In January 2016 the SIHH will have a facelift. In addition to revamped surroundings and the departure of Ralph Lauren, who is returning to his native USA, the main new feature of the Salon will be the inauguration of ‘Watchmakers’ Square’. This fair-within-a-fair will welcome nine Haute Horlogerie mavericks, nine fiercely independent watchmakers – all different, all determined, all dedicated – who have succeeded in leaving their mark on the watchmaking world map with their own very individual concepts of the art of timekeeping.
From futurist iconoclast to austere classicist, each of these nine ‘missionaries’ in their own way has broken away – aesthetically and stylistically, technologically and mechanically – but they have also broken with the prevailing doctrines, the dominant trends. And that takes extraordinary courage and self-belief.
Every one of them has followed their own particular route to independence of thought and financial autonomy. They include the pioneers of a new kind of watchmaking, such as Max Büsser who, with the 2001 launch of the Harry Winston Opus, celebrated the successful partnership of the Haute Horlogerie establishment with the creative spirit of the independents, before going on to found MB&F. The same period saw the gradual emergence of a watchmaking ethos that, while respecting the highest canons of the mechanical art, began to depart radically from the traditional shapes and classic displays, giving rise to the extraordinary timepieces of Urwerk and the stylistic perfection of De Bethune, which virtuosically combines references to the great horological traditions of the 18th century with unrivalled performance, architecture and finishes. Then there are the spectacular kinetic sculptures of Hautlence and the astonishing hydraulics of HYT, which has rewritten the rules of time display. Christophe Claret illustrates yet another trajectory; after deploying his talents and skills on behalf of some of the most high-profile brands, he is now spearheading a fresh and playful but still noble approach to watchmaking. And while this feisty band of agitators was plotting to overthrow the status quo, others were also swimming against the tide, but this time staking their future on the perennial allure of high watchmaking style and consummate craftsmanship, then threatened with extinction. Kari Voutilainen, from the misty North, is on a quest for horological perfection, while Laurent Ferrier, on the strength of many years spent behind the benches of other companies, is seeking the essence of classical design. And then there’s H. Moser & Cie, whose sights are firmly trained on achieving the greatest possible technical and aesthetic purity. Which is also, given the general climate, something of a radical break in itself.
- HM6 RT ‘Space Pirate’ by MB&F
- Three-dimensional horological engine developed exclusively for HM6 by MB&F with David Candaux Horlogerie Créative. Flying Tourbillon with retractable shield. Light blue platinum 950 battle-axe automatic winding rotor. Twin aluminium turbines driven by winding rotor. Power reserve: 72 hours. Limited edition of 18 pieces.
When, ten years ago, Max Büsser launched MB&F – which stands for Maximilian Büsser & Friends – everyone thought he was off his rocker. Haute Horlogerie has no place for ‘Friends’, they said. It’s not a holiday camp – watchmaking is a serious business. But they are now eating their words, because MB&F has convincingly demonstrated that, even in Haute Horlogerie, it’s possible to keep that childlike soul while taking its interpretation very seriously indeed. With its fusées, satellites, spaceships, bodywork and… frogs, MB&F’s designs recognise no limits or taboos. The launch of each new ‘machine’ is a major event, and opens up new avenues to explore.
But MB&F’s eminently playful watchmaking style does not detract from the extreme competence of the ‘friends’ who develop the inventive insides and the lovingly fashioned bodywork of the futuristic timepieces that emerge from the imagination of Max Büsser and are refined by his colleague – and friend – designer Eric Giroud.
When he brought out the ‘classical’ Legacy Machine, even Max Büsser’s closest allies were tempted to believe he had completely lost the plot. With its balance proudly displayed under a domed crystal, this radical reinterpretation of classical watchmaking showed beyond all doubt that the future is created by those who are intimately familiar with the past. (PM)
The HM6 represents a double rupture. First, a rupture vs. conventional watchmaking – because like all of our Horological Machines, we turn the normal development process on its head. Rather than starting with a movement and the related technical aspects, we start with a blank sheet of paper and an idea – in most cases, a powerful, emotional memory from our childhood. In the case of HM6, a Japanese anime TV series from my childhood: Capitaine Flam (Captain Future in English). Capitaine Flam had a spaceship called the Comet that consisted of two spheres joined by a connecting tube. I imagined combining two such craft and the seeds of the HM6 Space Pirate were planted.
The second rupture is an internal one. Contrary to the bold lines of our previous Machines, HM6 follows more organic, curved lines – derived from the early 20th century art movement labelled ‘biomorphism’, in which art is modelled on the naturally occurring shapes and forms found in nature and living creatures. Biomorphic expressions can be found in the work of Matisse, Gaudi, Marc Newson or German industrial designer Luigi Colani.
Add HM6’s flying tourbillon with retractable ‘hyperspace’ shield, the spherical time displays, wear-minimising turbines and the 475-component automatic winding movement, and you get a very radical machine indeed.
- The UR-210 ’Full Metal Jacket’ by Urwerk
- Calibre: UR-7.10. Power reserve: 39 hours. Winding system: Self-winding coupled to turbines. Indications: Patented revolving satellite complication with wandering hour and three-dimensional retrograde minute hand; power reserve indicator; patented winding efficiency indicator. Super-LumiNova treatment on markers, dials, indexes, hands and satellites.
“When I wear an Urwerk, I think about Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei, who worked like Trojans to make the company a success. They put their blood, sweat and tears into it, and that really shines through,” says a fervent supporter of the brand. He is not alone. Founded in 1997, Urwerk is one of the most radical pioneers of the new watchmaking, and has revolutionised the way in which time is measured and displayed. Without ever abandoning the eternal quest of the watchmaker – the twin grails of precision and reliability – by working tirelessly and by adding some intelligence to their mechanics (their famous ‘control boards’, the optical sensor in the EMC model), they have paved the way for ‘satellite time’, which is half analogue, half digital.
Their designs are both technically mind-blowing (retrograde hands, retractable hands, revolving cubes) and aesthetically breathtaking: their solid, vigorous watches are both angular and organic, drawing inspiration equally from science fiction and 17th-century suits of armour. The watchmaking rigour – one might even say severity – of Felix Baumgartner surprisingly complements the avant-garde artistic universe of Martin Frei, and together they have succeeded in producing something that is unique and uncompromisingly modern. Their UFOs have a soul, because these two men have poured their hearts into them. (PM)
In my eyes, the UR-210S is our most accomplished creation to date. This is my favourite child! It’s impossible to boil this creation down to one specific feature. It really is about a coherent whole formed by each of its elements – the movement, mechanisms, case and dial – as well as the bracelet. We should think of it as a single entity extending around the wearer’s wrist, encompassing it. It is a watch that lives on your wrist. It is dependent on you: you feed it with energy, you breathe life into it. I am very proud that the UR-210S now exists because I had to fight for it. It may well be true that investing time and energy into developing a completely new metal bracelet for a limited edition of just 35 pieces appears irrational, but fortunately at Urwerk passion usually prevails over reason, and what can I say, the UR-210 simply evokes passion.
- Poker by Christophe Claret
- Calibre: automatic-winding mechanical. Number of components: 655. Double barrels. Power reserve: 72 hours (approx.). Functions: hours and minutes. Two games: Texas Hold’em poker game and roulette wheel. Patented cathedral gong. 20-piece limited series.
Christophe Claret started out as a subcontractor, and his genius lies behind a fair few of the watchmaking innovations a number of brands brought out in the 1990s and 2000s, such as the use of sapphire in the movement, the orbital tourbillon and the 100% titanium movement. He launched his own brand at the height of the 2009-2010 crisis, which was nothing if not audacious, making Christophe Claret among the youngest of our breakaway brands.
Although he had to manage without the favourable winds enjoyed by some of his independent counterparts, who had broken away earlier, he is now able to follow his own inclinations and, finally, bask in the glory.
These inclinations have led to the Margot, which pioneered extreme complications for women’s watches, the Aventicum and its ‘mirascope’, and also the playful variations based around Poker, Blackjack and Baccara. Christophe Claret continues to mine his richest source of inspiration – childhood – while presenting it in an eminently grown-up package. (SM)
The Poker model features a complication never before attempted in watchmaking. Its complexity comes from the inclusion of a 52-card pack inside the watch, enabling the wearer to play a three-player game of Texas Hold’em against the bank, with up to 100,000 possible random combinations. We have also added a roulette wheel to the back of the watch.
I have always been motivated to produce watches that did not exist on the market, although this is the most difficult path to take, both technically and commercially. My idea for this piece came from the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, which were the backdrop to the 1929 crash. My thought was that, after we made it through the financial crisis that hit in 2009, we would have a few crazy years. It was in this spirit that I decided to create this timepiece. We’re still waiting for the crazy times, but you won’t get bored with this watch, and it does reflect a contemporary current.
- The DB28 by De Bethune
- Calibre DB 2115: mechanical hand-wound, self-regulating twin barrel, silicon/palladium balance wheel, balance spring with flat terminal curve, triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system, exclusive three-dimensional moon-phase indication.
De Bethune is the fruit of the somewhat improbable union of a sophisticated Italian aesthete and connoisseur with impeccable taste, David Zanetta, and a virtuoso watchmaker with a love for the solitude of the Jura, who is as passionate about classical watchmaking as he is about the equations of the Résonique escapement, or stargazing in the snow. He is Denis Flageollet. Their union has produced some exceptional horology: ambitious, sophisticated, technically innovative and stylistically unparalleled.
Watchmakers tend to be rather profligate with the label ‘classic and contemporary’. De Bethune’s watchmaking takes this much further. Formally, it borrows from the great classical canons of equilibrium, moderation and simplicity. But it achieves this equilibrium by entirely contemporary means: an amalgam of fundamental research, the mastery of new materials, architectural purity and modernity, minute attention to decoration, symbiosis between case and movement, a preoccupation with comfort in wear, lightness and ease of use.
The result is a watchmaking approach that is designed and implemented with total financial and intellectual independence, and one that will certainly come to be seen as emblematic of its time: precious but not ostentatious, effortlessly contemporary, timeless and unique. (PM)
We won the 2011 Aiguille d’Or at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève with the DB28. The design of the watch is entirely in line with existing creations by our brand: the dedicated shape of the case adorned with its famous crown at 12 o’clock, inspired by pocket-watches and emphasised by the spherical moon. Much like what can be observed from the sky, moon phases are read off by an exclusive display system by means of a platinum and blued-steel sphere revolving on its axis, which is accurate to within one day every 122 years.
The DB28 is powered by Calibre DB 2115: its precision is reinforced by the self-regulating twin barrel and the presence within the regulating organ of the new silicon/platinum balance wheel with a flat terminal curve, protected by the triple pare-chute shock-absorbing system. In keeping with the Belle Époque style, the solid back of the DB28 is inspired by the hunter-type shape of pocket-watches, and also incorporates a power reserve indicator.
- Vortex by Hautlence
- HLR2.0 in-house calibre including gear train and automatic winding system. Half-trailing hours displayed by a chain, retrograde minutes, mobile bridge-type calibre. Limited edition of 88 timepieces.
Norman Foster, Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry… If we were to suggest some of the great names in contemporary architecture who might have inspired Hautlence’s watchmaking achievements, these would probably be among them. More than any other brand, the Neuchâtel company is a genuinely ‘architectural’ firm that, certainly when it started out a decade ago, drew inspiration from the Eiffel Tower, the creations of Jules Verne and the steampunk aesthetic.
Guillaume Tetu travels a lot, and when he creates his timepieces he likes to draw from the architectural heritage of the cultures he visits, while relying on solid technical in-house abilities, which are even stronger now that the brand has grown closer to its ‘cousin’ H. Moser & Cie, under the influence of Georges-Henri Meylan. A welcome new wind is blowing through Hautlence, and the world of watchmaking is reaping the benefits in terms of increasingly bold and thoughtful kinetic sculptures. (SM)
Our new Vortex model incorporates a redesigned and reinterpreted version of the HL2.0 in-house movement. It is the first time that time has been displayed by the rotation of the entire regulating organ. We redesigned the bridges and the balance to accommodate this. The main feature of this model is that it is built horizontally. It’s another watchmaking revolution: as far as the rest of our profession is concerned, we have no respect at all, but in fact we have the greatest respect!
I always draw inspiration from architecture when creating my designs. In this case I asked the Parisian designers we worked with to look at the lines of buildings such as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, and New York’s Freedom Tower. I’m a designer by training and when I started out in watchmaking I discovered many links with architecture, for example in terms of transparency, energy and vibration.
- The H3 by HYT
- Functions: retrograde fluidic hours, retrograde minute indicator, crown position indicator (T-N-W), power reserve indicator (on back), push-button for hour rotation. Movement: mechanical with manual winding, exclusive HYT calibre. Series limited to 25 pieces.
HYT provides perhaps the best example of crossover between watchmaking ‘science’ and the sciences proper. This watchmaking start-up, which went public with its first timepiece just three years ago, has pioneered a fluid-based system to create unique watches that demonstrate conclusively that revolutions are never so radical as when they originate from outside watchmaking!
Never, since the time of the ancient clepsydrae, had it occurred to anyone to tell the time using water… Until the arrival of HYT’s alchemists and their handless hydro-mechanical timepieces, which exploit the enormous potential of nanotechnology to create watches with a futuristic, radical and provocative design. The brand smashes taboos and opens the door to any number of revolutionary concepts that are the product of out-of-the-box thinking. Micro-fluid technology has a bright future ahead, not only in watchmaking, but also in medicine, the automobile industry and cosmetics. (SM)
We started with a blank page and we capitalised on our fluids experience to create something entirely new. With the H3, we are deconstructing time and reconstructing it around its founding principle: two bellows injecting a capillary with fluid which moves to display the time. Placing the bellows in opposition was something that really posed a challenge. They are coupled by a mechanical assembly (comprising a spindle, sensor and thermal compensator), and fitting this between the bellows was a very delicate operation.
We have succeeded in creating a timepiece with a highly complex architecture. In the conventional sense, there is no midday and there are no hands. One of the main challenges lay in machining the case and the sapphire crystal. When it came to the movement, one of the most delicate steps in creating the H3 involved recovering the energy provided in the retrograde movement, which then powered the semi-instantaneous rotation of the watch’s dial.
- Endeavour Perpetual Calendar (Funky Blue) by H. Moser & Cie
- White gold model, sky-blue fumé dial, kudu leather strap. Mechanical hand-wound in-house calibre HMC 341. Power reserve: minimum 7 days.
The story of H. Moser & Cie is that of a very ambitious and contrarian renaissance, which has today made the Schaffhausen company one of the strongest symbols of watchmaking purity. Purity in this case means the paradoxically complex process of stripping back, simplifying the display, finding the optimum accommodation between movement and case, and identifying the perfect proportions for the watch dial.
Now in the hands of family holding company MELB (which also owns Hautlence), created by Georges-Henri Meylan and managed by his son Edouard Meylan, H. Moser & Cie is today one of the foremost proponents of classical watchmaking at the absolute pinnacle of perfection. But this classicism is not about looking back; quite the opposite, in fact. It takes the best and most demanding lessons of the past and reinterprets them in such a way as to reveal their striking modernity.
H. Moser & Cie is an integrated manufacture that produces its own regulating organs and balance springs; it has invented an interchangeable escapement module and devised the simplest and most beautiful perpetual calendar that has ever existed; and it has also, in its own way, broken with the dominant watchmaking codes, which are often tempted into exhibitionism (of their shapes, their movements and their architecture). Here, everything is understated, poetic and beautiful. And that is what makes the contribution of H. Moser & Cie so precious and so necessary today. (PM)
With this new watch, our intent was to tear down preconceptions. Countering the view that a perpetual calendar must be restricted to a classic look, we replied with the Endeavour Perpetual Calendar Funky Blue! It is aimed at watch fans searching for a model with classic appeal. This noteworthy watch avoids modern trends and does not resemble watches worn by their grandfathers…
We tried to favour elegance and tradition, without sacrificing design: the Endeavour Perpetual Calendar features an electric blue dial, paired with a leather strap with a robust, rustic appearance – including natural markings – that offers the perfect contrast to the refined details and finishes of the dial and case. It contains the HMC 341 manufacture movement: this perpetual calendar uses the indexes to show the months and can be adjusted forwards or backwards at any time without risk to the mechanism.
- Galet Square by Laurent Ferrier
- FBN Calibre 229.01, automatic winding with pawl-fitted micro-rotor, 72-hour power reserve.
The son and grandson of watchmakers, Laurent Ferrier’s background is perhaps less radical, less crazy than that of some of his colleagues in this feature. He nevertheless remains an all too rare figure in the current watchmaking landscape: the proudly independent watchmaker. He enthusiastically embraces innovation while remaining firmly grounded in the great tradition of craftsmanship and attention to detail that are his hallmarks. He sums up his philosophy in the expression: “creatively classic”.
He launched his own brand in 2010 and won the Men’s Watch prize at the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève the first time he entered. An unprecedented achievement. Today his Galet models are universally respected for their attention to detail, which puts to shame many other watchmakers who are not so shy of the limelight. They tell a compelling story while exuding timeless elegance. To quote one of the watchmaker’s favourite poems by Samivel: “On a pebble beach, tell me what you see? / Pebbles as far as the eye can reach, all apparently very much alike, / yet a closer look shows that some are round and others square, golden, garnet, jade, multi-coloured…” (SM)
When we launched the Galet Square model at Baselworld, we preferred to use the word ‘evolution’ to ‘revolution’ in terms of its design. The revolution lies more in the spirit of the brand, in our willingness to cross the bridge between watchmaking tradition, which is embodied in the detail and luxury of our finishes, and technological innovation, in the sense that our movements feature innovative construction and are created with avant-garde materials.
I designed the original Galet starting with a blank page, paying particular attention to the piece’s aesthetic harmony. This involved rigorous respect for the proportions between the volume of the case and that of the movement. This is also the first time we have offered a steel case. The self-winding FBN 229.01 calibre, with unidirectional pawl-fitted micro-rotor and three-day power reserve, is the third entirely in-house movement developed, assembled and adjusted in our workshops.
- The GNT-6 by Voutilainen
- Unique in-house designed movement with GMT function at 6 o’clock. New direct impulse escapement with two escapement wheels. Movement: 30 mm x 5.60 mm, pure German silver plated with rose gold. Free sprung balance (with Grossman interior curve and Philips exterior curve) beating at 18,000 vph. All manufacturing, construction, fabrication, hand finishing and assembly carried out in the Voutilainen workshop. Case: 39 mm. Sapphire glass front and back, with anti-reflective treatment.
There is one photograph that captures the essence of Kari Voutilainen. It was taken at the awards ceremony for the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2007. To widespread astonishment, Voutilainen had just been awarded the Men’s Watch prize. In the photo he can just be spotted, standing behind all the other recipients (some of whom wouldn’t know a cutting broach from an escapement file) proudly crowding the front of the stage. With discretion, patience, determination, humility, persistence and talent, he made it to the top, and no one saw him coming. His nonconformity lies in his exacting return to the fundamentals of watchmaking, where chronometry goes hand in hand with an obsessive attention to detail and exquisite finishing. In order to achieve such mastery, Kari Voutilainen traded the forests of Finland for the Jura and devoted himself to learning everything there was to know about watchmaking, becoming in the process virtually a one-man manufacture. Now the head of his own ‘horlogerie d’art’, he intends to continue on the path towards what is virtually total independence of body and mind. But don’t expect any unbridled growth. His rare brand of discretion demands exclusivity. (PM)
This new GMT-6 watch with an exclusive movement made in our workshop presents classical watchmaking at its highest level with pure design and solid construction. The inspiration for this movement comes from the Vingt-8 movement, but it is a new calibre, which means that the mechanism of the GMT is entirely integrated inside the movement. There are more than 70 new components, compared to the Vingt-8 movement.
GMT time is read from the disk situated at 6 o’clock inside of the small seconds indication. Seconds are printed: instead of printing 60 seconds, there is a triangle from where we can read the GMT time. The GMT disc revolves one turn every 24 hours and to make it more visible, there are day and night sections which have been hand engine-turned. The GMT disc can be adjusted by pressing the crown down: one press advances the disc one hour. The dial is made from solid silver and it is engine-turned by hand in our workshop.
Source: Europa Star September 2015 Magazine Issue