" Une femme montre plus promptement son cul que son coeur." Honoré de Balzac
Heritage & Savoir-faire

Interview of Nathalie Mathilde Jean Louis: Her curriculum

Le 4 January 2015
Malik "Pifpaf" Bahri
Nathalie (1)
  • Hello everyone, this the Interview of Nathalie Mathilde Jean Louis,


Malik Bahri: Hi Nathalie, could you briefly introduce yourself?

NMJL: Nathalie-Mathilde Jean-Louis, French-Swiss, 35 years old, artist specialized in beveling.

MB: How do you feel about this specialty?

NMJL: It is a lifestyle! For that matter, it is the name of my decoration company, VidaYhado, “life and destiny” in English.

MB: Did you choose to specialize in watchmaking?

NBJL: Not initially, I thought I could make a living with my art; my Swiss grand-mother had advised me against a career in watchmaking, she had experienced the Quartz crisis…
I have always had good abilities at drawing and a taste for arts; I got into an art-school and graduated in 2000.Then I tried to make a living with my art.

Nathalie Mathilde Jean LouisNathalie Mathilde Jean Louis

MB: When did you start in the watchmaking industry?

NMJL: In 2004, I responded to a job opening from Piaget at La Côte-aux-fées, they were recruiting people to do finishes, which required some handwork abilities.
I joined Piaget eagerly, but soon after, this enthusiasm dampened; I started at the bottom: I had to feed a CNC which performed circular graining on their entry-level movement’s plates; Feeding a machine-tool wasn’t a fulfilling occupation.

I nonetheless remained very serious and involved in my job. After a few months, I asked my boss for a promotion, which he granted. That is the cool side of the Swiss professional field; it is really based on meritocracy.

I subsequently rose in the Piaget decoration workshop, but that is not when I experienced the Revelation: I mainly worked with electric tools, did finishes with rubber micro-machines …

MB: The Revelation came later?

NMJL: Indeed, in 2007 I responded to a job offer from a barely known house: Greubel Forsey.

Severine Vitali took me under her wing (The GF decoration workshop’s manager) and it has been an enormous leap in terms of qualifications. Severine transmitted more than competences: she gave me the passion.

you create your own motivation.

In my previous jobs, I used to work mainly with machines; but in the Greubel Forsey decoration workshop, I learned the traditional hand work. The standards were very high, and many of my colleagues cracked under an extreme pressure in terms of quality, while I thrived in this environment. One has to admit that, at this level, we are talking about craftsmanship;

I especially enjoyed this apprenticeship at GF because I don’t like to work under the pressure of quantity based quotas. At GF, it was the opposite: the priority was an extreme level of quality with no consideration whatsoever for productivity. This means spending months to perfect one’s techniques before starting to consider the number of components produced.

It is in this decoration workshop that I learned the beveling techniques, notably file-made inside angles. I even developed a new technique of surface polishing, with a finish more black than mirror.

Nathalie Mathilde Jean LouisNathalie Mathilde Jean Louis

MB: Why have you launched VidaYhado?

NMJL: In 2011, I craved freedom and I thought I had seen all of Greubel Forsey; I wished to perfect my craftsmanship in a different environment, but remaining an employee wouldn’t have helped. So I asked Severine if I could go on working with GF as an independent.
She agreed, and since starting a company is quite easy in Switzerland, I soon became an external provider. My business thrived during the first few months, until GF stopped sending me orders. I had a hard time during a quarter. Then I received orders from another house from La Chaux de Fonds, and my business took off again, until today.

MB: Do you work a lot?

NMJL: About 200-250h/month, this sounds like a lot; but it’s nothing when one works with passion.
If entrepreneurship is a personal risk, it is also truly fulfilling in terms of self confidence, as much as of motivation.
As my customers start new projects frequently, I am never weary. When you are independent, money is not really a priority: the most important is that every day is an adventure and, as such, demands increased personal involvement, accuracy and skills, which keeps up your spirits better than any comfortable salaried positions…

MB: So, being an independent is more rewarding?

NMJL: It is more than rewarding, it is a way to do myself justice, and I loathe injustice, which is very common in the watchmaking history …

MB: But in the world of watchmaking, the code of silence works both ways, doesn’t it?

NMJL: Indeed, but this code mostly benefited watchmaking brands. Quiet craftsmen took their secrets to the grave, that’s it…

MB: Do you share your savoir-faire?

MNJL: I am very confident; I don’t mind disclosing my techniques. Sharing is not a problem, there are no patents in decoration, and you don’t master a technique just because you know it.
Moreover, my expertise is based on my creativity: inventiveness cannot be taught.

Nathalie Mathilde Jean Louis

MB: In future topics, will you talk about some of your techniques? My goal is to educate watch-lovers on the internet.

NMJL: I would be happy to do so; I hope that watchmaking houses will also read the articles.

MB: What do you mean?

NMJL: I mean that the watchmaking industry’s lack of knowledge of the finishing techniques as well as of the finishes themselves is regrettable; the level of quality is usually rather low and doesn’t really justify the watches final prices …

MB: I understand that you just started a new project in jewelry?

NMJL: Indeed, I want to take advantage of my savoir-faire in watchmaking to create jewelry pieces; my goal is to associate the excellence of my finishes with prices I deem affordable, in order to demonstrate that good-workmanship is not only a matter of money.
The first work will be a unique piece, a pendant necklace at about 10000CHF.

MB: Thank you Nathalie, next time we meet, you will present us your craft in details?

NMJL: Absolutely. Thank you, see you soon

  • See u soon dear friends.