jacky epitaux

A “Questions de Temps” interview with Jacky Epitaux from Rudis Sylva

He is “Jacky”, quite a character, a bona fide individual who is well liked even in the most remote ranks of the watchmaking world. He is the founder and brains behind the niche brand Rudis Sylva, the pride and joy of the Jura, Switzerland.

By Joel Grandjean

Everyone who talks about him – either mentioning his exceptional career or because he comes up in conversation – always refers to him as "good old Jacky". The tone, however, is rather full of admiration and devoid of condescendence. He is the founder and keeper of a brand renowned for its excellent accuracy, which is today part of the cenacle of leading watchmakers such as Philippe Dufour and Jean-Claude Nicolet. But before that, he was a professional footballer in Le Locle and he dabbled in watchmaking since he was sponsored by Zenith. Zenith, as we know. Is a brand with a propensity to encourage locals to pursue their careers. It has long been and still is known as "La Zenith" by the locals.

Jacky Epitaux, Rudis Sylva CEO

The unique universe of artisan watchmakers

He spent some time in Moscow, where he didn’t really mind the cold as he hails from Franches-Montagnes, where it wouldn't be a surprise if he were appointed plenipotentiary Ambassador.

Indeed, his entire entrepreneurial work constantly extols the virtues of the particular skills found in his region that include rapidly-disappearing but invaluable hand-made crafts and original gestures that best represent the most noble watchmaking traditions. He has even opened a hotel called the "Espace Paysan-Horloger" because he thought that his clients, who come from all over the world, deserve not only the usual comfort but also a rural welcome by visiting a still factory. He even has a small museum space dedicated to him. It’s on the lower floor of the hotel, filled with pertinent references to the local history and its impact on Swiss History as a whole - and by extension - in the world history of watchmaking.

Espace Paysan Horloger

Established in Les Bois, a district in the outskirts of La Chaux-de-Fonds – an unavoidable transit to the Jura abound with subcontractors and irreplaceable craftspeople – the brand built its reputation around the Harmonious Oscillator. The original horological complication combines the famous tourbillon and a unique, patented reinterpretation of a resonance mechanism. Always produced in ultra-limited editions, the brand's timepieces are available in the six-figure price range and have slowly made it to the wrists of the most seasoned collectors.

A return to initial watchmaking distribution

We are back in La Chaux-de-Fonds, in early December 2016, on the stage of the “Théâtre de l'Heure Bleue”, formerly known as "Salle de Musique de la Ville". Without losing his good nature, Jacky Epitaux takes a seat at the round table organized by Kalust Zorik, founder of the International Symposium of Watch Marketing (Journées Internationales du Marketing Horloger). The latter is also quite a character who has been sitting eclectic guests around a table for the last 20 years, since the creation of events dedicated to watchmaking marketing. His aim is to draw the best out of them and to provoke a clash of ideas and opinions.

Espace Paysan Horloger

On this particular day, the theme to be discussed is “The future of watchmaking distribution channels”. Jacky's down-to-earth attitude, interspersed with modesty and common sense evokes the mindset that prevailed in the universe of former watchmakers. They were open to the world, curious to discover its every nook and cranny – quite the travelers, weren't they? –, proud of their unfettered mountain men particularisms and with very warm hearts hidden under their rough exterior.

You wouldn’t have guessed their hospitable qualities either. Yet, these are indeed priceless assets for a brand with clients who can afford visits to its workshops, where its true values lay, and even enjoy a timeless interlude. “Jacky” perfectly knows how to spread and share those values that ennoble the ultra-complex micromechanical creations produced in his workshops.

Espace Paysan Horloger

So, Jacky Epitaux, when did you make your first watch?

When I was seventeen.

Are you a punctual person?


On what occasion do you remember being so late that you were embarrassed?

I was invited to eat rabbit polenta at my friends' who are from Bergamo and I completely forgot about it!

Was there a time when you were either late or early thereby preventing you from the worst possible outcome?

I postponed an appointment with a retailer in Rio for the following day. That morning, at my hotel in Sao Paulo, I learned that the plane I would have boarded crashed after taking off and over 200 people died. 

Espace Paysan Horloger

Was there a time you were either late or early which consequently meant  you experienced a privileged and blessed moment?

Since I always walk at the head of a group, be it in the forest or elsewhere, it often happens that game sees me and takes off scared; too bad for those behind me.

What was your longest day ever?

At recruit school, we had to walk through the mountains from Grisons to Ticino. I fell asleep standing. It's amazing, your knees suddenly give way and you immediately wake up in a crouched position.

Jacky Epitaux & Philippe Dufour

Apart from a watch, what is the design that you consider the most timeless?

I think the different types of fir art we find in La Chaux-de-Fonds. It is a type of art defined by the harmonious curve we find in the "king of forests" and that is abound in our beautiful Jura region.

Name the personal object you wish would stay forever as it is.

My car. The amount of money I would save if I didn't have to change cars every now and then would allow me to retire earlier and allow me to have more "leisure time".

Jacky Epitaux & Ronaldinho

What type of time-consuming activity do you dread the most?

The internet is one of the traps that could make you build an anti-communication barrier around yourself. When you switch your computer off you are saying: “goodbye, I am with my family, friends or doing something healthier”.

If someone had to tell you the story of time, what would you prefer: a book, a proverb or a favorite saying?

A book. "Une vie" (a life) by Maupassant. My choices and I would be the protagonists: the life of a fanatic, told in the prose of this amazing writer.

"Vous avez l'heure, nous avons le temps!" (you have the time (hour), we have time!) is a saying from the South. What do you think of it?

Or "manana" as the saying goes in South America. I go to Brazil, walk on the beach, drink a Caïpirinha, and enjoy the music and the sun. At night, I have “Picanha” in the best “Churasco” and the rest can wait.

Rudis Sylva Oscillateur Harmonieux - 2009

Which book have you taken longer to read or have not managed to finish?

Larsson's first “Millenium” book. I started reading and I absolutely have to find some time to finish it, as it has been praised so much!

Your first recollection, be it positive or negative, which lasted quite some time?

My holidays at my grandparents' in Cossonay-Gare, on the banks of the Venoge.

The scenery was beautiful: river, forest, trout, mushrooms, fruits and nuts. At night, the excitement of watching factory workers leaving the cable factory and the “Grands-Moulins”. These magic days went really fast.

Rudis Sylva Oscillateur Harmonieux - 2016

Which moments do you wish would last forever?

When I play or laugh with my family or friends.

Do you ever cry? If so, when was the last time you thought you would not be able to stop?

I am a true optimist and I never feel low. Sometimes I cry tears of great joy and I decide when to stop. Crying makes me what I am and I find it awesome.

What do you think is the difference between time and eternity?

Since I am a very busy person, I tend to indulge in good times so that my “too short” life seems like an eternity to me.

Your first watch?

A Rotary I received for my first communion.

Rudis Sylva Auditorium dial hand engraved

Do you have many watches? What part do they play in your life?

I have six watches. The one which I am less likely to wear but is more valuable is a limited-series Rodolphe, which is a tribute to Brazil's 5th World Cup. This watch has given me magnificent times in the world of football, my favorite sport.

The Rudis Sylva watch of which you are most proud.

Since we have produced only one watch with a major complication, I would say the Harmonious Oscillator as it took us years to produce it.

If you had no time-telling instrument and that you had to bury a personal object to do the work of a sundial, what would it be?

A rowan tree. This tree evolves over the years and allows us to hear the songs of several birds. In winter, the wine that we obtain from its berries cheer up our evenings.


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