Armand Nicolet the man was born in the small town of Tramelan, which nestles peacefully amid the lush green meadows of the famed Jura Valley, the French-speaking Swiss canton so synonymous with the craft of watchmaking since the fifteenth century. The Armand Nicolet name first came to notice towards the last years of the 19th Century.
In 1902 when the young Nicolet, son of a watchmaker himself, and after a brilliant apprenticeship proudly presented the rose gold pocketwatch which featured a complete calendar, a chronograph function, and repeating hours, quarter hours and minutes. A magnificent tour de force which had come from his own hands.
Nicolet soon assembled a group of enthusiastic young watchmakers and he trained them in his own style which advocated the skills of the artisan, focusing on building complication timepieces from scratch in-house with astonishing attention to detail. Armand Nicolet passed away in 1939, leaving his son Willy to assume creative and importantly, commercial direction of the manufacture.
By the 1950s, Armand Nicolet had become one of the largest producers of in-house complications in all of Switzerland. Employing over eight hundred skilled technicians who were accommodated in well over one hundred workshops, the company were continuously innovating and introducing new complications and variations of complications.
As demand for the artisans’ craft which had been so carefully nurtured by the Armand Nicolet manufacture (and many others) faltered and subsequently dried up in the late 1970s, due to the revolution which came in the form of the ever-accurate and much less expensive quartz driven watches, the management were forced to either reorganise or slip quietly beneath the waves. By making their services available to other prestigious Swiss watchmakers, in providing movements, mechanisms and complications the company was able to continue, much downsized from its heyday, but crucially still in touch with the industry and still able to provide some of their skilled craftsmen with projects and continuity.
Enter, in 1987, the Italian entrepreneur Rolando Braga, who having met Willy Nicolet, now aged 63, in a chance encounter saw the latent potential within the Armand Nicolet brand and assets. Braga himself had amassed over twenty years experience in horology – principally in watch design – and the foundations for a harmonious collaboration fell into place. By 1990 direction of the now re-emerging Armand Nicolet manufacture was in the hands of Rolando Braga, and the year was marked with the opening of the refurbished workshops originally used by Armand Nicolet himself. Under the guidance of the Braga family, the Armand Nicolet manufacture is now producing some of the finest artisan timepieces available anywhere!
In the tradition of the mentor, the watchmakers at Armand Nicolet continue to create a growing range of imaginatively designed hand-crafted timepieces, still featuring beautiful guilloche faces with applied markers, and of course the signature in-house movements which were central to the brands reputation. The attention given to detail is remarkable and contributes to what makes an Armand Nicolet watch so distinctive – not easy considering the confines of the watchcase. Note this brand! We see a lot of watch for the outlay!