All 25 of the L’Essentiels have already been sold, with buyers paying at least half of the price in advance. It is an arrangement the industry calls souscription, or subscription, a kind of early form of crowdsourcing pioneered in the 18th century by Abraham-Louis Breguet, the inventor of the tourbillon.
To attract that kind of support, it helps if you have a track record of nearly 30 years in the industry like Mr. Schlüchter does. He earned a four-year diploma in watchmaking from what is now called L’École des Métiers Techniques in Porrentruy, Switzerland, and, by 2000, was working at the factory that became Dimier 1738, Manufacture de Haute Horlogerie Artisanale, the in-house manufacturing arm of the luxury watch brand Bovet. He became its technical director and, in 2014, he also became general director of the factory.
Then, in 2016, his father died and his first son was born. “This was a huge emotional moment, and I realized that I wanted to change my life and get away from the big pressure every day,” Mr. Schlüchter said. “I wanted to have more time with my family, and I wanted to make more work with my hands.”
But before taking the final steps to open his own atelier, he wanted to learn more about classical watchmaking, finishing, and decoration from Philippe Dufour, the celebrated independent watchmaker who is widely considered to be “the greatest living watchmaker,” according to the watch site Hodinkee. A friend introduced the two men, who then met at Mr. Dufour’s studio in the Vallée de Joux, one of the centers of Swiss watchmaking.
“We became close from our first meeting,” Mr. Dufour said, adding later in the interview: “He has a distinctive personal style of putting the wheels and gears and pinions together. It is not a copy of an old Swiss watch; it really is something new for him, and for watchmaking in general.”