Paul Haggis Receives Millions From Bovet Watches for Haiti Help

 Courtesy of Bovet Fleurier SA

Bovet 1822, a Swiss maker of luxury timepieces, has announced a major five-year charitable commitment to Paul Haggis' charity Artists for Peace and Justice, totaling a global minimum of $4.5 million.

Haggis, who was drawn to Haiti's plight in 2008, started Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) after seeing how "cruelly Haiti has been used." Haggis tells The Hollywood Reporter, "Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere and it is just an hour and a half off our shores. America and France are responsible for the level of poverty there now." But Haggis, who set out to build schools and partner with existing schools, was very clear that his nonprofit take a collaborative approach. "We wanted to start with the poorest but we don't want to be neocolonialists and "fix" someone's situation. It all starts with providing education and giving people a shot to do it themselves."

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The director (Crash, Third Person) worked to build a free high school with Rick Frechette, a locally-based priest and doctor, starting with seventh grade, with the idea of adding a grade per year. 400 kids turned up the first year, nearly four times the expected 120 per grade, so APJ found themselves tripling the size of the school, which currently has 2,200 students across grades 7-11, and will expand to grades 7-13 with 3,000 kids within the next two years.

Pascal Raffy, who bought the Bovet watch company in 2001, met Haggis through Daya Fernandez at the Hollywood Domino party in 2012. The passionate Raffy, who speaks of his Bovet employees as his family and children, was drawn immediately to Haggis' sincerity and the transparent authenticity of the nonprofit.

Raffy says, "Paul Haggis looks you in the eye. I don't think he would have needed in his life, with all the things he has achieved, just to put his name on any cause. He is sharing the pain of human beings and helping children who have never done anything to anybody." For a time, Bovet sponsored on an event-by-event basis, but at the end of 2013, made a full commitment, joining Brioni and Vhernier as sponsors of APJ. Bovet, whose watches have been worn by pro tennis player David Ferrer, is known for its convertible Amadeo case, which transforms the wristwatch into a pocket watch or table watch. New pieces for 2014 include the Virtuoso III, the Sergio designed with Pininfarina and the Recital 11 ladies timepiece.

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Bovet also sponsors a cause for children in Spain, founded by Vicente del Bosque, the former soccer player. However, Raffy muses, "Bovet is in 43 countries, but it is not about a marketing game. You can take $1.7 million (the amount Bovet raised for APJ in 2013) and put it into six regions, but that is not efficient. Children everywhere matter; it's about maximizing what can happen in one place. If everyone gave with modesty and humility what APJ is doing for the children of Haiti, all over, Earth would do much better."

Syl Tang tracks trends and runs HipGuide Inc. She can be reached at ceo@hipguide.com.

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