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Interview

BLAISE - DOMINIQUE GIULANI

You were a designer for French watchmaking.

It was in the early 2000s. At the time, there were still a few large manufacturers like CGH Industries. Unfortunately, French manufacturers swore only by China and quartz. I was totally against this trend and it cost me a few contracts.

You were defending quality.

I was young and very passionate. I even wanted us to start making automatic movements again, so that we were no longer dependent on Switzerland. If we had done that, Bohen watches would be made in France today.

Finally, it is to Switzerland that you entrust your production.

They are simply the best. Our Swiss friends still have the soul of quality. My choice was not random.

I imagine you're not going to tell me who you work with.

The watchmaking world expresses itself under a confidentiality clause. I can simply tell you that our manufacturers have a long history and that the teams have all the knowledge required. They listen and support our project, although we are a small customer. They are enthusiasts. You know, without a good watchmaker, a designer is nothing.

You told me you were self-taught.

It was during my travels in the Doubs valley that I acquired all my technical knowledge. It was very hard at first, because to design a watch, you have to take into account many technical constraints. Many watch designers came from specialized schools. Not me. I was weak on this point, I drew original things, but false. It was necessary to quickly correct this lack of technic-culture to make me a place in the seraglio.

Did you achieve it?

Never. I was just tolerated. The environment was very conservative at the time. To begin with, I came from Paris and had worked in haute couture. It did not please. I was seen as a whimsical foreigner... And above all, the watches I designed were expensive to make, because they required a lot of work. I was seen as a Concept Watch designer.

Now that you are launching your own brand, are you going to rationalize your costs?

On the contrary. I will stay on the same bases: quality, class, finish and a racy style. I designed Bohen to be a direct selling brand. My watches are expensive to manufacture but that's not a problem: their price will remain between four and five times cheaper than the stars of watchmaking.

Is that Bohen's key?

Bohen is excellent craftsmanship, not industry or branding. My fault in the eyes of my employers will be my strength in the eyes of my clients. The money they will invest in a Bohen will end up directly in the watch, not in the label.

What is the difference between a timepiece and a watch?

Poetry... or snobbery. In the current context, I prefer to speak of an exceptional watch, rather than a "timepiece" from Kickstarter, whose Chinese tourbillon will take twenty seconds a day and the hands will fall at the end of the guarantee.

How was your passion born?

My passion could be summed up in a single watch: a modest 1975 Kelton, children's size, with manual winding.

What makes this watch so special?

Everything: it's my first watch, and it was my grandmother who gave it to me when I was eight years old.

Do you still own it?

I still own it and wear it from time to time. But it goes even further: It has never been overhauled and has never broken down in 45 years. And finally, she is punctual.

Enough to leave the Rolex, Omega or Panerai dreaming.

Exactly. And to be honest, this watch is perhaps my only reason for creating Bohen. This little Kelton is "the" paradox I still had to resolve.

Can you expand on that?

Well… To be frank, on the one hand, I love this watch because it symbolizes a person I loved deeply: my grandmother. But on the other hand - and I'm ashamed to say this - I never found this watch to be pretty. It's awful, really, I'm ashamed. I still remember the moment when she takes me to a bar-tabac and shows me several watches displayed in a window. She chooses the smallest one and says to me: "Here, that one, look how pretty it is" … At that moment, my hopes crumble.

And you didn't say anything?

On the contrary, I simulated joy and took her in my arms… I lied for love.

So in the end, is it this paradox that is at the origin of everything?

I am convinced that if the watch had pleased me, I would have been satisfied. So I would not have experienced this frustration that made me interested in watches. I wouldn't have become a collector, and I wouldn't have tried to imagine what my Kelton should have looked like.
So when I decided to found the Bohen brand, the first thing I did was pull out my watch and study it.

Et de la transformer.

I put it back to the right size, I reinterpreted it and equipped it with everything that made me dream. The Bohen Mille Mer is the solution to this problem. Thanks to this story, I can say that everything is there, everything is included, everything responds to a magnificent and legitimate logic. The paradox disappears, the link is reconciled.

Are you a collector?

I have been. I didn't have the money to own hundreds of pieces, so I exported old watches to Japan. It taught me to observe what detail, what technique, what finish characterizes a luxury watch.

What can we wish for Bohen?

That in a universal way, passion, originality and hard work are rewarded.