When someone like Colin de Tonnac from Bordeaux, France blips onto the horological radar screen we so carefully monitor, we all sit up a little straighter and zoom in for a closer look. With his new company SEMPER & ADHUC, Monsieur de Tonnac is bound to raise far more noise than a blip as he gives new life to vintage wristwatch movements by setting them behind charming new dials and into lovely new cases.
The enterprise resembles what Colorado’s Vortic Watch Company is doing with vintage American pocket-watch movements, but SEMPER & ADHUC doesn’t weather the challenges of making larger movements work on the wrist. SEMPER & ADHUC’s watches are quite small, in fact, reflecting the size trends of the decades between the 1930s and 1960s from which SEMPER & ADHUC sources its movements. Notably, and intentionally, this is exactly the pre-quartz wristwatch era.
Though movements for the first run are Swiss, all other parts are French, and specifically from the lower half of France. That’s an incredibly small radius to source all of a watch’s parts from—or anything—these days, and de Tonnac clearly takes pride in the inherent conservation that springs up when working regionally. As one who grew up among the deteriorating remains of American industry, de Tonnac’s instinct to re-use materials and source new ones locally resonates deeply.
de Tonnac, who is just 30-years-old, studied watchmaking for five years, holds a Diploma of Crafts in watchmaking, and went on to work at Patek Phillipe in their quality control department and then as one of their watch laboratory technicians. This isn’t the kind of pedigree we typically see from one-person start-ups, and his expertise may account for the strength of the ideas, designs, and craftsmanship that go into these watches.