The village of Les Bois in the early 1900s had some 1,450 residents of whom 600 were watchmakers. There are historical documents that trace its watchmaking to 1780 (there were six employed by the profession then), and the quaint town proficiently produced as many 30,000 watches at its peak.
It is the home of the Baume family (think Baume & Mercier) and a roll of a snowball from the “city” of La Chaux-de-Fonds which today hosts manufactures for Cartier, Breitling, Corum, Graham, Arnold, Jaquet-Droz, Girard-Perregaux, JeanRichard, Gruebel & Forsey, Elicott and perhaps not surprisingly two comprehensive museums on the history of the Swiss watch industry.
Artisan Rudis Sylva of Les Bois is taking an approach focused on the roots of haute watchmaking. It’s first watch was four years in development its watchmaker is a sixth generation prodigy.
Former Zenith executive Jacky Epitaux is behind the venture, and in addition to being President of Rudis Sylva he runs a gourmand restaurant and village inn in Les Bois, so much like the original watchmakers who were farmers in the Summer, he wears several hats.
Rudis Sylva’s highlight is of course its watchmaking, particularly its Harmonious Oscillator, which features a system of two mechanically interlinked balances driven by a single escapement. It is according to Epitaux “more accurate than a conventional tourbillon.” While “a tourbillon requires a minute to compensate for the effects of gravity. The Harmonious Oscillator enables instantaneous time correction in a vertical position by means of the interconnection of the balances and asymmetric deployment of the balance springs. So it is never influenced by the Earth’s gravity,” says the boss.
For those who are just interested in history and great pictures of the past, the company has put together an interesting pamphlet with a number of amazing photos from the turn of the century, including a series of ladders that were used before tunnels or roads to deliver components made in France to the watchmakers in Switzerland.
For Rudis Sylva (the name is linked to the founder of Les Bois and how the town came to be; also covered in the pamphlet), producing around 20 watches a year is its current goal.
If you are interested in more on the history, the pamphlet is on the website at http://www.rudissylva.ch/CMS/default.asp?ID=259