Beauregard Dahlia And Lili: Opening Like A Flower
I have not seen a watch by Alexandre Beauregard’s eponymous little firm that I haven’t immediately fallen in love with. At first sight. Unequivocally. You can’t help but be enchanted by these wonderfully crafted objects that almost seem too good to be true.
So I was pleased to find that Alexandre Beauregard is as open and friendly as his creations are beautiful. Learning about his story was a pleasure.
Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Beauregard works with a very small team that was called to life when Alexandre Beauregard met Yves Saint-Pierre, an acclaimed lapidary artist in North America and an instructor at the École de Joaillerie de Montréal.
“He’s like a superstar, but he’s Clark Kent – no one knows that he’s superman,” Beauregard joked in his lilting French-Canadian accent. “There’s jewelry that comes from places I cannot reveal, but he’s the only one that accepts to touch them because they’re so expensive. Sometimes they break or chip – objects owned by royalty – and no one will touch them because they’re irreplaceable. He repairs them.”
Saint-Pierre has been working with stones for more than 40 years. When he met Beauregard, they clicked. “I’m a very passionate lad, and I think that he liked that about me, and so he just took me in. And he’s Yoda for me, he’s my Jedi master.”
The third in the company, completing the creative trio, is François Ruel, skilled in both jewelry and 3D design drawing. “The three of us do all the stonework. Yves’ shop is in Saint Boniface, I have one in Montreal, and we each do part of the work: we cut, we slice, we select, we carve, and we just have so much fun.”
Stones and watches: the Beauregard Dahlia opens
The line between watches and jewelry is often quite blurred. And so it is in the mind of Alexandre Beauregard.
He started thinking of watches at the age of 17, when he and a friend began designing them in his friend’s garage. “I was always passionate about watches . . . and you know in North America everything starts in a garage . . . Google, bands, everything. That’s the place kids go to experiment. So that’s what we did,” he laughed.
But life took over and Beauregard got married, had two kids, and successfully ran two businesses in Montreal not related to watches or jewelry. “And then I turned 35 and started drawing again . . .” Beauregard started his firm in 2011.
“We put everything we had into this, it’s a burning passion. My life would be so much easier without this, but it’s something I cannot do; I tried to fight it and put it aside but really I was not sleeping anymore. I was just drawing all the time.”
Getting serious, Beauregard headed to Switzerland, where he was fortunate to meet the right people, including Franck Orny and Johnny Girardin from Telos, a complication workshop previously responsible for creating the complicated movements of the Opus 14 for Harry Winston and the Metamorphosis for Montblanc. “They’re geniuses,” Beauregard exclaimed.
This boutique brand’s young career began by bursting on the scene in 2018 with a whopper of a first watch: Dahlia features a central flying tourbillon movement – though in truth that incredible movement is not what the eye lingers on. That honor belongs to the hand-carved and -set stone petals, which I’ll come back to.
How in the world do you come up with a central flying tourbillon in a debut watch for women, though?
Alexandre Beauregard explained, “I had dinner with Frank, and we love wine, both of us, and at some point we just started saying, ‘Oh we could make a tourbillon, a central flying tourbillon.’ And we just got going.” Fortuitously for them, Omega’s patent on the central flying tourbillon was just about to expire as this dinner was taking place, so they were free to use the technological concept to craft a bespoke movement.
Beauregard Dahlia: beauty and the central flying tourbillon
Dahlia is full of layers, volumes, colors, and textures. This is one of the most spectacularly visual watches that I’ve ever seen in my life.
The central flying tourbillon is not the main act, but is almost hidden by a number of other decorative elements. In fact, Beauregard seems to have gone to great pains to hide it, covering it with a white gold cage shaped like dahlia petals to echo the outstanding stone and/or mother-of-pearl elements encircling it.
“It’s hard for me to do concessions on anything so we have no red rubies as jewel bearings in the movement,” Beauregard explained. “They’re all clear [corundum]. Red rubies are fantastic on close-up photos but in real life, I don’t like it. They look like brown dots, you know? In pictures when you have the right lights, they’re beautiful! But in real life . . .”
Beauregard spared no expense when he thought up the details of this watch, regardless how small. A great example is the quick-change strap, one of which is made of galuchat, an exotic stingray style. “That’s a fun thing because [galuchat] is something that’s been around for a while but every time people see it they say, ‘oh wow that’s so cool.’ And the watch comes with three straps. So the client can choose whatever she wants.”
Shortly after the watch’s debut, he added a quick-change mechanism to the buckle as well so that it can be changed out or added to whatever strap is currently on the watch. I know of no other company that has thought of that detail yet (and I do own a watch with a quick-change system – and, yes, I have to buy a new buckle for every strap in use, which kind of defeats the purpose).
“It’s like a new watch every time,” he justifiably remarked.
The entire watch is made in Switzerland except the stones adorning the dial, which are “made” in Montreal. “When the stones are ready, I bring them to Switzerland and everything else is done there,” he said.
“And I designed everything, of course, I’m very hands on. And the stones – that’s a love story. I’m just in love with fine stones.”
That the central tourbillon is “hidden” in no way diminishes this watch’s incredible aesthetics, even if mechanics are your primary focus. You can be consoled by the 144 diamonds emphasizing the scintillating hard stone petals that draw even more light to the dial. Despite its high technical value, this watch oozes femininity.
In most versions, 48 hand-carved mother-of-pearl or hard-stone petals surround the tourbillon to provide a backdrop to the not-so-easy-to-read hands (the time here is secondary to the art) framed by 0.27 carats’ worth of snow-set diamonds. The pearl or stone petals were hand-sculpted and -polished to a tolerance of .02 mm and invisible set.
As if that all weren’t enough, the attention to detail is strengthened by the crown with its unique, carved flower motif and pearl cabochon and the triple-folding clasp set with 124 diamonds (0.39 ct), which like the strap, is made in Geneva.
The magic of stones or how the exquisite petals are made
“Those colors, look at this! What is that purple stone?” This was the type of question I asked again and again as Beauregard pulled out unique dial variations on the Dahlia and new Lili to show me.
“Phosphosiderite,” he answered.
“Sorry, say that again,” I countered.
“Phosphosiderite. It’s an ugly name but a beautiful stone.”
I had to admit I’d never seen it before. I was going to guess lavender jade. “No, jade would be much paler,” Beauregard patiently explained. “Because of the way we work the stone, what we have to do when we work with translucent stone, like, let’s say, topaz. You lose the color, so we put mother-of-pearl under it, which brings back the lights. And we do the same thing with garnet, opal, and amethyst.”
Each petal is approximately three millimeters’ worth of stone, so it’s heavy and hard to set, meaning much had to be rethought and redone. In no way is this a “normal” use of these of these stones.
One of the one-of-a-kind Dahlias I saw was made using turquoise from the Globe Mine in Arizona, a mine that has been out of the stone since the 1990s. But unsurprisingly, Beauregard has friends in the gem industry that are always on the lookout for him. “They know what I’m looking for, so they grab something they come across when someone passes away who had a huge collection, for example. So these stones have been in boxes for the past 30 years and then they come out – and they think about me.”
This is like new-old stock from mines that have been closed for decades, but Beauregard is sometimes still able to acquire from friendly sources. He doesn’t need much material because all his watches are unique pieces.
Turquoise is a rare-to-nonexistent material in use in the watch industry. So I asked Beauregard what makes this turquoise better than others. “This turquoise doesn’t need to be stabilized, it’s hard enough at a hardness of 5.5 on the Mohs scale. Usually turquoise is around 4 so you need to stabilize it. And the color . . . “
This is a color of turquoise I have never seen; it is utterly captivating. And there’s more: another piece made with Iranian turquoise from a mine that’s also been closed for decades.
“A long time ago, it was the best turquoise in the world,” Beauregard continues to fascinate me with his stone knowledge before revealing he bought those pieces in Switzerland from someone I know, one of the best in the business. “That one was 6-6.5 in hardness.”
The stones are carved into separate petals by Beauregard and Saint-Pierre before being tension set into the gold dial ring, which is already set with diamonds at this point.
“For every petal, the general tolerance is .02 millimeters, less than a hair. It needs to be perfect.” But there is always breakage in tension setting, so in order to have 48 perfectly set petals the team needs to make maybe 100-120 pieces.
Beauregard Lili for 2020
Though we had a sneak peak of the rectangular Lili in 2019, it officially appeared in Beauregard’s collection in 2020 and has been entered into the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, where at press time a pink gold variation with onyx petals has made it into the final round of the Ladies category.
While Lili features the breathtaking aesthetics and stonework of the Dahlia, it does not contain the dazzling mechanics – which makes it both more wearable in a daily sense and more affordable in any sense.
“It’s not about the price,” Beauregard told me. “It’s really about how easy it is to wear.”
And while I understand the need for a maker of women’s watches to have a quartz model in the collection, I find it a pity. However, I also understand that the quartz movement enables this watch to do away with a standard crown, which would have disturbed the rectangular case design. The crown has been replaced by a pusher in the case back that allows the wearer to set or re-set the time.
Lili also comes outfitted with a quick-release strap and buckle mechanism, so both the strap and the clasp can be exchanged for different ones according to the whim and whimsy of the owner. This man thinks of everything.
This combination of art and timekeeping is an exciting combination, and I hope to see much more of it.
For more information please visit www.beauregard.ch.
Quick Facts Beauregard Dahlia
Case: 38.8 x 15.05 mm, white gold set with 330 diamonds (1.17 ct)
Dial: 48 hand-carved mother-of-pearl petals, 144 diamonds (0.27 ct)
Movement: automatic Telos movement with one-minute central flying tourbillon, three-day power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: each one a unique piece
Price: approx. CHF 240,000, depending on stones used
Remark: interchangeable strap with white gold triple folding clasp (also interchangeable) is set with 124 diamonds (0.39 ct)
Quick Facts Beauregard Lili
Case: 24.5 x 33.2 x 8.55 mm, pink gold set with 180 diamonds (.90 ct)
Dial: 33 hand-carved mother-of-pearl, onyx, or other stone petals
Movement: ETA E01.701 quartz movement
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: each one a unique piece
Price: CHF 16,092
Remark: interchangeable strap and clasp