Creating Watch Beauty, One Petal at a Time

Alexandre Beauregard has been busy. The Montreal-based watch designer is preparing to show 16 of his women’s watches — most of their dials turned into flowers by his distinctive carved petals — at Geneva Watch Days.

The designer’s small independent brand will be making its first visit to the show, scheduled from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1. And Mr. Beauregard, 47, said he hoped that appearing at the same event as major brands like Bulgari and Breitling and in a division that included Bianchet, Hautlence and HYT “gives a big exposure for us.”

He intends to show watches like the 18-karat white gold Dahlia, a one-of-a-kind piece with a 33.8-millimeter dial circled in red coral petals, a petal-shaped winder, a rotating flower above the central tourbillon and a diamond-studded case. “I wanted it to be a watch that was designed, thought and made entirely for women, and a serious watch,” Mr. Beauregard said in a video interview from the book-lined office in his workshop.

A similar model with mother-of-pearl petals in a gray gold case was shortlisted in the ladies’ complication category at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève competition, but the prize was won by Van Cleef & Arpels’s Lady Arpels Planétrium.

Reginald Brack, a watch industry consultant, said both brands had similarities in their approaches, creating “a piece around the haute horology, but also around the gems and the luxury precious metals.”

“And the entire model,” he added, “is designed from the ground up, with each piece incorporating the gems as part of the design from the beginning.”

The global head of watches at Bonhams auction house, Jonathan Darracott, said he believed that Mr. Beauregard’s decorative designs filled a niche in the market. “Especially with lapidary, and stones, and using skills that are not necessarily the thing that a watchmaker would be at home with, and creating beautiful watches that are near enough works of art,” he said.

“For whilst there are manufacturers like Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille and Patek Philippe, who occasionally do more extravagant and exotic things, their mainstays are basic watches, whereas this is the other way around,” Mr. Darracott added. “His mainstay is doing these exotic design watches and doing them with quite a lot of flair.”

Born in Montreal, Mr. Beauregard was introduced to watchmaking by a friend while they both were in high school. He did not focus on it right away, but did study graphic design and fashion, among other subjects, which he said taught him a structured design method that he still uses: to “have a technical starting point before you go crazy with art,” he said.

Case in point: Around 2017, the round shape of a watch dial inspired him to think about the rounded surface of cabochon-cut stones and, from that, “the flower almost instantly was the first thing that I drew,” he said.

“I just draw things and if I like it, I work upon it,” he said, adding that he can make about 200 sketches for just one dial.

After school, Mr. Beauregard worked part time as a waiter and a carpenter, and had small roles and production jobs on a variety of film and TV projects. Then, in 2003, he bought a laundromat, called Buanderie Bonin, and expanded the business into a commercial laundry for hotels.

But a few years later he began looking for a new project, and decided to pursue his passion for watches. “I realized that the watch industry was covering a lot of fields that I like, drawing, technical, the business side,” he said.

In 2009, using some savings and the proceeds from the sale of two investment properties, he founded Montres Beauregard Inc. At first he experimented with wood watches, but changed to stones in 2013 after meeting Yves St.-Pierre, a lapidary artist based in St.-Boniface, Quebec. “It was obvious in an instant in my mind,” Mr. Beauregard said, “that would look so cool on a watch.”

Mr. Beauregard said Mr. St.-Pierre had taught him how to select stones and carve and polish them: “I worked with him at his workshop, like an apprentice, and then I set up my own workshop. And now he comes here three days a week to work with me, so it’s been an ongoing learning for the last nine years.” (The men also have traveled together to the Tucson gem shows in Arizona in February to buy stones).

But Mr. Beauregard said he has developed his own way of working gems like topaz and turquoise and minerals like phosphosiderite, shaping them into cabochons, which have flat bases and rounded domes, for his petals. He makes each one 2.4 millimeters to 3 millimeters thick, “when usually it’s under one millimeter, so there is a lot of depth in my dials.”

While the designer works on his ideas and executes the stonework in Montreal, his timepiece components — including automatic tourbillons and quartz movements — are made in Switzerland by various suppliers. The watches are assembled there by Fimm SA and stored in a branch of UBS bank in Geneva, and Mr. Beauregard arranges their delivery. (Mr. Beauregard himself rarely wears a watch because, he said, “it’s not comfortable to work with” — although, for meetings in Switzerland, he wears a prototype white gold watch accented with white jade from an early collection that was never produced.)

In 2014 he set up Beauregard SA, in Switzerland — because the perception is “you are more reliable because you are based there,” he said. He also changed the Montres Beauregard name to Ville Marie Manufacture to buy and sell stones to other brands (which he declined to identify, citing confidentiality.) A former fabric factory in Montreal now houses his watch-related operations, the laundry business and Mr. Beauregard’s home.

The watch business made 168,000 Swiss francs ($176,000) last year, Mr. Beauregard said, but his own salary comes from the laundry company and another rental property, he wrote in a later email.

The company’s website now displays four watch collections and made-to-order stone cuff links (6,310 Swiss francs, excluding taxes) that he says he mainly sells to a Middle Eastern and Asian clientele at trade fairs like Jewelry Arabia, held each fall in Bahrain.

The collections include Lili Candy, a 33-millimeter gold quartz timepiece that swaps the flower theme for a spiral lollipop design using stones like carnelian, topaz and amethyst separated by a sliver of white opal (starting at 26,500 Swiss francs, excluding taxes).

There are no hour markings or name on the dial as “it would interfere with the design and the look of the watch,” Mr. Beauregard said. Instead his logo is stamped on the back.

As for the future, the designer said that a number of things were planned for 2024. He intends to open a boutique in Geneva with another brand, which he declined to name, and is working on a jewelry watch for men with a new mechanical central flying tourbillon.

The design, however, is proving to be what he called “way more difficult” than his women’s watches. He is trying to create a stained-glass effect on the dial — “inspired by the enamel work from St. Petersburg at the time of the czars,” — but “you need to fit the stones perfectly into the pattern,” he said, and the stones are easily broken.

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