Jean-François Bautte In Geneva, 1791

Girard-Perregaux’s oldest roots lie in the work of Jean-François Bautte, the Geneva watchmaker jeweller who presented his first creations in 1791 and whose succession Girard-Perregaux acquired in 1906.

Bautte was born on March 22th 1772, into a family of modest labourers. At the age of 12 having been orphaned at an early age, he began serving a series of apprenticeship as a jeweller, goldsmith and case assembler. His lively and passionately dedicated mind-set also led him to explore the watchmaking and engine-turning professions.
His undeniable qualities as an artisan were backed by remarkable commercial atitudes. At an early stage in his career, from 1795 onwards, he began travelling to sell his creations. Having experienced his fair share of difficulties in Europe, which was in a permanent state of war in the late 18th century, Bautte managed to make the most of the period of tranquillity that followed the Restoration and lasted for a quarter century. These prosperous years enabled him to develop his fabrique (the French name for watch production facilities), which was the most comprehensive that had ever existed. The workshop were grouped around a watch dealership on the Rue du Rhone, now known far and wide as the heart of Geneva’s luxury shopping district. These workshops produced complete watches, movements, cases and dials on the one hand; and on the other also excelled in all types of decoration, including enamelling, gemsetting, engine-turning, as well as jewellery in all its forms, music boxes and automata. Their reputation was such that a number of skilled artisans were trained at Bautte and significantly contributed to the development of Geneva’s watch and jewellery-making corporation. In addition to his boutique in Geneva. Bautte also owned a branch in Paris, as well as another in Florence. He cultivated close contacts with elite circles across Europe, as confirmed by a wealth of correspondence, notably originating from the royal courts of Russia and Denmark. His renown was such that no eminent foreign visitors to Geneva missed out on the opportunity to visit his Maison, which welcomed great names such as Baizac, Dumas, Ruskin and the future Queen Victoria. On his death in 1837, the entire city of Geneva paid vibrant homage to this great man.

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