Philippe Dufour And Henry-John Belmont Win FHH Homage To ‘Passion’ And ‘Talent’ Awards
This young award is just barely three years old, but indeed it has already managed to reward some of the greatest personalities in the world of watches for their “passion” and “talent” – which are undeniably the most essential ingredients for the finest watchmaking.
The awards’ recipients are chosen by a jury comprising the Cultural Council of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH). Both the FHH and the new awards were created by Franco Cologni, one of the masterminds behind the modern incarnation of Cartier.
The awards are given in the name of Eugenio Zigliotto, an Italian journalist who passed away four years ago. Born in 1940, Zigliotto was a connoisseur of the finer things in life and a professional sports reporter. In 1986, he had done something no one else had done to that moment in time: he founded a magazine dedicated solely to modern mechanical wristwatches.
Orologi da Polso ultimately gave birth to the profession that I now call my own. It began publishing before the mechanical renaissance was broadly underway, and soon Zigliotto had masterminded another first: he created a group of international magazines in licensed format.
Forms of Orologi da Polso were published over the years in France, the U.S.A., England, Portugal, Japan, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and China. (In case you were wondering, this is also how I entered the picture as the German publishing house I worked for at the time had bought one of Zigliotto’s licenses to create the magazine ArmbandUhren. A short few years later ArmbandUhren become an independent magazine.)
The Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie introduced the Hommage à la Passion and Hommage au Talent awards in honor of Zigliotto’s memory. Its goal is to honor two personalities in the world of high watchmaking every year.
The inaugural prizes of 2012 went to Jean-Claude Biver (Hommage à la Passion) and Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi’s Giulio Papi (Hommage au Talent).
In 2013, these two awards went to Walter Lange (Hommage à la Passion) and Agenhor’s Jean-Marc Wiederrecht (Hommage au Talent). Please read A. Lange & Söhne’s Lange And Watchmaker Wiederrecht Win ‘Passion’ And ‘Talent’ Watch Awards for more information.
This year, the FHH once again awarded two such personalities, and yet again they are epic in nature.
Hommage au Talent
The Hommage au Talent award went to watchmaker Philippe Dufour, who is universally recognized in the watch world as the greatest living watchmaker. This award honors his life’s work, which includes creating extraordinary timepieces characterized by perfection in finishing. But not only.
One of Dufour’s self-set tasks has been to pass on precious knowledge of watchmaking traditions and techniques mastered by hand. He has done this by mentoring upcoming generations and paying tribute to traditional watchmakers, called combiers, of the Vallée de Joux, where he was born and continues to reside.
Dufour has contributed to the general pool of good horology, both in Switzerland and abroad, by being more than “just” an extraordinary watchmaker. He has also been an ambassador of sorts.
For more on Dufour, please read Why Philippe Dufour Matters. And It’s Not A Secret and The Le Garde Temps Project: A Horology Nerd’s Dream Come True.
Hommage à la Passion
This year’s winner of the Passion portion of the FHH award has stepped somewhat out of the limelight in these past years, though by no means has he been forgotten, particularly by those who have worked with him in the past.
Without Henry-John Belmont, neither Jaeger-LeCoultre nor Montblanc would exist in their current, successful forms.
Previous Jaeger-LeCoultre and current Montblanc CEO Jérôme Lambert worked under Belmont for five years between 1997 and 2002 at the venerable Le Sentier-based manufacture. “And now,” Lambert reports with a smile, “we have worked together again to further build Montblanc in the area of fine watchmaking.”
Belmont was in charge of Richemont’s “industrial production” after leaving Jaeger-LeCoultre in the capable hands of Lambert after close to 20 years at its helm. He facilitated the purchase of Minerva in 2007 and worked to integrate it into the group’s structure, finally allotting it to Montblanc (after which turned it into Villeret).
“And still, one day every month he helps work on Montblanc with me, and was involved in the beginning of the ExoTourbillon,” Lambert says with great reverence. “He made a strong personal contribution to Montblanc’s signature elements.”
“He’s a very creative person, and he’s very versatile,” Lambert continues. “I also learned from him that when it’s sometimes not good enough, you just have to be capable of doing it again. Wanting to be better is a sign of courage. He was very instrumental in helping me understand the world of fine watchmaking and understanding what the truth is.”
Lambert agrees that this award “à la passion” is very fitting for Belmont. “He has not lost his passion for fine watchmaking, and when we interact with the team, his eyes shine with the same light they had back in the day. I would say this award is very deserved.”