Michaud At Your Service
After-sales service and watchmaking classes make for a fulfilling relationship.
A few weeks ago, WorldTempus had the opportunity to visit the Michaud boutique in Neuchâtel, where we met watchmaker Romain Vesaphong to discuss the services provided by the store. In addition to after-sales service, Michaud also offers an initiation to watchmaking. These services, which illustrate their passion for watches and deep knowledge of watchmaking, help to develop a strong bond with local customers, an element that has become particularly important in the pandemic, when contacts have been otherwise restricted.
Romain Vesaphong © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido
Michaud, a family business, makes it a point of honour to serve its clients in the old-fashioned way, by making them feel at home. Despite the necessary security measures, the atmosphere is relaxed, and the boutique makes the most of its proximity to its clients by inviting them to observe a side of the business that is often hidden away: after-sales service. Within the shop itself, close by the Rolex area, Michaud has set up a small workshop where movements are disassembled and repairs are carried out. This gives clients the opportunity to observe some of the routine maintenance operations that watches need, as Romain Vesaphong explained to me. He is accredited by Rolex (for practically every model), Cartier and IWC Schaffhausen, but the majority of his work is on Rolexes. “Rolex takes up practically 90% of my time,” he confirms. “This year the volume of Rolex watches sent in for service or repair – because the watch was dropped or the crystal broken – has skyrocketed. The Rolexes being serviced are generally between 10 and 15 years old, so they’re robust timepieces, which reflects how much the brand has invested in research and development.”
Rolex corner and Tudor Black Bay Bronze © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido
Although Rolex has a strong presence, the shop obviously offers other names, including Tudor and Hublot, plus niche brands such as H. Moser & Cie. I asked how Michaud approaches the challenge of converting someone who comes into the shop looking for the prestige of a well-known brand (such as Rolex) into someone who appreciates fine watchmaking for its values and its tradition – for the watch itself, in other words. "Indeed, there are people who are interested in Rolex because the brand represents to them the image of social and/or professional success, and they come to the store with the final goal of leaving the boutique with a Rolex on their wrist," says Romain. "We have no reason to go against their objective and we are happy to accompany them in their project. Nevertheless, and this is the whole point of our profession, we strive to make these people aware of the watchmaking values of the brand and the many technical qualities of their watches, so that their next purchase can be motivated by the watchmaking or even technical aspect, whether it is directed towards the same brand or another. This is one of the advantages of having a watchmaker in the boutique: to sow the seed of curiosity and interest in watchmaking mechanics. From then on, we will be able to discuss more confidential brands such as H. Moser & Cie, which offers watches with complications which are as technical as poetic. It’s true that someone who can afford a Rolex Sky-Dweller could equally afford a Streamliner Centre Seconds, or even a Streamliner Flyback Chronograph, for example. “What’s interesting for us is when a client leaves the shop with something we helped them discover,” the watchmaker concludes.
Rolex Sky-Dweller © Rolex
H. Moser & Cie. Streamliner Centre Seconds and Streamliner Flyback Chronograph © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido et H.Moser & Cie.
With its breathtaking view of the Place Pury and its intimate ambiance, it’s easy to feel comfortable in the Michaud workshop. Before embarking on the initiation, I decide to satisfy my curiosity by asking Romain about the health of my TAG Heuer Carrera, which I’ve had for five years. “When you get hold of a watch, how can you tell (without opening it up) whether it’s running well or not?” “It’s keeping good time,” he begins. “The dial is accurately centred.” (This can be affected by shocks.) “The aesthetic aspect is also positive; the crystal is in good shape. The oscillating weight rotates well. There are no worrying sounds. The chronograph start and zero pushers [yes, it’s a chrono] are smooth, and so is the running seconds hand. The balance spring appears to have the proper amplitude, but we’d have to look at that more closely. At first glance, there’s nothing to suggest there’s anything wrong with your watch.” My TAG Heuer Carrera has a clean bill of health!
TAG Heuer Carrera © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido
Reassured, I dive into the theoretical part of the initiation, which includes an introduction to the history of the Michaud company, the major dates in watchmaking history and the principles of the mechanical watch. The Neuchâtel shop was bought in 2006 by Jean-Nicolas and Marie-Maude Michaud (who were joined in 2010 by their brother Laurent) and the Verbier store opened in 2011. The first mechanical watches date back to the late 15th century, etc. Everything is explained in a relaxed and friendly way.
Movement 6498 assembled and disassembled © WorldTempus/Jordy Bellido
After the theory comes the practical part. After donning a white coat and picking up my tools, I almost begin to feel like a watchmaker. With the calibre 6498 under my loupe, I throw myself into the pleasure of disassembling and reassembling a movement, under the supervision, and with the guidance (backed up by a PowerPoint) of Romain. Patience and meticulousness are prerequisites, and a calm demeanour is vital when it comes to manipulating the tiny screws and gears.
Jordy Bellido in action © Michaud/Romain Vesaphong
Through services such as these, the Michaud boutique maintains a bond with its clients, and helps to spread a passion for watchmaking beyond the restricted circle of connoisseurs. This is not just good for their business, it benefits the entire industry.
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