March 5, 2024

In its brief existence, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) awards for “Passion” and “Talent” have already managed to reward some of the greatest personalities in the world of watches for these qualities – which are undeniably the most essential ingredients for fine watchmaking.

The awards’ recipients are chosen by the Cultural Council of the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH). Both the FHH and this award were created by Franco Cologni, one of the masterminds behind the modern incarnation of Cartier.

The goal of the annual Hommage à la Passion and Hommage au Talent awards is to honor two personalities in the world of high watchmaking.

The inaugural prizes of 2012 went to Jean-Claude Biver (Hommage à la Passion) and Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi’s Giulio Papi (Hommage au Talent).

One year later, these two awards were given to Walter Lange (Hommage à la Passion) and Agenhor’s Jean-Marc Wiederrecht (Hommage au Talent). See A. Lange & Söhne’s Lange And Watchmaker Wiederrecht Win ‘Passion’ And ‘Talent’ Watch Awards for more on that.

The winning duo of 2014 was Henry-John Belmont (Hommage à la Passion) and Philippe Dufour (Hommage au Talent) (see Philippe Dufour and Henry-John Belmont Win FHH Homage To ‘Passion’ And ‘Talent’ Awards), while in 2015 it was Chopard’s co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele (Hommage à la Passion) and enameler Anita Porchet (Hommage au Talent) (see FHH 2016 Homage To ‘Passion’ And ‘Talent’ Awards For Chopard’s Karl-Friedrich Scheufele And Enameler Anita Porchet).

Ludwig Oechslin and François-Paul Journe

Ludwig Oechslin and François-Paul Journe

This year, the FHH again awarded two such personalities, and yet again they are very interesting choices: Ludwig Oechslin and François-Paul Journe.

Hommage au Passion: Ludwig Oechslin

It’s not necessarily clear where the watch industry would be today without Oechslin. I know for certain, it would not be nearly as rich a place: watchmaking is indeed fortunate to have a thinker like Oechslin as part of the fabric of its existence. A man called to join every conceivable committee, jury, and panel for his expertise and sensible viewpoints, Oechslin is also one of the most educated men in our little microcosm of ticks and tocks.

Ludwig Oechslin accepting the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie's 2016 award for Hommage à la Passion

Ludwig Oechslin accepting the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie’s 2016 award for Hommage à la Passion

Born in 1952 in Gabice Mare, Italy, the trilingual Oechslin entered the world of high watchmaking in the mid-1980s with Ulysse Nardin and the mechanical renaissance thanks to that brand’s visionary leader Rolf Schnyder. Oechslin had already been studying the humanities since 1972, when he began earning degrees in archaeology, ancient history, Greek, Latin, art history, and philosophy at the University of Basel.

Oechslin decided he wanted to work with his hands, so he entered into an apprenticeship with Jörg Spöring in Lucerne at the age of 24. “It was probably the thought of getting down to the seriousness of life itself that led me there, to something tangible, since with my other studies I couldn’t really earn much money,” he later told me.

Schnyder found him there, and the rest is history: the pair created such milestones as the Ulysse Nardin Astrolabium Galileo Galilei, the Planetarium Copernicus, and the Tellurium Johannes Kepler in addition to the groundbreaking GMT Dual Time +/- – the first timepiece to display Oechlin’s particular brand of simplification in watchmaking.

And he is the mastermind behind the game-changing Ulysse Nardin Freak as well as 2005’s MIH Watch.

Ochs und Junior, a boutique brand driven by Oechslin’s idea of the simplified annual calendar, was also born of his genius.

Oechslin was also the curator of the MIH (International Museum of Horology) in La Chaux-de-Fonds, arguably the most important horological museum in the world, from 2002 through 2014.

For more on Oechslin’s life and times, see Ludwig Oechslin Retires As MIH (International Museum of Horology) Curator And Director.

Hommage au Talent: François-Paul Journe

The legendary French watchmaker François-Paul Journe needs no introduction to anyone interested in haute horlogerie.

Journe began his professional career as a restorer, then became a behind-the-scenes movement maker for the exceptional and rare (see A Moment In Watch History: Piaget x François-Paul Journe), before making his mark in the annals of watch history with his eponymous Geneva-based brand, F.P. Journe.

François-Paul Journe accepting the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie's 2016 award for Hommage au Talent

François-Paul Journe accepting the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie’s 2016 award for Hommage au Talent

From the moment the first watches bearing his own name hit retailers’ shelves, these innovative timepieces have added to his legend. In particular it was the 1991 tourbillon wristwatch with constant force mechanism that kicked off a string of incredibly masterful examples of inventive haute horlogerie. This was followed by F.P. Journe’s 1999 Tourbillon Souverain, 2000 Chronomètre à Résonance, the Harry Winston Opus 1, and 2006’s Sonnerie Souveraine, among others.

Hailed as one of the first independent watchmakers to really turn his business into a genuine brand, Journe continues to amaze and surprise the watch world with his intelligent creations.

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