A few weeks ago I came to think that besides my observations about the world around, it would be interesting to note talks with some of the remarkable people whom the destiny brought me along with. To get to know their fundamental values, whether we coincide in views on certain aspects of life, how they find their personal harmony and happiness, and of course, share the result with you.
So, without further ado, I would like to introduce my first interviewee – Jean-Marc Wiederrecht.
Smiling, openhearted, a real fan of his job, Jean-Marc is one of the most honoured watchmakers in the world, the founder of Agenhor manufacture in Genève. Just as the wizard of Oz, in my opinion, he is able to translate any idea in the field of watchmaking, no matter how technically complex it might be, – a quality well-known to such houses, in particular, as Harry Winston, Van Cleef & Arpels, Hermès and Fabergé who entrusted him with the creation of the most eminent of their timepieces. More that once he was prized by Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the most important watchmaking Swiss award, thanks to his ingenious calibres and their poetic implementation.
His life’s work derived from his talent rests on an incredibly solid family foundation: his wife Catherine and his two sons, Nicolas and Laurent, are equally participating in the business. Utterly devoid of elitist snobbery, he gives an impression of the person whose enthusiasm towards life and craftsmanship only grows with the years. Jean-Marc inspires by his inquisitive and unconventional outlook on life, his interest in others, and charms with his humility and the ability to appreciate the adventures that fate has in store for him.
How did you choose your vocation?
Not much interested in my school studies, once I had a great chance to visit a small workshop in my village. It was a real thunderbolt and this very day I knew I would be a watchmaker!
What is the most widespread myth in the world of watchmakers?
For the executives:
That the marketing is the only one to recognize the expectations of customers, that the latter lack discernment and therefore that pompous descriptions of sometimes banal products could and should be used to boost sales.
For the few remaining watchmakers:
That the specific features, technical complexity, new complications, quality of finishing … in short, that the product having high watchmaking characteristics would essentially suffice to meet commercial success.
What is the most difficult thing in your work?
To find and / or to select the idea which would make it possible to produce a prominent product, reliable, comfortable in use, with a solid background and watchmaking qualities and which would correspond the best to the needs of the brands we’re working for.
What is the easiest thing in your work?
Criticizing the glaring bureaucratic drifts of some houses may seem easy, but it is with great conviction that I do so, hoping to be heard and to restore the magic of our wonderful craft.
Is there a project which you are particularly proud of and why?
It is usually the one in the pipeline, my passion is to create new models, and I take relatively not much interest in the past!
Of course, such timepieces as Pont des Amoureux by Van Cleef & Arpels, Temps Suspendu by Hermès, Peacock by Fabergé and our latest Agengraphe® chronograph are the products which I am particularly proud of, because they all have unforgettable stories, both in terms of their conception and the human adventures they have allowed me to live.
What are the most important things in your life?
Independence, my family, creation, contemplation of nature, my employees, respect for others and nature … not necessarily always in this order and, of course, I overlook many others.
Do you have rituals that set the tempo of your day?
No! The working days are similar, but it is only a question of organization! The weekend days or holidays are adapted to the situations rather than to particular rituals.
What inspires you?
Everything! Nature, my past experiences, discussions with customers or my entourage in general. The fact that certain indications provided by existing watches are not satisfactory, both from a technical and aesthetic point of view, is often a triggering factor in trying to imagine more efficient mechanics.
Harmony: what does represent it for you?
Although outbursts, ups and downs, confrontational relationships, unbridled creativity … are an integral part of life and make it more intriguing, harmony brings unparalleled satisfaction and is therefore a goal to be achieved in everyday life, as well as in all the products we create.
In which circumstances could you exclaim “La vie est belle!”?
I have the chance, and perhaps the peculiar mindset, to think so quite regularly and also to express it from time to time.
Like everyone else, I’ve had my share of difficulties to overcome but globally I feel that life has brought me, and continues to bring me lots of happiness. It is therefore beautiful; it must be recognized and voiced as often as possible.
What is the most useful thing you learned from your parents?
Respect for others and especially for the weak, the taste for nature and simple things, humility, work, interest for others.
What would have been your recommendations to yourself, twenty-years-old?
It took me quite a while to realize that it was, of course, fundamental to understand, study and respect the expertise and values of the extraordinary watchmakers who preceded us, but that it was equally important to be willing to progress and make a contribution and to believe in your own abilities.
So, most probably I’d say something like:
Learn, work, be humble but also BELIEVE in your capacities, make, create things as you feel! The past, the computer and the machines are at your service, you’ve got everything in your hands to add the brick to the edifice!
Do you have a favourite quote or motto?
Not really, but for example, the extract from the Latin verse of Horace “Carpe Diem” suits me well. One must have a certain line of conduct, whereas searching to learn the future and / or continuous casting looks backwards prevent us from living the present moment.
What do you do to relax?
Outdoor activities, gardening, nature walks, reading.
What do you consider the best way to keep the flame in love?
To stay genuine, patient, benevolent, … and always with a zest of humour, more or less offbeat.
What is your lucky charm?
I have no idea! But, for instance, the vault of heaven could be one.
Would you like to share you favourite table pleasure with us?
I don’t have a specific table pleasure but the meal itself is already a pleasure when done with simple and natural products of proper provenance, and especially, in good company.
What is the best compliment for you?
Congratulations and sometimes the astonishment of people when they learn that we are four in a family, that we work all together and that we are undeniably happy to do so, reinforce my conviction that this is one of the things that we have succeeded in.
If you had the opportunity to meet and spend 24 hours with any person (past or present), whom would you have chosen and why?
It’s hard for me to answer this question because there are so many people and places that I would like to see that the choice is very difficult to make. So here is one of the possible answers.
I am fascinated by the intellectuals, the thinkers, the philosophers, the great minds that one could meet in the era of Enlightment, and I think that a day spent in the company of such encyclopaedists as Diderot and d’Alembert could fill me with happiness.
What is the question never asked in an interview and that you would like me to ask?
Agenhor is an extraordinary company. Although I do not tend to diminish my input, we have arrived at this result thanks to the work of a magnificent team and especially thanks to the contribution of my wife Catherine and our children.
The question I would like to answer should allow me to express myself on this subject, knowing that it would certainly lead to a rather long reply!
Read in Russian: Часовой кудесник