In our “Faces of the Industry” series, we highlight some of the most remarkable watchmakers in the world. In this article, we’re focusing our attention on Swiss movement designer Sébastien Chaulmontet and how he made his way from watch enthusiast and collector to his current position as head of innovation and marketing at Sellita.
The watch industry can be a funny place. For an industry defined by great design and innovation, we often know so little about the geniuses behind the movements and watches we love so much. Watch designers tend to stay in the background, unlike the superstar designers of the jewelry, fashion, and footwear industries.
Fortunately, more and more heads of design are coming out of the shadows and giving us insights into the craft of designing a watch. But what about the design and creation of watch movements? One of the most prominent names in this field is Sébastien Chaulmontet. He began his career as a lawyer but currently holds the position of head of innovation and marketing at movement manufacturer Sellita. While it may not sound like the most logical career path, the story behind it helps put the pieces together.
Working as a Lawyer
Chaulmontet graduated with a law degree in 2000 and then started working as a lawyer. From 2000 to 2007, his primary focus was law; however, he spent his free time investing in his passion for watches, especially chronographs. By the time he began his Ph.D., he had already constructed his own movements, so making the leap to the watch industry was not out of the question. In addition to creating his own movements, Chaulmontet was an avid collector of chronograph watches, especially vintage Angelus chronographs. This brand has ended up playing a significant role in Chaulmontet’s watchmaking life, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
From La Joux-Perret to Arnold & Son
In 2008, Chaulmontet decided it was time to take his passion for watches to the next level. He began working as a part-time watchmaker at La Joux-Perret after meeting company CEO Frédéric Wenger. Two years later, La Joux-Perret’s parent company acquired the famous Arnold & Son brand. This was a chance for Chaulmontet and his team to not only develop incredible new movements but also design complete watches. At La Joux-Perret, the focus was on creating movements for other brands. The acquisition gave the young designer the opportunity to show the world what he could do.
The Arnold & Son brand immediately gained traction with Wenger at the helm and Chaulmontet as the technical brains behind the operation. In addition to introducing incredible new ways of presenting familiar complications, Arnold & Son quickly made a name for themselves with their signature dial-side complications. Chaulmontet has always said that his intention was to push the brand’s technical boundaries without losing sight of its heritage. That explains the combination of modern technology and classic British looks. Moreover, the movements showcase a great deal of technological innovation while still remaining true to the achievements of the eminent English chronometer maker John Arnold.
Reviving the Angelus Brand
Chaulmontet didn’t stop there: In 2011, La Joux-Perret bought the famous Angelus brand. This gave Chaulmontet the opportunity to create incredible chronographs for the brand he had been collecting for many years. Every movement and watch he designed was somehow linked to the Angelus’ rich history.
In 2015, the Angelus U10 Tourbillon Lumière became the first “new” Angelus watch with the newly developed Angelus A-100 movement. The one-minute flying tourbillon movement impressed the watch industry and fans alike. Chaulmontet went on to design several incredible watches for Angelus before deciding to move to Sellita to become their head of innovation and marketing in 2017.
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Becoming an Author and Working at Sellita
In 2016, while he was developing new movements and watches for both Arnold & Son and Angelus, Sébastien Chaulmontet released the book Chronographs for Collectors with co-author Joël Pynson. Both men are avid chronograph collectors, so it’s fitting that they wrote a book focusing on 30 historically significant chronographs. Not only does it feature beautiful images of 30 magnificent chronograph watches, but both men also give their expert opinions on each timepiece and make interesting connections to other brands and movements. It’s just one more example of the knowledge and creativity behind everything Chaulmontet does.
Chaulmontet started at Sellita in 2017. The manufacturer (located in Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland) is primarily a movement supplier, so it’s almost strictly a business-to-business operation. However, with the addition of Chaulmontet and watchmaker Johannes Jahnke (formerly of Christopher Ward), the brand is developing a range of new calibers that will take the Sellita name to the next level. Since its foundation in 1950, Sellita has been known primarily as an assembly house that purchases movement kits from industry giant ETA.
Sellita now has the opportunity to grow as a movement supplier to a wide range of brands, especially considering ETA is limiting its output for fellow Swatch Group members. This shift has led more watch enthusiasts to learn about the Sellita movements in their favorite timepieces and more brands to work with Sellita on developing movements for their watches. It’s not just the brands buying ébauche movements that have come knocking on Sellita’s door.
Chaulmontet stated that Sellita has no intention of developing a large number of new movements. As a supplier to other brands, there is no need for a wide variety of movements. Most brands require a small number of high-quality movements for their timepieces. With Chaulmontet at the helm of movement development, I think it’s safe to say that we can expect new movements with innovative features. Who knows, they might even become the new industry standard. In any case, the future looks bright for both Sellita and Chaulmontet.