Demetrio Cabiddu has been active in the field of haute horlogerie since the age of 15, beginning his career at Lémania (now Breguet), and he has worked with some of the greatest brands and personalities in the sector. Technical Director at Minerva from 2001, he remained in this post after Richemont's purchase of the company in 2007, and its subsequent association with Montblanc. Today, Montblanc Villeret, which incorporates the Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie, works in a beautiful headquarters, combining a lovingly-restored listed building with modern glass-clad structures that provide extra space. We were privileged to be able to talk to Maître Horloger Demetrio Cabiddu.
The Institut Minerva de Recherche en Haute Horlogerie is dedicated to maintaining traditional watchmaking craftsmanship. How do you reconcile this with the natural aspiration for constant innovation?
In actual fact, expertise and maintaining tradition are a real help for me. Following them me gives me a guideline that I try to follow as closely as possible, working with the sort of discipline that this implies. This is not detrimental to innovation, but rather it gives me the opportunity to prove that the opposite is true, in other words that creativity and tradition can work together in a brilliant alliance. After all, our predecessors were very creative, and it is up to us to follow their example.
At SIHH 2012, Montblanc presented the Régulateur Nautique, a unique combination of a wristwatch chronograph, a navigational clock, and a beautifully-engineered stand with gimbals that keep both units exactly horizontal even on a boat. The project is striking for the depth of nautical and navigational history incorporated into the two timepieces. Was it a concept that you had been thinking about for some time?
We had already developed the watch, but then idea of linking it to a navigational clock was suggested. In order to make the Régulateur Nautique a completely unified project, a power reserve indicator system was incorporated into the chronometer, based on the system that had already been created for the watch, with its respective patents.
Do you think there are other areas in which a similar approach could be applied, such as pilots' watches, or diving watches?
Certainly, these are things that we take into consideration; after all, our first chronographs were often made for aviation, and so it would be logical to operate in the same way in this field. However for the moment we have limited the operation to the nautical sector.
The second timepiece in the Régulateur Nautique project was built in cooperation with the Erwin Sattler manufacture. Is the technology used in this sort of clock so different from that used in the watch, or was the cooperation necessary because of the machinery needed for the larger size of components?
Erwin Sattler is a company that specializes in large dimensions that are not usual for us. Even though the basic functioning of the timepieces is analogous, building them requires different expertise and completely different machinery. This is another interesting aspect of this collaboration: bringing together two fields of expertise. At Montblanc Villeret, we have consciously limited our operations to the smallest scale, watches as opposed to clocks. This doesn't mean that it is easier!
To what degree is a timepiece such as those crafted by Montblanc Minerva the brainchild of an individual? Or is it very much a team effort?
Our products are always the result of a team effort, even though sometimes the idea may have been developed by just one of us. On the other hand, a single watchmaker assembles each watch, and has total responsibility for it from assembly right through to the end, when the final product is delivered.
Could you give us any ideas on what you think could be future directions for haute horlogerie?
Most brands are searching for innovative materials, or improvements from the point of view of profitability and performance. At Montblanc Villeret, we have chosen to focus on old methods of craftsmanship, developing them further with innovations that are in line with tradition, such as the Tourbillon Bi-cylindrique or the Chronographe Bi-Frequence 1.000. For this reason, I'm probably not the person best qualified to forecast the development of mass-produced watches. However, I am convinced that timepieces such as those that we create in Villeret have a promising future, because there will always be passionate people interested in this kind of product.
You began your career in haute horlogerie at a very young age. Could you tell us about how and why you chose this area in which to work?
I lived in a watchmaking area, and so my career followed these natural guidelines. Especially because my mother was employed at a watch company and often talked to me about her work. My career began when I was 15, but at that age I did not have very clear ideas about my future as a watchmaker. What mattered was to perform my work seriously and with perseverance. These are the qualities that every watchmaker should have.
We look forward to seeing the next horological masterpieces! Thank you, Mr. Cabiddu.