Time-Related Issues, Ludovic Ballouard's Everlasting Upside Down
On the podium of the Watch of the Year award by the now defunct Ringier magazine Montre Passion, he won the Jury's special prize. It was his first speech. I had written an editorial full of emotion. A portrait of a smart Breton.
During that evening at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, he impressed me far beyond the categories: his stage fright, his naturalness, his vision of authentic and honest watchmaking that he had learned in Rennes. It is this school curriculum that brought him to Switzerland via the Franck Muller group before opening the doors of the greatest genius still alive in watchmaking today, François-Paul Journe.
Crazy numbers symbolism
In 2009, he made his biggest appearance in the land of independence with a timepiece full of meta messages. It contained and it still contains, one of those parabolic messages that captivated your heart and mind: numbers upside down, all inverted, reversed... Numbers that indicate by their negation the only number at the right position on the dial, the one that indicates the time it is. We were in the middle of a financial crisis. Then, on this same dial, a hand quietly wanders around, pointing from its tip to these totally disturbed minute digits.
It is poetic to describe as much as it is ultra-complicated to achieve. This Upside Down watch is to watchmaking what Hernandez's Born To Be Alive hit is to world charts. It remains a model that can be restyled without ever getting tired. Moreover, one of the great houses of the world haute-horlogerie – Harry Winston – had fallen in love with it and had made it known through a project called Opus XIII. The idea was to place in a gold box a claimed brass calibre of 364 components operating at 21,600 vibrations per hour, with two independent barrels reinforced by a rocker pinion and 242 rubies. A purely chronometric experiment that was unfortunately swept away by a sudden buyout.
Time is ticking, wheel is spinning
This Upside Down is the story of a life, with its ups and downs, its cracks, its shatters. It tells the story of chronic and mechanical resilience. Let us not forget that this mechanical calibre on which the master watchmakers of yesteryear and today have never stopped focusing remains the only engine among all the other engines that surround us, to have been engineered to never have to be started and then stopped. It's the only one ever developed to work even in our sleep. Ludovic Ballouard is one of those master watchmakers. He participates in the plurality of a watchmaking asset where the great mythical brands and promising hopes mix.
Interview with Ludovic Ballouard
So, Ludovic Ballouard, when was the first time?
On March 13, 2018, when I saw on a black and white screen the heartbeat of the one I should hold in my arms in October of the same year. I ask her or him to arrive neither late nor early, but only when she or he is ready. And above all, let her or him enjoy not being connected yet, except for the biological clock of her or his beautiful mother whom I love so much!
Are you always on time?
What is the worst delay you remember, the one that most has embarrassed you?
None, since I'm always on time! And if it is the others who are late, then I take advantage of this precious time that is offered to me to spend it with myself and I take this opportunity to thank them.
Is there a delay or an advance that has made it possible for you to avoid the worst?
When I was 10 years old, I crossed a railway track by bicycle even though the train had just passed and the barriers had not yet been lifted. Do you know this famous warning before railway crossings? "Be careful, a train can hide an arriving train in the opposite direction"! This train was probably only five seconds behind on its schedule. If it had been five seconds early, I wouldn't be here to talk about it today...! I think divine protection was riding beside me that day.
On the contrary, is there a delay or an advance that has helped you to experience the best?
An advance. I was able to assemble Grandes Sonneries before Tourbillons! Not very logical in a watchmaker's career, but it probably helped me live the best of my career in the most shortest time.
What was the longest day of your life?
I'd say the longest days. Both too long and too short since it was the last days beside my wife, too sick and suffering to be able to stay with us any longer...
Apart from a timepiece, what is the design that you consider the most timeless?
A cut diamond.
What is the longitude of your birthplace?
Latitude, 48.5141800. Longitude, -2.7658350
Name the personal item you would like to remove from time's control, so that it never degrades? Do not mention a watch, it would be too easy...!
Since 2017, my life has totally changed. From now on, I no longer have the same relationship to things as before. I will never again give them the value they had for me before.
Which type of time-consuming - time-eaters - do you most dread?
My computer. No matter how much it helps me, I still feel like I wasted my time with it!
And if it were possible to write time, what would you choose? A book, a proverb, a quote...?
Experiencing the present moment.
What is your first memory that refers to a duration? What kind of duration was it, positive or negative?
I was 12. The first solo flight of my model glider, from a cliff over the sea in Bretagne. It was very long because I was so focused and so afraid that he could fall overboard. It was also short so much it was pleasant to fly in company of seagulls. At the time it took months to assembly such a small-scale model. So we used to get attached to it before we even made them fly.
What are your moments that should never stop?
The specific moment I lie down in bed at night. I take this opportunity to thank the Universe for the place where I was born. Place that provides me the protection of a roof with the comfort of a real bed.
If you ever cry, since which moment did you think you could never stop?
When my wife passed away. But to those who will one day have to mourn the loss of a beloved one, I can guarantee that Life is stronger than everything and that they will rise again as I did. And as all our ancestors have done before us.
What difference do you make between time and eternity?
Time is running out while eternity has no time limit.
Your first watch?
I got it from my grandmother. It was a small mechanical watch from Kelton. I still have it and it still works even if I slightly customized it when I was 16...
If you own several watches, what roles do they play in your life?
I no longer own watches except mine which I use to give the time and to put a smile on the face of those who discover it for the first time. I know today that the only mission of my life is to create watches for others.
The watch that you would dream of getting the most?
The dream of my life? A John Harrison watch... Any John Harrison watch! Because I know that he has achieved them for the only purpose of advancing the world and not to enrich himself personally, even if it was well deserved.
Which model of your brand are you most proud of? For what reasons? What is its relationship to time, in a few words...
Upside Down because it makes you smile and because it reminds you of the current moment through its reading of time. Living in the moment is really the most important thing.
If you had to stick an object in the ground - like a time dial - to know what time you live, what would it be?
A fishing rod stuck in the sand. It is the only thing I know of that I could contemplate for hours and hours without even touching it, watching its shadow move on the sand...
For more information, please visit: https://ballouard.com