Nicolas Tranchant is a jewelry maker who traded France for Puerto Vallarta nearly a decade ago and now presides over a flourishing custom jewelry business in the city known as “The Jewel of Mexico’s Pacific Coast.”
Tranchant, 40, planned to be a career military officer in his native France, but an internship in Mexico while at university in 2003 changed his life’s trajectory.
“It was my first time abroad and a really great experience,” Tranchant told us. “I was alone and in charge of my own project and working with Mexican guys. I fell in love with Mexico.”
It would be nine years before he would return to Mexico and start a successful business in Puerto Vallarta.
Tranchant was born and raised in a small town several hours south of Paris, lodged between Orléans and Poiters. After high school graduation he moved east, close to the border with Switzerland, to attend the École Nationale Supérieure de Mécanique et des Microtechniques (ENSMM), a French engineering school. He graduated with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and then attended the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr, France’s foremost military academy with ambitions for a life in the military.
But the internship in Mexico fueled his desire to see the world, working first in Australia as a waiter to improve his English before moving on to the border town Reynosa, Mexico to work for a French company.
“I met my future wife in Reynosa in 2007, but after the one-year assignment was over, I headed south to Brazil to learn Portuguese,” he said. “One year later I asked her to join me in France and we were married four years later.”
Back in France, he worked for several French companies who supplied parts to aircraft-maker Airbus. His wife, Reyna, was a physician, but could not work because she did not have authorization to work in France.
“The idea of our jewelry business started in 2009,” Tranchant said. “I had been working a few hours a week on it and my wife was helping me. Our idea was to help her make some money because she couldn’t work as a doctor. She wasn’t very interested in doing it, but it became the idea behind opening my own business in Puerto Vallarta.”
The couple decided to return to Mexico in 2012 and look for a place to settle.
“When we decided to come back,” he said, “I didn’t want to go to a big city because I don’t like them. And I didn’t want to go to northern Mexico because it was too dangerous. Reyna knew Puerto Vallarta from when she was a teenager and I was looking for a place to surf, so we settled in Puerto Vallarta.”
Employment was not a problem for his wife and she quickly established a medical practice.
“She is known as Dra. Reyna Avlos and is well known by the expat community,” he said. “A lot of tourists come to her, also, especially those who speak French.”
Tranchant drew upon his interest and experience with jewelry in France and his access to resources within Mexico to start his own business nine years ago in Puerto Vallarta.
France is by far his largest market where he sells mainly custom- made jewelry for an average price of about 1,000 euros, which is nearly US$1,200.
“Because of the complexity of our custom-made jewelry, the average price is twice that of the other jewelry we sell,” he said. “We make lots of signet rings for men and a wide variety of other jewelry.”
Tranchant creates many of his own designs, but also works with other jewelry designers. He buys their designs and can then modify them to create new custom-made pieces.
The road to success has been bumpy for Tranchant, but his emphasis on quality and design, coupled with excellent personal customer service has differentiated his business.
“It’s been a struggle,” he said, “but I found a way to make it work. I provide very good, personal service. People don’t speak with a robot when they call us. They actually speak with the boss. It’s personalized attention.”
With both of their professional lives going well, the couple spends leisure time with their seven-year-old son at the beach, most of the time at their favorite strip of sand, Palmares Beach south of Puerto Vallarta.
“I don’t surf anymore but I like to paddleboard,” he said. “The most fun we have is watching our sun swim, run and play at the beach.”
Tranchant and his family live in a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home near the hotel zone in the northern part of the city, which they purchased a few years ago. His workshop is just several blocks away, but it is not open to the public, primarily for security reasons.
When they are not at the beach, Tranchant and his wife are devoted foodies. They believe their adopted hometown is one of the best cities in Mexico for dining out.
“There are lots of good chefs from Mexico, the U.S. and even some from France,” Tranchant said, “and their standards are very high. My wife learned to cook in France from my mother, so she really knows great food. She chooses the restaurants and we have never been disappointed. Because Vallarta is an international resort city, you also get a very wide variety of cuisines, not just Mexican food.”
Besides delectable dining, Tranchant loves the climate in Puerto Vallarta with its seemingly forever blue sky and warm sunshine, which makes beach-going a year-round pastime.
But it is the international mix of people from all over the world who both visit and live in Puerto Vallarta that appeals most to him.
“We have friends from the U.S., Argentina and many other countries. I like to talk with people from abroad because they all have very interesting points of view and experiences. I really like it. I can see now what I was missing in France. I needed to be with people from other places and that’s what I find here.”