Prix Gaïa 2012 – Eric Coudray. Craftsmanship-Creation category
The watchmaker earned the recognition of the Prix Gaïa jury for his total and innovative mastery of watchmaking and skill for turning an impossibility into a technical masterpiece.
Eric Coudray, who comes from a long line of watchmakers, began his watchmaker's apprenticeship at the LEP Jules Haag in Besançon, then studied for a CFC in watchmaking/ watch repair at the Technicum Neuchâtelois in La Chaux de Fonds, ending up with a technician's diploma specialising in the restoration of old watches at the International watchmaking museum. During his training, he had already started putting his creative juices to work on becoming a manufacturer. In 1982, he thus produced a tetrahedron travel clock.
After working for a few years in a workshop near Paris, he shared the fruits of his watchmaking experience at the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture. Between 1989 and 2008, he helped to develop and enhance the reliability of calibres, mainly in geographical watches, the Reverso minute repeater and the Reverso chronograph. He worked on all the products in the manufacture, from miniature calibres through to Atmos mantle clocks. Under the tutelage of Henri-John Belmont, he created an independent workshop allowing him to give free reign to his ingeniousness. It was against this background that Jaeger-LeCoultre presented the Atmos régulateur in 2002, and the following year, the Atmos mystérieuse, a unique piece crafted in gold and onyx.
At the same time, as early as 2001, he began designing a unique movement, which gave him a reputation of the first order: the first Gyrotourbillon. A double-axis tourbillon enabling the balance wheel to rotate within a second cage. The calibre, complete with perpetual calendar and time equation, saw the light of day in the Master Gyrotourbillon 1 rolled out in 2004. He enhanced the concept by inventing the Reverso Gyrotourbillon 2 regulated by a helical balance-spring. The higher frequency earned him second prize at the Le Locle international chronometry competition in 2009.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Gyrotourbillon
Having worked with a small team of watchmakers for Cabestan watches in the East since 2008 , Eric Coudray tackled the challenge of producing a highly reliable vertical tourbillon for the Winch model to make it suitable for small production runs.
Since January 2012, the movement has been housed in the workshop's own Trapezium case. This watch won the Award design prize at the last GTE. The vertical tourbillon no longer needs any accessories for winding as it comes equipped with a new crown in the form of a retractable pushbutton developed in-house.
The Prix Gaïa goes to Eric Coudray
At first, I thought it was a joke. Then I told my wife it was a prize they gave to old people, she told me to look again. After checking out some of the prize-winners, I saw I was in very good company. It made me realise that all the hard work I'd done over the last 30 years was not in vain. The prize can also signify a new beginning, perhaps prompt the start of a new brand under my name? I don't know, but in any case, I feel so proud now, because, to my mind, I've done nothing extraordinary to deserve it, but it's a great acknowledgment from the industry.