Philippe Dufour Simplicity Deconstructed By The Naked Watchmaker
by Ian Skellern
Philippe Dufour is the epitome of traditional watchmaking: the watchmaker often says that he has never invented anything but simply builds on what past watchmakers have done before him. But being traditional doesn’t mean not doing anything new: Dufour was both the first to make a grande et petite sonnerie in wristwatch form and the first to make a dual-escapement wristwatch with a differential linking and averaging the two regulators.
But as groundbreaking as both these technical accomplishments were, it was his time-only Simplicity that really brought Dufour horological fame.
When the Simplicity launched in 2000 it made waves: here was a niche independent watchmaker who few had ever heard of with the audacity to “market” a simple time-only wristwatch for the then seemingly exorbitant price of around $35,000. That was then significantly more than a Patek Philippe Calatrava cost; you could buy a serious complication from a top-tier brand for the same sum.
The simplicity offered no complications; Dufour explained that the price was justified by the time it took for the fine hand-finishing. At that time very few even appreciated hand-finishing, which wasn’t surprising as display case backs were in their infancy. Imagining that collectors would pay $35,000 at that time for a simple watch with “just” hand-finishing, even if it was superlative, seemed fanciful if not downright crazy.
But Dufour had three things going for him: he spoke good English, he looked like the archetypical Swiss watchmaker, and internet discussion forums like ThePuristS and Timezone (which we accessed at the time with a dial-up modem) were becoming popular with watch collectors and aficionados. This meant that a small independent watchmaker could reach an international pool of potential clients with no real marketing. The circumstances and timing of Dufour’s launch of the Simplicity was perfect.
Now with prices of a Dufour Simplicity reaching millions of dollars, it is clear that that $35,000 price tag of the launch series was an absolute bargain. The Simplicity didn’t just put Dufour on the horological map, it opened the door for a new generation of independent watchmakers.
Peter Speake, aka The Naked Watchmaker, deconstructed (stripped down) three Simplicities to reveal why this now iconic watch is so special from the inside.
I highly recommend checking out The Naked Watchmaker’s comprehensive deconstruction photos and comments on the Philippe Dufour Simplicity at www.thenakedwatchmaker.com/deconstruction-philippe-dufour.
Quick Facts Philippe Dufour Simplicity
Case: 34 and 37 mm cases in platinum, white gold, and pink gold; one example gem-set with white and pink diamonds
Dials: silver or dark grey guilloche with applied indices and white lacquer with printed Roman numerals
Movement: manually wound proprietary Philippe Dufour caliber
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Price: original production prices 48,000 to 64,000 Swiss francs
Limitation: 206 known examples of the first series