The origins of Armand Nicolet Swiss watch brand begins around 1875 in Tramelan, Switzerland, a town in the Bernese Jura. At that time, the region of Tramelan was fundamentally agricultural. Armand Nicolet, son of a watchmaker, was passionate for his father’s vocation and a great admirer of quality.
By the end of the 19th century, after a brilliant apprenticeship, he set up his “Atelier d’Horlogerie” and in 1902 he affirmed his technical maturity producing a pocket watch with “guilloché” rose gold case, enamel dial, single button chronograph function, complete calendar, repeating hours, quarter hours and minutes. During those years, Armand Nicolet also refined his technical skills doing important studies on design and form which were to influence his future work.
His watches, masterpieces of pure beauty, quality and precision are still to be found in the NICOLET SA’s museum and continue to arouse interest among international collectors. When he died in 1939 his son Willy assumed the reins of the family enterprise and developed it to be one of the most important production facilities in the region. During the first half of the 20th century, Tramelan was specialised in the production of movements and complete watches and around 1950 became the third pole of Swiss watch-making industry employing around 800 trained watch-makers in 150 factories.
In those years, in the historic head office of Tramelan, the company Nicolet regulated and finished practically the whole production of Venus movements, whose components were assembled in different sophisticated calibres with excellent finishing: complete calendars, chronographs with “column wheel” including the 175 with split second pusher in the winding crown. During the 1950s Nicolet produced also the movement with the patented “Ajustor”, an ingenious mechanism, that when applied to the movement, allowed its regulation without having to open the watch.By the end of the 1970s Nicolet was also hit by the crisis of Swiss horology industry and was forced to reorganise and to cooperate with prestigious brands for whom it produced sophisticated movements and mechanisms. In this way Nicolet preserved its know-how and production skills.
In 1987 Willy Nicolet by chance met Mr. Rolando Braga, an Italian entrepreneur who had been active in the field of horology for 20 years, with important achievements in design and in the engineering of wrist watches. The encounter proved to be strategic and was the catalyst of the cooperation between the extraordinary Swiss technical skill and Italian creativity. The business relationship was sealed in 1988 with the sale of the Nicolet factory in Tramelan to enthusiastic financiers, whose commitment was the preservation of Armand Nicolet’s tradition and its re-launching.
The management of the new activity was entrusted to Mr. Rolando Braga. In 1990 the new NICOLET S.A. was created, a production company in the historic location of Tramelan. In 1992 NICOLET MD srl was born, a unity located in Brescia, Italy, taking care of design and marketing. In 1993 the NH S.A. was established, the holding of the group, located in Zug, Switzerland. This holding detains the control of both Nicolet S.A. and Nicolet M.D. srl and is the owner of the group’s brands, Armand Nicolet and Telda.
With the appropriate structure the business was developed and the know-how and production capacity at the factory in Tramelan was recuperated, while the commitment in Italy was to create new lines exalting the extraordinary value of Armand Nicolet craftsmanship with the beauty of design. The worldwide success was the reason for the continuous growth of the group. Today, watchmakers, technicians, commercial and administrative operators, collaborate with the same enthusiasm of the Braga family.
Armand Nicolet’s values, passed on from generation to generation, together with the special machinery dating back in some cases to the beginning of the 20th century, are still present and irreplaceable in the factory and continue to be used by its watchmakers for certain precision operations. The watchmakers, engineers and operators work respecting tradition, adding a soul to Armand Nicolet watches. The precious artisan savoir-faire is alive and dynamic in the factory and enables the production of truly valuable watches.
The watch making technology assists every step of the production process, from the research and engineering of details to the tests that are constantly carried out in the atelier. Each component is entirely studied with the use of a brand new 3D system, able to analyse both its functionality and its design. Nicolet uses this programme both to engineer movement components and other parts (cases, crowns, pushers, dials, hands, straps, buckles and bracelets) and they can see in the smallest detail both the technique and the aesthetic of the piece in production.
Constantly in search of innovation and perfection, the company’s master watchmakers rigorously pursue the tradition of Armand Nicolet, developing inside the atelier all the steps of the production process, from creation to the assembly and the final control of the product. Each Armand Nicolet watch is delivered with its own technical control certification, compiled personally by the watchmaker who has performed the final control on the watch.
Mechanical watch movements by Armand Nicolet
The mechanical watch making production is composed of two different processes: T1 (the assembling and fine setting of the parts needed to make a complete movement) and T2 (the assembling of the complete watch). The Armand Nicolet factory in his centenarian history has always been involved in the production of mechanical watches and has specialized in the T1 processing resulting in a grand know-how of the mechanical watch production.
Armand Nicolet was best known for his unique craftsmanship still visible in the Chronograph monopusher with perpetual calendar and minute repeater he produced as his masterpiece between 1897 and 1902, a masterpiece that has restored by the new company a few years ago. In his atelier, in the fifties and sixties, many of the most complicated movements like the chronograph Venus with split second or with complete calendar were finished (T1) then sold and used by the most prestigious Swiss brands.
Today the atelier is focused on integrating the past with the future never forgetting the knowledge and processes that Armand Nicolet himself used. In the atelier there are still old movements produced starting from the forties that have been and are still being recovered and transformed into modern movements such as the movements used in the Limited Edition, L06, L07 series that are the best example of Armand Nicolet’s expertise.
If you take a tour in the Atelier today, you will find that there are more human hands working on each movement instead of machines. These meticulous hands on approach to the creation of these masterpieces is what keeps the tradition alive and is the key principle that makes Armand Nicolet mechanical complicated watches so unique and competitive.
Today less than 10.000 Armand Nicolet movements are produced a year including the movements used in the Limited Editions series, movements used in watches that carry the best of the company’s technical and aesthetical capabilities. This knowledge is also applied to the series that use modern movements (M02, M03, TL7, TM7 & S05), movements that are modified by Armand Nicolet making also these collections unique. This is what keeps Armand Nicolet separate from the other brands, it’s continuation of using past values and tradition, translating them into a modern world.
A refined mechanical watch is made up of hundreds of extremely precise metal components, assembled into a sophisticated and harmonious mechanism. Although the work on each mechanism is not completed until reaching full precision, the nature of the diverse metals (that change sizes according to diverse temperatures), the friction of the lubricants (that vary in their function according to humidity, their position, and other environmental factors), continuously influence the precision of the running of your watch.
Centuries of study and research of Swiss watchmaking have contributed to the continuous improvement from the materials to the production processes which today have reached the results with the precision and reliability which at one time was impossible. Over two centuries of research and study, and most recently the introduction of innovative materials have enormously reduced the influence of these phenomena, but they continue to set a persistent natural limit, posing a constant challenge for prestigious watch manufacturers.
The results of this goal are the numerous tests carried out on every Armand Nicolet timepiece before it leaves the factory. As a result of this continuous and enthusiastic research, a number of tests are performed on your Armand Nicolet mechanical watch: true to company tradition, the watch is kept for an entire week under similar conditions of temperature, pressure and humidity that occur during everyday use and changes of function are recorded for each of the different positions most commonly encountered when a watch is worn on the wrist.
To enable a thorough and exhaustive technical analysis to each Armand Nicolet watch, the data is reported in the “Technical Control” where the results recorded in the main positions under the conditions of temperature, humidity and pressure.
Official website: http://www.armandnicolet.com