This Indie Watchmaker Is Challenging Horology’s Most Venerable Players
Why Trilobe—and the man behind the independent French brand—are horology’s most exciting newcomers.
Gautier Massonneau is rather impressive. Founder of Trilobe, the 32 year old came to horology as a novice wanting to solve a problem. He had no formal training, figured he could work things out and use his maths background. “I was looking for my first watch. I wanted to have something really different yet super-classical. And my dream watch at the time was out of my league,” says Massonneau.
“And so I told myself, let’s dig on that. Try to do it yourself. You’re not that stupid, you should be able to think of something.”
Massonneau felt he could deliver something new—pieces that present and balance tradition and innovation. “I understood there was such a great story to tell of seeing time differently, of telling another story. So I quit my job, came back to France and I dove into it.”
That was a little over five years ago.
“The official commercial launch was then and it was absolutely perfect in terms of business planning because we had the yellow jacket [strikes] in France, and then two years of Covid. So perfect planning,” the youthful Massonneau offers with a smile. “But it’s Darwinism—it’s survival of the fittest, right? And I think you get stronger after these episodes.”
Recognition came early with the Nuit Fantastique (Dune Edition), defined by three rings—the largest for hours, the middle one for minutes and the smallest for seconds, and which rotate around a central point. The watch claimed a prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) Award and then took off—claiming other gongs. Then came last year’s bonkers Une Folle Journée — continuing to hold wonder in its new 2023 guises (diamonds included).
“You know with the first product, people were like, ‘Ah, that’s nice. Okay, what’s next? Is there going to be a next?’ And then you come with the second one, which is completely different. ‘Ah, interesting. Okay. What’s next?’ And now I think they’ve changed [their opinion a little] because we have brought these things and we know what we will be bringing in the next years, we are proving that we have the depth of creativity sufficient to build a proper house.”
Massonneau’s focus and verve has been built squarely on the fact he has created this path. He stuck to what he wanted and felt he could achieve (“many people said to change things—it can’t be done”) and he has delivered.
Again, without any training. “When you start with the way we do it, it’s actually a blank canvas. You can do whatever you want with the DNA, which is very strong. We had this first collection with the three rings. Second one, which is completely different again. And the third one, which is really the first collection but in 3D. And that’s what’s really cool because year after year we are proving that we are building a vision. We’re really building a French vision of horology.”
His vision, for now, eyes off the next two decades. “This is not a one-shot product, it’s a comprehensive collection. We have a 20-year vision. It will evolve, it will go sideways sometimes. But we know what we want to build.”
And we are excited to see all that comes from here.
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