Many of the smaller Swiss watch brands who take their names from a long-deceased watchmaker have simply appropriated the name to launch a new watch brand and surf on the wave of the industry’s continued success. At Emile Chouriet, however, CEO Jean Depéry can trace his ancestry back to a certain François Dagobert Depéry (his great-great-great-grandfather), who supplied components to Emile Chouriet himself.
Aside from following up the high-end pieces the brand presented at Baselworld last year with much more accessible ladies’ and gent’s watches this year, Emile Chouriet is also developing its own in-house movement. Given the increasing scarcity of supply of movements from third parties, this is a wise, if somewhat peremptory, choice.
The movements in question are a 12½ line men’s calibre and an 8¾ line ladies’ calibre, the latter being particularly worthy of note, since the only current alternative to the ETA 2671 mechanical calibre suitable for use in ladies’ watches is the SW-100 by Sellita. Two pre-series of 100 pieces each are currently in production and the company hopes to produce 1,000 of the first production-ready calibres by the end of this year, gradually increasing to a production rhythm of 5,000 units per month in 18 months’ time. With a highly competitive cost price, Emile Chouriet even plans to export these in-house movements to its parent company Fiyta in China for use in their local production. The result will be perhaps the unique circumstance of seeing the first Chinese company to assemble watches locally but with Swiss movements.
Citing the SW-100 as an example, Jean Depéry says “we have known for some time that movement deliveries by ETA would decrease, but only now are we seeing movements at a comparable quality and price”. And it is price that is the key, especially for Emile Chouriet, whose mechanical watches are competitively priced and aimed primarily at the Chinese customer.
"We have known for some time that movement deliveries by ETA would decrease, but only now are we seeing movements at a comparable quality and price."
But despite the strong focus on China, where the brand will be opening no less than 80 new points of sale this year, an increase of 30%, Emile Chouriet also aims to expand into new markets. “The problem is having the inventory to supply new markets,” explains Depéry. “Assuming we supply 50 watches to the 80 new points of sale we are opening in China, that is already a volume of 4,000 additional watches. But we want to develop our image in Switzerland and other markets. Although we earn our bread and butter in China we must absolutely enter new markets.”
As the brand expands its geographical reach, it is also expanding the scope of its collection. After the limited-edition tourbillon presented last year, the brand followed up at Baselworld this year with more accessible models in the form of a new ladies’ timepiece and the first diver’s watch in the collection (produced, rather surprisingly, at the request of the brand’s Chinese retailers). Both feature a mellower form of the distinctive Emile Chouriet case, with its lugs shaped around the brand’s “wings of time” emblem and its wave-like profile.
The Challenger Deep diver’s watch comes in three stainless-steel versions that are water resistant to 300 metres, one with a blue dial and bezel, one with a black dial and bezel and one with a slate-grey dial and polished steel bezel with subtle red accents at the 12 o’clock position on the bezel and on the tip of the seconds hand.
The ladies’ model, Fair Lady, has a distinctive lotus flower motif on the dial, which, on the gold versions, is machined on to the mother-of-pearl in an especially difficult process. The collection retails from an unbeatable 300 Swiss francs, made possible by the use of quartz movements – another surprising move by the brand, given the Chinese consumer’s preference for mechanical movements.