Jean-Pierre Jaquet grew up in a small village on Lake Gruyère, tending cattle in the summer and attending school only in the winter. He came from "gypsies" according to a news report, but built himself a career as a micromechanist in Lausanne and became a dealer in antiques.
Jaquet worked for a time as sales manager for Aubry Fréres in the 1980s before developing a business buying and selling antique watches. He was known locally as "The Pharaoh" for his stern and cold demeanor. Jaquet was frequently accused of criminality. He and a friend were reportedly convicted of theft in France but acquitted in Switzerland. He was also sentenced to 20 months imprisonment in 1983 for stealing and again to 18 months in 1990. He had also been accused of passing counterfeit watches, but usually avoided charges, claiming that he had unknowingly received the fakes. It was also claimed that he traded a fake luxury watch for a car in the 2000s.
As the demand for complicated watches and highly-finished movements intensified, Jaquet started Jaquet-Baume SA in La Chaux-de-Fonds. A supplier to many well-known Swiss brands, especially Franck Muller and Girard-Perregaux, Jaquet found success in this competitive space.
In 1995, Jaquet went into business with Eric Loth, Pierre-André Finazzi, and Ernst Thomke, a famous name in the watch world who was formerly head of SMH and is considered one of the fathers of the Swatch. Les Monts SA sought to revive the famous British watch brands, an effort reflected in the 2001 renaming of the company as The British Masters. They re-launched the Graham and Arnold & Son brands in 1998, with Jaquet handling much of the production for these brands.
After the arrest, which did not implicate the companies, Jaquet SA was renamed La Joux-Perret and Jean-Pierre Jaquet was bought out of that company and The British Masters.
"The Jaquet Affair"
Jaquet is alleged to have worked with at least 12 people, including a manager at Miranda and an employee of Ulysse Nardin, to produce counterfeit Rolex watches. He was arrested for robbery, receiving stolen goods, and counterfeiting of merchandise, all linked to a January, 2002 theft of gold Rolex watch cases from Miranda.
Called "The Jaquet Affair" and "The Ulysses Affair" by Swiss newspapers, the arrest resulted in a 2008 sentence for Jaquet and two others to 4.5 years in prison. Jaquet was also ordered to pay SFr 750,000 ($643,940) in restitution by the court. Nicolas G. Hayek, President of Swatch Group, famously said that the counterfeiting case was like "Cardinals attacking the Vatican Bank," adding "we fight counterfeiting and corruption every day, and now that."
It is unknown how many counterfeit watches were produced by Jaquet or exactly which brands, other than Rolex, were targeted, though Franck Muller was frequently mentioned, and Richemont and Cartier were involved in the trial. The group apparently "cloned" gold watches using correct components from prominent case and dial manufacturers and movements from less-expensive steel models. Some of these components may have been purchased as replacement parts, but at least two robberies are known to be connected.
The scheme began to unravel in 2002 when a Bosnian man was arrested in connection to the theft of CHF 500,000 worth of gold Rolex cases that had been sent for polishing to Miranda in La Chaux-de-Fonds. It consisted of 1,000 Rolex cases and was stolen from the transporter in front of the building. The owner, José Miranda, was later arrested for the crime. On June 6 of that year, two employees of RSM in Le Locle reportedly robbed the company manager at gunpoint, stealing 10 Kg of gold, the latest in a series of thefts from the company. Then, a March 19, 2003 Antiquorum auction in New York included an as-yet unreleased Ulysse Nardin model that had been stolen, along with 20 other pieces, from the company. A company employee was arrested on July 8. This was known at the time as "the Ulysse Affair".
All of these cases were connected to Jaquet, who had run an antique watch business prior to founding his company. He had previously been implicated in passing counterfeit watches but had usually escaped prosecution by claiming that they were simply trades or commission sales. Yet he had been convicted on two occasions, and it was hard to ignore Jaquet's involvement when other pieces from the Ulysse Nardin theft turned up in the possession of Jaquet's associates.
The Swiss police had become suspicious of Jaquet and tapped his phone in 2002. At this time he had numerous run-ins with criminals, including an assault by the RSM robbers on April 1, shots fired through the window of his office at Jaquet SA, and other attempted assaults or kidnappings, and threats against his family. Jaquet was reported to have begun carrying a pistol to defend himself and said to have held one of the robbers in his home using it. It is now thought that these were extortion attempts by former co-conspirators.
On October 7, 2003, Jaquet was arrested and the offices of Jaquet SA closed and searched for two days. A number of warrants were issued for other suspects, with a dozen people reported to be in custody that week, many of whom confessed to the crime. Police reportedly found counterfeit "clone" Franck Muller watches in Jaquet's house, complete with blank paperwork, and fictitious invoices for the movements in the name of the company. He also claimed to have received counterfeit de Grisogno watches from Russians at the Basel Fair but was thought to have created these himself. He is also said to have melted gold for use in watch cases in the basement of his home.
Jaquet was tried and convicted on November 3, 2008. He was sentenced to 4.5 years imprisonment and ordered to pay CHF 750,000 in restitution. 14 other co-defendants were also convicted and sentenced to 3.5 to 9 years imprisonment.
It is thought that the threat by Swatch Group's ETA to stop supplying movements to companies like Jaquet's might have served as an impetus for the crimes. Jaquet had filed suit against Swatch in 2002 over this, and might have seen the large Swiss watchmakers as his enemies. Another possibility is that the restriction may have been caused by suspicions by Swatch executives that companies like Jaquet's were involved in forgery using these movements. Swatch President Nicolas G. Hayek said at the time that they had "found clear indications that movements in counterfeit watches came from Jaquet SA." Yet the company was never implicated, and had taken measures to ensure that they were not involved in counterfeiting.