Piguet & Meylan

The history

Philippe-Samuel Meylan – one of the most notable watchmakers of the early 19th century, was born in Le Brassus on 15 February 1772 and died in Geneva on 3 April 1845. His father, Henri, was a locksmith of genius and Philippe-Samuel was even more brilliant in his own sphere.

His activities covered everything related to precision engineering: his watches were unique of their kind and his automata were as good as anything produced by the great Jaquet Droz.

For example, he made ultra-thin watches, successfully built a watch into an old twenty-franc coin. This feat was made possible by another invention of his, the so-called ‘bagnolet’, a new form of movement which reversed the traditional layout of the gear-train.

He created a large number of skeleton watches. He was the first to build chiming watches using spring chimes rather than bells and he even invented an alarm ring.

In 1811, together with Isaac Piguet, he founded Piguet & Meylan in Geneva which was, until 1828 when the two associates separated, one of the largest companies in the city. Before that, in le Brassus, he had worked with another Piguet, Charles-Auguste. He it was who founded Louis Audemars, later renamed into Audemars Piguet. This company still exists. In 2014 Audemars Piguet was valued at 728 million Swiss francs, which put it on the tenth place in the rating of Swiss watch manufacturers’ brands.

Isaac Daniel Piguet was born in 1775. He worked with his brother-in-law Henry Daniel Сapt (Piguet & Capt), before entering into a partnership with Meylan. Isaac Daniel was married, had three children, but only one of them - David Auguste - became a watchmaker. After completing the work with Meylan, Isaac Daniel Piguet worked in Geneva with his son David Auguste until his death on January 20, 1841.

In Geneva, Piguet & Meylan specialized in high class musical and novelty watches incorporating tiny automata, decorated in the style typical of Geneva; the two associates were masters of this and produced so-called ‘Chinese’ watches, that is, in the main, models in gold, enameled and set with pearls, destined for the Chinese market.

Philippe-Samuel Meylan ‘s son, François (1800-1882), continued the work of his father, while his second son, Hector, tried his hand at painting. Next generations in the family had no relation to watchmaking anymore.


Exhibits in the Museum Collection