “forced us to go through four suppliers”.

longchamp for bracelets

“About a year” was needed “to create a pool of exclusively French suppliers, to make the prototypes and validate them.

In total, around fifteen suppliers participate in the Apose project, including Longchamp, which reserves its leftover leather to make the straps.

The result ? N°3-100, offered since April in a limited series of 200 copies at 2,250 euros.

Made in France “has a cost”, underlines the president of Péquignet. “You can’t buy a watch for 50 euros and expect it to be made in France.” A logic that buyers understand more and more, especially since the Covid pandemic, according to Royer.

Watchmaker Romain Thiriet works on an Apose watch, June 8, 2022 in Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin
Watchmaker Romain Thiriet works on an Apose watch, June 8, 2022 in Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin SEBASTIEN BOZON AFP

For the future, the young company intends to hire “about ten” people by 2024.

“We are proud to prove that French watchmaking is not dead and that we managed to make a 100% French watch in a year and a half”, the only one on the market, continues the designer. “We hope others will follow us.”

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