Artisans Du Temps: 30th Anniversary AHCI Exhibition At MIH Museum In La Chaux-De-Fonds
by Ian Skellern
In 1985, Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese founded the AHCI: Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants. The aim was to help independent watchmakers survive at a time when large brands were dominating the horological world.
While dinosaurs were no longer walking the earth in 1985, this was a pre-internet, pre-website, and pre-email time. Visibility for independent watchmakers basically boiled down to the telephone (with international calls costing a small fortune), snail mail, and a loud voice.
It wasn’t so much that large brands were deliberately trying to smother independent watchmakers, but that to all intents and purposes in 1985 very few people even knew that there was such a thing as independent watchmaking, as advertising and exhibitions (of which there were very few) were far too expensive to be part of.
The very first exhibition by the AHCI in 1985 took place at the Watch Museum in Le Locle with the eight inaugural AHCI members displaying their wares: Vincent Calabrese, Svend Andersen, Giovanni Pozzi, Charles Hirchy, Kurt Schaffo, J.K. Snétivy, and a company, La Montre Extra Plate.
Today, 30 years later, the AHCI boasts 35 members and four candidates. Not bad for an organization I once described in an article like so: ” . . . managing the AHCI is like herding cats.”
It’s not easy being an independent watchmaker − or an independent anything for that matter. To succeed (and most don’t) talent is just a given that takes a back seat to drive, determination, and near-delusional self-belief. In other words, the AHCI is zero Indians, all chiefs.
And the AHCI has not only lasted 30 years; despite the odds and the arrival of digital communication, the internet, blogs, and a proliferation of watchmaking exhibitions, all of which you might think would dilute the necessity for an independent watchmaker to join the AHCI, the association has not just survived but thrived.
When we think of museums, we often think of the items on exhibit as being from the past, often the long past, but at the 30th Anniversary AHCI Exhibition at the MIH, you can not only see contemporary watches and clocks, you can also (at specific times) talk to the watch- and clockmakers who created them.
Exhibiting in the Artisans du Temps exhibition at the MIH Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds are Svend Andersen, Felix Baumgartner (Urwerk), Aaron Becsei, Vincent Calabrese, Konstantin Chaykin, Miki Eleta, Paul Gerber, Beat Haldimann, Vianney Halter, Marc Jenni, Frank Jutzi, Xushu, Rainer Nienaber, Aniceto Jimenez Pita, Thomas Prescher, Antoine Preziuso, Andreas Strehler, Christiaan van der Klaauw, Kari Voutilainen, Peter Wibmer, Philippe Wurtz, candidates Andreas Fritsch and Raúl Pagès, plus invited brands Christophe Claret and Greubel Forsey.
The Artisans du Temps AHCI exhibition runs from June 6 through September 27, 2015 at the MIH museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds.