The beginning

In 1985, watchmakers Svend Andersen from Geneva, and Vincent Calabrese, who worked in Lausanne, established a community of independent watchmakers. They were driven by a desire to preserve the traditions of watchmaking and understanding of the danger that independent watchmakers, the guardians of these traditions, could disappear as individuals in big brands and corporations. To resist the current negative situation, it became necessary to advertise the activities of independent watchmakers, as well as to support their discoveries, inventions, and creative approach to the development of watchmaking art.

The first exhibition

The history of this community began a year earlier when Andersen and Calabrese sent out a request to publish their “Appeal to all Artists and Craftsmen of Watchmaking” to the editorial offices of specialized watchmaking journals all around the world with a proposal to organize collective exhibitions of independent watchmakers, where the public could get to know the creators and familiarize itself with the watches these masters created. Some editorial offices answered to this request, followed by responses from watchmakers, and in the summer of 1985 the first exhibition was organized. It was called Académie des créateurs indépendants de l’horlogère, was held in the watch museum in Le Locle. Andersen and Calabrese were accompanied by watchmakers Giovanni Pozzi, Charles Hirschy, Kurt Schaffo, Joseph Snétivy and the company La Montre Extra Plate, specializing on the ultra-thin watches from the Vallee de Joux. The watchmaking industry and the public showed keen interest in the exhibition.  Therefore, the idea of ​​collective exhibitions was considered as a success. The AHCI Academy (Académie horlogère des créateurs indépendants) became stronger and received its unique name in 1987, when organized its first stand at the leading event in the international watching industry the exhibition  European Watch, Clock and Jewelery Fair Basel-87 (hereinafter known as Baselworld).  Then 12 watchmakers of six nationalities joined the Academy including founders themselves, and from this turning point and afterwards the AHCI members were Bernhard Lederer, Gerhard Weigmann and Klaus Erbrich from Germany, Georges Daniels from Great Britain,  Peter Wibmer from Austria, Christophe Claret and Michel Laugerotte from France, and Franck Muller and Dominique Renaud from Switzerland.

This and the numerous following exhibitions and events demonstrated the strengths of the independent watchmakers movement and the AHCI academy. Despite the average size of their business compared to big brands, they became a very influential news generator, and aroused genuine interest among exhibition visitors, people from all over the world who read the related publications, and experts. Crowds of watchmaking lovers always gathered at the AHCI stand, no matter what event and when, and what attracted them the most was the chance to meet the legendary watchmakers in person.


The Academy is widely regarded as a guardian of the best watchmaking traditions.  The Academy contributes to the career development of its members, as the very fact of accepting a watchmaker to AHCI is a recognition of quality, ingenuity and creativity – a kind of “AHCI test”. AHCI members have won 27 prizes at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, the most prestigious competition in the industry, including the 2010 Special Jury Prize for outstanding contribution to the development of haute horlogerie.

In recent years, when the interest in the market for previously worn timepieces has been rapidly growing, there has been a significant increase in quotations for watches created by independent watchmakers, AHCI academicians. For example, auction records are broken by Georges Daniels, Philippe Dufour, Vianney Halter, François-Paul Journe and their pieces. The watches exhibited by AHCI members or their brands during the Only Watch Charity Auction show excellent results. The contribution of the watches created for the last Only Watch 2021 by Svend Andersen, David Candaux, Kari Voutilainen (with De Bethune), François-Paul Journe, Konstantin Chaykin, Ludovic Ballouard and Felix Baumgartner, Urwerk, reaches the 6,760,000 CHF.

At the moment, the number of academy members is 34 academicians, 7 candidates and 18 former members of the Academy from 16 countries representing the cream of the cream of fine watchmaking.

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"The AHCI is instrumental in helping a new generation of independent watchmakers develop their own brands."

Vincent Calabrese