Prix Gaïa 2015 – Giulio Papi. Entrepreneurship category
The Prix Gaïa jury wished to recognize Giulio Papi for the major role he has played in the development of complications for wristwatches by founding Renaud et Papi in 1986.
Of Italian origin, Giulio Papi was born on 22nd May 1965 and grew up in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Learning form his father, a technician and manufacturer of machine tools, Giulio Papi quickly developed a passion for technology and mechanical systems (automotive, aerospace). His decision to choose a career in the Neuchâtel region introduced him to watchmaking.
Giulio Papi began his watchmaking apprenticeship in 1980, yet with little conviction since he was the only one to turn up for class, the watchmaking crisis having discouraged many from taking up the career. Profiting from the unique availability of his teachers, he acquired as much knowledge as possible. It was thanks to one of his teachers - Jean-Claude Nicolet - that his love of mechanical systems was transformed into a passion for watches. Giulio Papi completed his apprenticeship in 1984. He approached Audemars Piguet with a skeleton watch he had produced himself. The company immediately employed him in their Specialities workshop. This was where he met his future associate, Dominique Renaud. After a year in the workshop, he asked human resources when he would be able to work on horological complications. When told this would take around twenty years, and only if a post became available, he decided to take a different path. First, he joined Antiquorum as a restorer of antique watches, before getting back in touch with Dominique Renaud, his colleague from Audemars Piguet. With both wishing to work on complications, they decided to set up their own manufacture, converting a small apartment in La Chaux-de-Fonds into a workshop. Renaud & Papi was founded in February 1986.
Renaud et Papi
The young entrepreneurs approached companies to offer their services, and it was Gunther Blumlein (IWC) who gave them their opening, with a minute repeater project. The company underwent rapid growth, designing new complications using new materials and machines to produce the components. In 1992, Renaud & Papi employed 50 people specialising in the production of complication watches and making very high-end pieces for prestigious brands, before joining forces with Audemars Piguet (Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi). Giulio Papi's company, which now employs 150 people, has since collaborated with several major brands.
Giulio Papi also collaborated on "Finitions et décorations horlogères haut de gamme" (High-end watch decorations and finishes) with Caroline Sermier. The work was published in Le Locle in 2006 by Audemars Piguet. According to Giulio Papi, the aim of this publication is to inform customers of the various finish levels and foster an appreciation for them.