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Boucheron Watches

Boucheron Watches

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The History of Boucheron Watches

Boucheron is a French jewelry brand that started producing watches at a relatively early stage.

In terms of other brands, it can be said that it has a history similar to that of Cartier.

The company was founded in 1858, but began producing pocket watches the following year, in 1859, and released its first collection of wristwatches in 1885.

The founder, Frederic Boucheron, began to make a name for himself with his works that adopted the Art Nouveau artistic style that began in the 1900s, and the products made by Boucheron became extremely popular, especially among the wealthy.

Frédéric's son Louis, with his preference for simple lines and geometric patterns, brought Boucheron into the Art Deco aesthetic that came after Art Deco.

Boucheron enjoyed success during the Nouveau and Art Deco eras, but after World War II, people's values ​​changed and Parisian tastes began to demand high-quality items that the general public could afford, rather than elaborate, extremely expensive pieces.

It is from this period of innovation that Boucheron's finest watches were designed.

Ribbed yellow gold refret
Ribbed yellow gold refret. Photo by Kevin O'Dell.

Satin-finished white gold calibre

Satin-finished white gold calibre

BT 908247, applied for in 1944, often seen on refrets

BT 908247, applied for in 1944, often seen on refrets

Features of Boucheron watches

From the early stages of watchmaking, Boucheron has been particular about how a watch is worn on the wrist.

Boucheron patented at least three clasp systems that had never been seen before on a watch.

Many Boucheron case backs are engraved with "BT 908247" or "BT 1203255" underneath the brand name.

These are French patent numbers, not serial or reference numbers.

Both are unique to Boucheron and completely new in the world of watchmaking.

All of the above are single-piece belts that can be attached and removed by sliding the "lugs."

Filed in 1970, BT 7023160 is a clasp system that allows for adjustable leather straps without the bulk of a deployant-style buckle. Photo by Alexandre Tritz

Filed in 1970, BT 7023160 is a clasp system that allows for adjustable leather straps without the bulk of a deployant-style buckle. Photo by Alexandre Tritz

There are reasons to explain these patents.

This is because these markings are intended to demonstrate Boucheron's emphasis on "user friendliness" and "innovation".

As a jewelry brand, each model was designed from the ground up.

The Reflet, which was released in 1947, was designed from the start to allow women to easily change the strap and enjoy changing the color of their belt, just like changing clothes, by using spring bars, hooded lugs, two-piece straps, and pin buckles.

The "Carré", released in 1960, also used this mechanism and had the same design.

A different approach was required for the "Carré" than reflexology, and the role given to the Carré was to be "beautiful jewelry that tells time."

It has a square shape, Although the design is very different from the Reflet, what is particularly noteworthy about this watch is that it is made with a slim design.

The Cale was created as a thin dress watch that is most suited to formal styles, in order to accentuate the appearance of gentlemen and ladies.

The BT 1203255, filed in 1958, is often seen on Calés and is one of the reasons why in 1964 the watch was advertised as the thinnest watch in the world.

The BT 1203255, filed in 1958, is often seen on Calés and is one of the reasons why in 1964 the watch was advertised as the thinnest watch in the world.

Two special cases. Photo by Alexander Tritz.

Two special cases. Photo by Alexander Tritz.

Boucheron Reflet signed on the dial. Photo by Alexandre Trits

Boucheron Reflet signed on the dial. Photo by Alexandre Trits

Early Boucheron watchmaking

Boucheron did not manufacture watch movements, but instead purchased them from companies that could make movements, such as Omega, and installed them in their watches.

In particular, luxury watches decorated with jewels or natural stones, and most refret watches up until the 1970s, used OMEGA movements.

Watches equipped with an Omega movement have a small Omega logo engraved on the case back.

The cases were manufactured by Christophéon, who also produced for Cartier and Tiffany, and Fab Swiss.

Boucheron watch collection

Boucheron watch collection
Photo by Alexander Tritz

The variety of watches offered by Boucheron over the last few decades is enormous.

The most collectible models are the "Reflet" and "Carré", but it should be noted that Boucheron did not use these names at the time and each was simply sold as a "wristwatch".

Even among the more agreed upon models there is a great deal of variation in case metals, sizes and finishes.

All are made from at least yellow, rose or white gold and come in a variety of finishes, including clou de Paris (or hobnail) finish, vertical brushed finish and the more pronounced vertical ribbed finish.

The dial is usually unsigned, but some, especially from the 1970s, are signed to match the case finish.

The Clous de Paris case features a Clous de Paris textured dial.

Besides the Reflet and Cale, collectors are beginning to turn their attention to later models known as Galle and Egg.

It also has an interesting case shape, with a large oval bezel surrounding a small dial.

The exterior is often rendered in organic materials like onyx, acacia wood and tortoise shell, with matching satin-finished gold.

There are many other shapes of watches available, but they are much harder to find, and most of the models are tank-style rectangular watches.

Photo by Kevin O'Dell

Alexandre Trits is the exclusive strapmaker for Akrivia and Rexep Rexep, otherwise known as "The Boucheron Guy" under the Instagram handle @thewatcham.

Alexandre likes what he calls "secret mechanism" watches, such as Movado Bag watches and, of course, Boucheron watches.

The obvious parallel here would be Cartier.

Though a bit of a stretch, the comparison is not entirely misplaced.

Regardless of the position of both brands in the modern watch world, in this vintage era, the two brands were certainly competitors, selling to the same market, in similar quantities, and focusing on similar motifs.

Of course, the designs and language are not the same, and no Boucheron design has stood the test of time like the Tank or Santos.

But there's something about this brand that makes it unique.

"When you hold a Boucheron in your hands, you feel the quality, everything is perfectly coordinated," says Alexandre.

"When you move the stem of a vintage Cartier crown, you can feel everything moving inside.

"At Boucheron, we have a system inside the case that prevents that from happening."

Kevin O'Dell said: "I think it's nicer than any Cartier from this era.

"Cartier only offered polished or satin finishes."

When collectors buy watches made in Paris from this era, they do so for the design, rarity, and handcrafted nature of the piece. Kevin mentions the hand engravings that I adore, including those engraved by Cartier. Some argue that the Cartier movement is superior, but as Kevin says, "No one is buying this watch for the movement."

In contrast to Cartier, information on Boucheron watches from this period is rather scarce. Discoveries make the brand all the more interesting. There is only one book on the history of Boucheron watchmaking, written in French in 1992. I ordered it, but, well, it wasn't very useful (apologies to Monsieur Gilles Néret). It is possible to get excerpts from the Boucheron archives, which also contain pictures of each watch made by Boucheron (hopefully calming my beating heart).

Photo by Alexander Tritz

Every time a Boucheron watch is sold or featured as part of a collection on Instagram, we learn more about the brand. This is vintage watch collecting 1.0 in 2023, and it feels like something special. It's great to make the effort to be informed before you get your hands on a watch. Sometimes dealers will rattle off "Lef. 1675 gmt mark 1 long e fuschia pepsi," but that's not the case. This sense of discovery is exhilarating.

Boucheron also has definitive value now. The nice Reflets are just under $10,000, the Carrés around $3-4k depending on the metal and finish. Other models like the egg shapes and the rare early chronographs and rectangular watches are more of a "whatever price you want if you have it" kind of thing. These watches are not easy to find, they were produced in small quantities from what we can tell, but when they did come out, the prices are not what they should be, considering it's worth at least having a conversation with Cartier.

The caseback of the Calé still shows the engraver's guidelines. Photo by Alexandre Tritz