The first watches bearing the DeWitt signature appeared at the end of 2003, more than seven years ago. When we look at the road the brand has travelled in such a short time, it is hard to believe that it has only been seven years. This time is even more remarkable for many reasons, especially considering that these past years have been ones of economic turmoil, combined with a rash of new brands arriving on the watch scene. Yet, during these seven years, DeWitt has stood out, above all, by its consistency, steadfastness and continuity.
Since its very first models, the essential design codes of the brand have been consistently maintained, and DeWitt has never departed from its chosen path. But how can we define this veritable ‘DeWitt style’ that makes its timekeepers so easily recognizable by its enlightened watch clientele, to whom it exclusively targets its pieces? In response to this question, Jérôme de Witt says that he has always wanted to create a “particular niche in the high luxury segment, composed of very high quality products that are technically different, innovative and stylistically recognizable by their neo-classic allure, by their aristocratic flavour.”
To this definition can be added the objective, announced at the very beginning, of gradually mastering and “dominating” the creation of timekeepers in all aspects: technical, through mechanical construction and innovation; the art of watchmaking, through the rigorous requirements for quality and design; and by a deepening quest for a particular vision. Step by step, DeWitt has thus progressively evolved towards integrating all operations into its manufacture.
TWENTY-8-EIGHT TOURBILLON, TWENTY-8-EIGHT AUTOMATIC
Determination to be a trail blazer
From a mechanical point of view, as well as aesthetically, Jérôme de Witt sees himself as a trail blazer. He recalls that when he launched his first watches at the beginning of 2000, “all the watch bezels were in the shape of softened circles, generally discreet, while today, all the bezels are much more expressive,” like his own bezels that have always been highly notched, mounted on structured cases decorated with columns. This also applies to the dials. De Witt is therefore proud of having been among the first to propose stepped, three-dimensional dials in the form of technical ‘layers’ that are very complex to realize. And, wasn’t he also “right before all the others” since today “nearly 80 per cent of dials are structured like this”.
The special and highly refined work on the dials has always been one of the strong points of the brand. Who can forget the incredible shimmering and iridescent dials carved out of delicate plates of tinted silicon that were presented in 2007? This year, we can see the very fine grill on which is suspended the carriage of the brand’s Twenty-8-Eight Tourbillon—a grill that everyone said was impossible to produce. Then, there is the exceptional sunburst guilloché pattern on the Twenty-8-Eight Automatic, which perfectly demonstrates the great mastery attained by the brand in this domain. In fact, it is one of only a very few watchmakers that produce this artisanal guilloché craft, in the most time-honoured manner possible, using traditional machines, some of which date back to the 18th century.
“Beginning at the end...”
Technically, de Witt has also wanted to innovate. He willingly describes his own approach by qualifying it as “bold”, certainly, but also as “pragmatic”. As an example, he describes how some of the mechanical advances were introduced into his various timekeepers, evoking constant force, the advanced use of differentials, and the patented mechanism of automatic sequential winding (A.S.W.) driven by a peripheral oscillating weight.
“We began at the end, if we might say that, by developing complicated movements,” explains Jérôme de Witt, “but sooner or later, we will have our own basic movement, which we are already working on. For the most complex of our own movements, we have always tried to work in a very pragmatic manner. And, based on the choices made at the beginning, our goal is to propose something different. One example is the peripheral rotor that is used this year in the Twenty-8-Eight Regulator A.S.W. Horizons. We started with the technical challenge that we set for ourselves, and with that as our objective, we advanced step by step, gradually integrating the design and the technical.”
From this particular approach comes the impression of total consistency of this remarkable timepiece presented at BaselWorld this year. This new automatic tourbillon with a regulator display, entirely developed and produced by the DeWitt manufacture, is based on the DW 8014 calibre, presented last year. But it integrates a peripheral bi-directional oscillating weight whose interior shape is sinusoidal (as we can see in the photograph here). By oscillating, this sinusoidal ring, equipped with two winding arms, drives the automatic sequential winding system (A.S.W.). A system of clutching and declutching disconnects the winding when 96 per cent of the power reserve is reached (the declutching works using a lever that disengages the traction arm of the winding gear). This system guarantees the constant and stable distribution of the energy to the escapement. When the power reserve decreases and reaches 92 per cent, the arm makes contact with the winding gear again, thus guaranteeing the ideal operational range. Moreover, this tourbillon movement, featuring a variable inertia balance equipped with a Straumann balance spring with a Phillips curve, contains a dead-seconds device that makes one jump per second. Its lever is driven directly by the tourbillon carriage, via the intermediary of a small pinion sliding on each tooth of the seconds gear, a device thus giving the timepiece its classification as a ‘regulator’.
TWENTY-8-EIGHT REGULATOR A.S.W. HORIZONS
Inspired by New York and Art Déco
Emblematic of the new Twenty-8-Eight collection, the design of this watch was inspired by the ‘streamline’ movement of the Art Déco period and by New York City, to which it pays homage. The tourbillon carriage is thus mounted on a plate evoking the columns of an Art Déco building, whose base is decorated in a sunburst manner that flares out at the sides. We find this same decoration in slightly different forms in the other pieces of the collection, such as the very lovely Twenty-8-Eight Tourbillon (equipped with a movement that was entirely designed and produced in-house, including the spiral). Its semi-transparent tourbillon carriage—surmounted by a series of columns that are stylistically both futuristic and Art Déco—is mounted on a very delicate grill that lets you discern the beats of the movement. As is often the case at DeWitt, a sunburst design radiates over the dial divided into two coloured zones: anthracite and cream, grey and mysterious blue.
A similar radiating motif is found in the Twenty-8-Eight Automatic, particularly elegant and refined, divided into two zones of guillochage, tone-on-tone. One is central and evokes flames while the other radiates towards the edge. This piece, which de Witt qualifies as “urban and classic”, gives the impression of lightness and subtlety—while at the same time possessing the distinct and affirmed characteristics of the brand. The case is smaller; the motif of the traditional columns decorating the sides of the case is softer; and the horns are thinner. But all the rest is definitely ‘DeWittian’.
We could say the same thing about the ‘DeWittian’ character—this time eminently more sporty in nature—of the new Academia Quantième Perpétuel Sport and Chronostream models. The ‘retro-futuristic’ inspiration, the sunburst design, the very noticeable notches on the bezel, and the cleanness of the lines are found in these models that offer a neo-classic vision that is rather rare in the domain of sports watches. This neo-classicism, in the particular case of the very red Academia Quantième Perpétuel Sport, goes hand in hand with the most contemporary materials, such as titanium in the case, bezel, crown and screws, and with the black rubber inserted between the columns on the sides of the case.
The particularly advanced finishings—vertically satined finishes alternating with circular satined finishes, the movement’s polished and chamfered surfaces visible through the sapphire crystal case back, and alternating mat and brilliant surfaces—right up to the red top-stitched black alligator strap, confer upon this piece a sporty and perfectly luxurious look.
[For the very remarkable ladies’ watches presented by DeWitt at BaselWorld, see the article Women’s Watches Galore by Sophie Furley.]
ACADEMIA QUANTIÈME PERPÉTUEL SPORT, ACADEMIA CHRONOSTREAM
At the heart of service
“We try to reach to perfect luxury” as Jérôme de Witt likes to say, since “the notion of luxury is not purely commercial and is not limited to only the object itself. Luxury is also all that surrounds the product, all that goes with it. Luxury is the sharing of common values.”
The notion of service and of sharing (of ‘transparency’ we might say today) is at the heart of all of DeWitt’s commercial activities. In this manner, starting in May 2011, each watch is accompanied with a new electronic guarantee card. Personal and containing the ID number of the watch, it gives the owner a password-protected access to an exclusive area that is dedicated to him. “We want to create a direct connection with our client, to deepen our relationship with him,” explains Jérôme de Witt. “This relationship naturally involves the excellent service that we offer. For many brands, the notion of service has been dramatically altered: service has turned into a profit centre. We are committed to just the opposite. Using this platform of exchange and traceability, we can take back the pieces that are necessary, and provide free service to our clients, whom we consider as true partners. In addition, this new card, giving access to an exclusive and interactive area of exchange and one that will evolve, is now delivered with each watch. It will follow the watch during its lifetime. But it is also retroactive: for those who have purchased DeWitt watches earlier, they can have their own card by merely requesting it.”
This superlative service thus concerns all the DeWitt pieces in circulation, or about 10,000 watches created over the first years of the brand’s aristocratic saga. In fact, this saga, in its own way, has just begun. Let’s wait until the integration of the DeWitt manufacture is even more complete, when we will be able to discover, in the years to come, the Geneva brand’s own in-house basic movements as well as the integrated chronographs that it intends to develop.
De Witt X Watch
For the third DeWitt timepiece for the Only Watch Charity Auction in favour of research programmes for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), (to be held in Monaco on September 22), De Witt is continuing its exploration of reversible watches. After last year’s Antipode, the X-Watch pushes this concept even further. The ‘X’-shaped bonnet that partly covers the face of the watch is activated by four push-pieces positioned in the upper and lower part of the case. By pressing the push-pieces, the ‘X’ separates in the middle and smoothly opens up to disclose the face of the watch. A special mechanism has been integrated to control the speed of the opening. The rotation of the 49 mm Grade 5 Titanium case is only liberated when the ‘X’ is in the open position. The case can then be flipped over and locked again by closing the ‘X’. Quite naturally, the ‘X’ is designed in such a way that all the features of the watch remain perfectly readable even when the bonnet is in the closed position. The X-Watch houses a single reversible movement displaying bi-retrograde hours and minutes on each side, a chronograph on one side and an automatic tourbillon on the other. The calibre also features a patented Automatic Sequential Winding (A.S.W.) device driven by a peripheral oscillating rotor. Built out of some 535 components, the calibre DW 8046 is the perfect illustration of the inventive audacity of DeWitt’s master watchmakers.
Source: Europa Star June - July 2011 Magazine Issue