Year after year we make our way to two of the biggest watchmaking fairs in the world (Baselworld and Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, Geneva). Sure we love our LVMH’s, Rolex’s, Swatch Group’s and Richemont’s, but the one group we’ve always had a soft spot for are ‘Independent Watchmakers’. It’s a whole new world.
When you buy an independent watchmakers creation, you’re in one way investing in their personality; a personality that stems from the knowledge they possess in their careers as watchmakers or their years of service to the industry. Commonly referred to as ‘The Dark Side Of Watchmaking’, these watches appeal to a very niche group of enthusiasts. Starting from the movement of the watch to the parts to the case, they pretty much have the ability to design a watch the way they want to, with no limits to their creativity.
Earlier this year at Baselworld 2017, we caught up with some of these creative minds to understand what makes their watches so special and unique…in the words of the watchmakers themselves…
H. Moser & Cie – Venturer Small Seconds XL Purity
H. Moser & Cie makes another fabulous addition to a series of distinctive watches which return to the very basics of timekeeping. A striking colour just never fails to impress, and the cosmic green seen this year on the dial of the Venturer Small Seconds XL Purity is a stellar one. “We are very happy to introduce this watch here. It is in a hot green and that is one of the new colours. We are known for our fumé dials. We have added the cosmic green to the collection. You can expect more colours to come! Purple haze will be another hot one coming soon,” say Edouard and Bertrand Meylan, of H. Moser & Cie.
This green is audacious and is reminiscent of the jewel tones of the Northern Lights. The watch has a 43 mm diameter, the largest offered by H. Moser & Cie till date. It embodies the return to the essential, illustrating the minimalist philosophy that “Less is More” with a dial that has no logo and features only the 4 main indices. The fumé dial is the highlight here, and is a part of the elegant aesthetic of the brand. It is enhanced by the domed sapphire crystal and the bezel. As customary in haute horlogerie, and a tradition for H. Moser & Cie. watches since 1828, the company’s signature and hallmark appear on the movement side, a subtle reminder of its heritage.
At the heart, with a convex shape typical of the 1960s and a design inspired by historic H. Moser pocket watches, beats an HMC 327 hand-wound Manufacture calibre. Visible through the sapphire case-back, the movement has a power reserve of at least 3 days which is shown in an indicator on the reverse side of the watch. A raw kudu leather strap adds a rugged touch. The Venturer Small Seconds XL Purity Cosmic Green is available in a limited edition of 50 pieces.
HAUTLENCE – Playground Pinball
The question is – Do watches always have to tell time? HAUTLENCE clearly doesn’t seem to think so. Under the Playground collection, HAUTLENCE is having a lot of fun. With this mechanical wonder, the brand is literally stopping time.
“When we conceptualized the idea, there was a lot of talk about connected watches. We are connected all the time. At the end of the day what people are missing is time for themselves. Who says that we should necessarily have a watch on the wrist? The wrist is not anymore exclusive to watches today. We wanted to continue to pay tribute to the watch industry and the amazing mechanics. But, we wanted to take time to another level- that of no time! We wanted to play”, says CEO Sandro Reginelli.
Play they did…and the result is this fantastic work of art. In short, this is a bespoke mechanical game on the wrist. Moving the crown activates a clever mechanical lift, which feeds the ball onto the board using a camshaft system visible through the transparent backing. The titanium case is rectangular, going back to the brands’ roots.
The best part of the watch is the complex mechanics that governs the game. HAUTLENCE have used the minute repeater mechanism for this purpose. The operation of a game of pinball seems rather straightforward, but with the addition of two rotating elements on the dial, the game actually becomes a little challenging. This is the ultimate luxury product, made according to the most authentic watchmaking traditions.
Louis Moinet – Space Mystery
Louis Moinet stuns the watch world once again with an impressively detailed and exceptionally beautiful watch – ‘Space Mystery’. “The name space mystery, actually comes from a meteorite coming from the cosmos, but we don’t know from where. What we do know is there are amino acids within it, and these are possibly one of the first forms of life in the universe,” explains Jean-Marie Schaller, CEO and Creative Director.
The Louis Moinet Space Mystery benefits from this special material sourced from the depths of the cosmos. The magical hue, aptly called Magic Blue suits the dial. The exact composition of the colour remains a secret and it befits the watch, which also retains an alluring secretive aspect that only adds to its appeal. This watch is the first one in the world to contain fragments of this meteorite that can be seen from an aperture in the dial.
“It is a satellite tourbillon rotating around a central axis having a small planet as the rotating axis. We also have a little piece from the moon and a little piece from Mars!” says Schaller. Schaller explains that the watch comes in a limited edition of 8, as this number is the symbol of infinity. “We make watches in limited editions. We have had the chance of having some important collectors and politicians, and heads of states as our clients. Every time we create a new watch we want to do something that does not exist,” he says.
MB&F – Aquapod
MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser has infused awe and wonder in truly incredible creations. “This is the first time that I have created a horological machine that has not come from my childhood! This was generated because four years ago, when I was on a beach holiday with my wife, she was stung by a jellyfish. The next whole week, while swimming in the sea, we were always on the lookout for one! I then thought, why not do a mechanical jellyfish? With a jellyfish, there is a transparent dome and then tentacles. You’ve got the same thing here. There is a sapphire dome and this incredible flying tourbillon…and then there are the tentacles…the rotor made of titanium and platinum…It is the same story. The tentacles bring food to the jellyfish, and here, the rotor brings energy to the barrel which sends energy to the brain,” explains Büsser.
“We have deconstructed its watchmaking and constructed it into a kinetic art piece! So we have the ceramic diving bezel. Everyone just thinks it’s there to look good…but it actually works. Its floating around the whole core. If you are very courageous you can actually go diving with it…you can see that there is a triangle on the minutes, and another one as well which will help count the time that you have been in the water. To read the time, the spheres of concentric hours and minutes turn around. They are made from titanium and aluminum to be as light as possible” he concludes.
MCT – Dōdekal One
A tenth anniversary is special…and MCT marks it with the Dōdekal One – D110. It is the first mechanical watch featuring an innovative digital hour display at the centre of the dial. The inspirational roots go back to the 1970s electronic watches.
The Dōdekal One is driven by a new Manufacture movement, Calibre D1. The engineers of MCT Watches have used a complex set of cams and carriages to display the hours in the forms of segments in the dial centre, placing this model in a whole new dimension. The hours’ transition is effected by the translational motion of the segments over 2.5 seconds, offering a sight that’s truly magical, while the minutes are displayed by a flying hand. A regulating organ serves to enable optimal management of the energy required for these animations, while ensuring a 50-hour power reserve for the self-winding movement, driven by a gold micro-rotor.
The case of the Dōdekal is cushion-shaped, measuring 43mm along its sides and distinguished by finely crafted lugs shaped like twisted leaves. The watch is available in titanium or titanium black DLC and 5N pink gold, in a 25-piece limited series of each version.
Manufacture Royale – Manufacture Royale ADN
The sculptural aesthetic of the Manufacture Royale ADN combines with technical prowess in a watch that is both functional, different and very good-looking. “This year we are back to our roots and we have launched a new masterpiece called the ADN which has taken the DNA of the brand: flexible lugs, flying tourbillon, independent second time zone and a unique creative way of displaying time. It shows our creativity in mastering movement development,” explained David Gouten, CEO, Manufacture Royale.
“We also have a unique way of displaying the jumping hour. It is actually a jumping disk for the hours. The watch is intuitively very easy to read,” says Gouten. At its heart, the calibre MR09 is the ninth one to be created by the watchmaker. This splendid mechanism regulated by a flying tourbillon displays two time zones like never before. Each may be independently set right to the minute while the local time is indicated by an original patented jumping-hour system.
By removing all unnecessary components, Manufacture Royale enhances the structure of the movement in a highly technical manner playing on transparency and volumes on the skeletonized dial. On the back of the watch, the sapphire crystal closed by 4 screws highlights the movement. Everything is perfectly finished. Hand-chamfering, circular-graining, brushed polishing or hooping highlight the attention to detail.
The ADN has a very strong identity. The dynamic forms, three-dimensional architecture and strength of design highlight a singular character. Its sculptural aesthetic is animated by a perfect mechanism, reinterpreting the art of ‘skeleton’ movements in a resolutely contemporary vision.
“We have three variations, and they are all limited to 28 pieces. Why 28? We have been asked over the years to produce limited editions. 28 is the number of years that our founder was exiled from France! We have a steel version. We have a beautiful contrast between rose gold and forge carbon. We also have a super hot black DLC with forge carbon and red sapphire crystal back,” says Gouten. The Manufacture Royale ADN is the ultimate travel companion – both aesthetic and technical, and a masterpiece in its own right.
RJ-Romain Jerome – Deep Blue Octopus
RJ-Romain Jerome translates the aesthetic features of an Octopus into a spectacular steampunk-like timepiece. Found in the depths of the ocean, the octopus is often portrayed as a sea monster in stories. These qualities and attributes held in folklore inform the aesthetics.
Deep Blue Octopus incorporates all the characteristics and aesthetical features of the animal with meticulous care devoted to each detail. It sports an all-black stealth look to echo the darkness of the ocean. The 47mm case with all elements in black PVD-coated steel, reproduces the bilateral symmetry typical of the octopus, with the two crowns at 3 and 9 o’clock. The new model is equipped with an exclusive internal unidirectional rotating sapphire bezel featuring engraved five-minute graduation and a luminescent time indicator at 12h, which is activated by the 3 o’clock crown for the elapsed time controller while the 9 o’clock crown sets the time.
The cephalopod sits at the centre of the dial and can be seen from all angles, hiding on the case back or on the 3 o’clock crown. The inside of the integrated black vulcanized rubber strap has a suction cup like pattern; just like an octopus’ leg. The timepiece has also been built around the number eight to recall the 8 legs of the Octopus: there are 8 head screws on the case, 8 screws holding the case back as well as 8 rivets on each crown. And finally, the Deep Blue Octopus is water resistant to 888 feet. Talk about consistency!
The dial, like the ocean floor, is textured thanks to the reproduction of a sea urchin skeleton. The plate has been machined-worked and rhodium-coated for more resistance and brilliance then covered with a transparent blue resin to mimic the blue colour of the ocean. With his ability to hide at night, the octopus disappears to let the luminescence shine through the inserts in the sea urchin cavities which have been individually hand-filled. The black PVD-coated steel notched bezel contains oxidized and stabilized steel from the Titanic, another maritime giant.
“We produce very limited and exclusive editions. We produce to under match demand, to create desirability and value,” explains Manuel Emch, CEO of RJ-Romain Jerome.