Last week, the Clarinet Department of Howarth of London had the pleasure of being invited to the Buffet Group Factory near Paris, to be given a tour and to meet the workforce that is so instrumental to this brand’s success.
The trip was led by Lyndon Chapman – Buffet Crampon Sales Manager UK, Ireland, Russia, Ukraine and Baltic States. Attending this visit from Howarth of London were: Olivia Wild – Clarinet Specialist / Social Media Manager, Matt Rogers – Clarinet Specialist, Paul Charman – Clarinet and Bassoon Repairer, Richard Stockall – Clarinet Repairer and Nigel Clark – Howarth of London Director
We met early on Monday morning at the Eurostar terminal of St Pancras International, topping up on coffee before the two hour journey; we arrived at Gare du Nord on time and were driven to the Buffet factory located in the quiet village of Mantes-la-Ville that was about a one hour drive from the centre of Paris. The Selmer factory is also situated 100 yards up the same street, however we did not have opportunity to visit them on this occasion.
When we arrived, we were taken to meet some familiar and unfamiliar faces! We were introduced to Giancarlo Isoldi – Director of Sales at Buffet Crampon, who spent time talking to us about our thoughts and experiences of the company before meeting a man, who for some of us had already met in June 2012 for the launch of the newest model of Buffet clarinet – The Divine. – Grégory Demailly. Grégory is the Woodwind Product Manager and gave us a very detailed tour of the Buffet Factory. Zouaouia Belabed, who deals with our stock orders also came to say hello! It was lovely to put names to faces after many emails flying between London and Paris on a daily basis.
We were lead around the factory by Gregory: we saw the processes that the wood is put through to make the body, boring the joints and forming the tone holes from the billets of wood. We then moved on to see the manufacturing of the keywork that is used on the many different lines of clarinet, this was a great opportunity to ask questions that have been on our minds for a long time; here is a YouTube video that gives you and insight into what we saw throughout the day.
Due to French working hours, we decided to continue the remainder of the tour the next day so that we could see the final part of the process put into action. We were then taken to our hotel that was about 15 minutes away from the factory. Le Domaine de la Corniche is in a beautiful location, sitting above the River Seine and overlooking the landscape ahead; the hotel is split into 3 buildings that previously belonged to a King of Belgium, we stayed in the second building – La Jeannette. There is some extensive history to this hotel that you can find here.
The restaurant in the hotel sat over these panoramic views overlooking the Seine, making dinner and breakfast spectacular.
On the second day of the visit to the factory, we saw the assembly of the keywork and the finishing processes that are carried out to finalise the instrument. Richard and the rest of the Howarth team had many questions about the various Buffet methods and explained how that affects our day to day use of them in the shop in London and the rest of the UK. We saw the testing/tuning process and some hidden secrets about the set up of the instruments too!
To conclude our visit, we had lunch with Giancarlo to reflect on our observations over the past two days, as you can imagine this was very in depth and had to be cut short as we had to make our way off to Paris to catch the Eurostar back to London.
It was a fascinating two days that gave us an even better insight into Buffet instruments here at Howarth of London. When we receive instruments from the factory we spend time going through each of them, checking that they have not been affected in transit by movement or climate. This visit has enhanced our specialist knowledge and we will continue to provide expertise to our customers.