Jämes-César Pellaton

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Jämes-César Pellaton (1873-1954) was an influential watchmaker who followed in his father's footsteps to become master of the tourbillon in the first half of the 20th century. His brother was the founder of the Martel Watch Co.

Early Life

Jämes-César Pellaton was born on December 24, 1873 in Croix des Côtes. After leaving school, he apprenticed with his father, Albert Pellaton-Favre (1832-1914) as a watchmaker. This would become the foundation for his career, as the elder Pellaton was widely noted as a master of chronometry, including the construction of tourbillon escapements, which were quite rare.

All of the Pellaton sone (8 of 12 children) were gifted watchmakers, with many forming their own watchmaking companies around the turn of the century. Among these, Jämes' brother Georges (1865-1950) was the most successful, developing an advanced repeater mechanism for Le Phare before founding the Martel Watch Co. in 1914.

Jämes Pellaton's first experience as a watchmaker began in November of 1898 at the famed chronometer company, Ulysse Nardin of Le Locle. The specialized in detent escapements, which his father had also worked on. Pellaton's work for Ulysse Nardin, though short, left a lasting legacy and was recalled in 21st century pieces by the brand. But Pellaton was not to remain in industry.

Le Locle Watchmaking School

On July 29, 1903, Jämes Pellaton began a 36-year career at the watchmaking school in Le Locle. He began as master of escapements before becoming the professor of watchmaking theory by 1908. While teaching, Pellaton continued his father's work on the development of tourbillon escapements, with the assistance of many of the most gifted watchmaking students. He submitted one such movement to the Neuchâtel Observatory in 1909, which won a first prize even as a second was being constructed. These were exhibited at the National Exhibition in Bern in 1914 as well. In all, Jämes-César Pellaton and his students produced 23 tourbillons during his tenure. He gained fame in 1926 for one such movement, the smallest ever produced at just 10.5 ligne.

Jämes-César Pellaton's 1921 book on the theory of escapements became required reading for all watchmaking schools in Switzerland and many in France, Germany, and beyond. Only the nearby La Chaux-de-Fonds school rejected it, favoring the work of their own professor Paul Berner.

He had been promoted to deputy director in 1918 and became director of the school in 1929, replacing P. Defossez. Although this administrative role took him away from teaching he would retain this position through 1939.

In his free time, Pellaton created specialty tourbillons for some of the best-known watchmakers of the time, including 35 for Patek Philippe and more for Girard-Perregaux. He also developed movements for Ulysse Nardin and Zenith in Le Locle. He continued this work for private clients even after retirement in 1939, building tourbillons, Benoît escapements, and detent escapements.

Pellaton was widely decorated for his work, being named honorary member of the Union of Watchmakers of Finland in 1937 and receiving the Order of the White Rose from the Society of Finnish Watchmakers. He also received a Schwender gold medal, from the Swedish Watchmakers' Congress in 1948. He was made honorary doctor of the University of Neuchâtel on November 12, 1938, the centenary of the institution. He was also appointed honorary member of the Swiss Chronometry Society in 1942 in recognition of his contributions to the science of watchmaking and this was followed by a prize for "exceptional artistic work".


Jämes-Cesar Pellaton married Laure Amélie Othenin-Girard on June 15 1899. The couple had three children, Marguerite Pellaton, Jeanne-Renée Guye-Pellaton (married married Samuel Guye on August 28 1925), and Wilfred Pellaton (married Feuz). Albert Pellaton, later technical director at IWC, is also said to have been his descendant.

Jämes-César Pellaton died in Le Locle on January 11, 1954 at the age of 81.

  • Jämes-César Pellaton married (June 15, 1899) Laure Amélie Othenin-Girard
    • Marguerite Pellaton
    • Jeanne-Renée Pellaton married (August 28 1925) Samuel Guye-Pellaton
      • Jean-Jacques Guye-Pellaton
      • Reymond Guye-Pellaton
    • Wilfred Pellaton married ? Feuz
      • Jean-Pierre Pellaton-Feuz
      • Janine Pellaton-Feuz

See Also

External Links