There is a certain irony that 2017’s Revolution Watchmaker of the Year is, in fact, technically not a watchmaker. His résumé includes stints such as a military pilot, research engineer and university professor. However, few can deny that the direct impact of his technical contributions to the industry has been profound. The person in question is, of course, Guy Sémon, who’s been for almost 10 years at the very epicenter of TAG Heuer’s technical achievements, and who is now CEO of the new LVMH Science Institute and general director of TAG Heuer, expanding his sphere of influence to include Hublot and Zenith. Over the years, Sémon has primarily tackled improvements to existing challenges, such as enabling the production of TAG Heuer’s Monaco V4 belt-driven movement. The prototype had been presented in 2004, but it took Sémon’s expertise as an engineer to enable its transition from a concept to a watch that was ready for prime time. While we are very fond of the centuries of experience that watchmakers source their knowledge from, this can also prevent them from thinking outside the box to utilize techniques and technologies that they’re simply not familiar with. It’s this expertise, and a never-say-no attitude that has enabled Sémon to break new ground in the industry (really — at one time, Sémon had a jar in his office where anyone who said “no” or “it’s not possible” had to drop a few francs). For him, each new challenge is a puzzle that can be solved with a methodical approach, and he examines the fundamental reasons for its existence and inexorably deciphers its individual elements until a solution is found.
This year, we see Sémon and his team at the leading edge of horology again, as they take the wraps off an all-new development — the LVMH oscillator — which will initially animate the Zenith Defy Lab. The technical achievement cannot be understated, as it’s a true reinvention of the sprung balance, the basis of almost every single mechanical watch and clock since it was first presented in the late 1600s. The technical aspects are too lengthy for this tribute; suffice it to say, the implications, not only on the daily technical operation of a mechanical timepiece, but its very development and assembly, are far-reaching. Revolution salutes Guy Sémon not only for this fantastic achievement, but also for simply showing the watch industry that there’s much more innovation to be made in the machine with a heartbeat, if you’re willing to look for it.