“The only rational aspect of luxury is quality,” as Jérôme de Witt likes to say. “For the rest, it is only the irrational, the emotional, the dream.”
“Irrational” may very well be the appropriate term for the most illustrative piece revealed by DeWitt during BaselWorld 2012—the X-Watch. Under the steel cover in the shape of an “X” that partially hides the dial is a competition mechanical engine. Let’s take a closer look. The unique movement, placed in a reversible case, displays a tourbillon on one side and a chronograph on the other, while both sides display the bi-retrograde hours and minutes. A peripheral oscillating rotor drives the ensemble. This very powerful engine—comprising 544 component parts—is the third 100-per cent in-house movement manufactured by DeWitt, and answers to the unassuming name of Calibre DW 8046.
When the cover is closed, all the indications still remain perfectly readable. On the tourbillon side, they are especially easy to see, and the watch shows off its very striking face, evoking both its precious and sporty nature. At 6 o’clock, the tourbillon serves as the small seconds indicator. At the left are the retrograde hours, while, on the right, the retrograde minutes clearly stand out from the background. At 12 o’clock, the indication of the power reserve—shown by a hand—looks like a gauge taken right out of a cockpit.
Four push-pieces located on the upper and lower parts of the Grade 5 titanium case activate the cover of the X-Watch, which opens from the middle and raises at a mechanically controlled speed to majestically reveal the entire dial. A central applique in the form of an hourglass stands out from the sunray guilloché background. By pivoting the case, you can then discover the chronograph side of the X-Watch.
It is a skeletonised chronograph movement that stands out boldly and clearly from the background—a plate made of blackened nickel silver. This plate separates the chronograph part of the movement mounted under the tourbillon. This 1mm thick plate alone represents an engineering feat since it is drilled with 58 holes, all adjusted to the nearest micron. The retrograde hours and minutes are read in the same manner as on the tourbillon side, in two segments placed at the left and right of the dial.
The seconds counter of the chronograph is in a window on a disc at 12 o’clock. The 30 minutes counter is located on three different levels of ten minutes by a three-arm hand with a small disc at the end. The peripheral oscillating rotor is attached to a ring with a sinusoidal profile on its inner edge. This interior curve activates the patented Automatic Sequential Winding (ASW), which uses two arms to wind the barrel to 96 per cent. They then let it unwind with no contact until it reaches 92 per cent before again hooking onto the winding train. This sequential winding thus provides a constant and stable flow of energy to the escapement, in an ideal operating range between 92 and 96 per cent of the mainspring torque. After closing the cover of this sporty yet elegant chronograph, the hours, minutes, and short time intervals can easily be read between the branches of the X, emphasising even more the stylistic strength of the piece.
Three years of research and development were necessary to create this visually and economically “irrational” timepiece—25 will be available, for CHF 399,000 (excl. tax) each. Yet, at its first presentation, during the Only Watch 2011 auction held last September in Monaco, the X-Watch reached a price of €410,000, or approximately CHF 492,000.
An architectural skeleton
Perhaps more “rational” than the X-Watch is DeWitt’s Twenty-8-Eight skeletonised tourbillon. Certainly as “emotional” in any case, these timepieces were also introduced this year, and are equipped with the manual-winding calibre DW 8028s, the first skeletonised version to be completely manufactured in-house. The skeletonising of the calibres was not done to extract the maximum amount of material—thus running the risk of making them fragile—but rather to create a true three-dimensional vision of their architecture.
The movement comprises two plates, in sandblasted nickel silver with black-gold surface finishing, of two different thicknesses and positioned on two different levels. The lower plate is thinner than the upper one, thus offering unusual plays of light and shadow.
In this architectural theatre, the tourbillon is particularly emphasised. Driven by a Straumann balance spring with Phillips terminal curve, made of an unbreakable, self-compensating, non-oxidizing, and anti-magnetic alloy—and equipped with a variable-inertia balance beating at 18,000 vibrations per hour—this high precision movement has a power reserve of 72 hours. At 12 o’clock, the skeletonised barrel lets us see the spring as it unwinds.
The 18-carat rose or white-gold case for this robust movement measures 43mm in diameter, with a thickness of 10.78mm. The sides are decorated with the now famous “imperial columns” that are so emblematic of the DeWitt style, but here they have been interpreted more discreetly than usual. The lugs have been redesigned in a delicate yet lively manner, while the interior flange on the dial of the white-gold model has a diamond-polished surface that presents a sparkling play of light.
This play of light is multiplied by the brilliance of 3.8 carats of 36 baguette and 104 brilliant diamonds on the white-gold high jewellery version. The combination of the geometrical orientation of the dazzling diamonds and the three-dimensional architecture of a calibre—that has been hand chamfered, polished, and satin finished—gives this watch a high level of sophistication—sophistication that evokes solidity, delicacy, and sportiness.
Made in Neotitanium The same in-house movement, DW8028, drives the Twenty-8-Eight Tourbillon, which has a new case this year, one made in rose gold and “Neotitanium”. This is a form of titanium whose structure has been modified by anodising it, which makes it two times harder (and thus stronger and lighter) than the “sturdy” Grade 5 titanium. The light grey sand-blasted finish eliminates all reflection from the top of the case. The resulting contrast with the lively warmth of the dial is therefore even stronger. The colour of the rose-gold grille at the centre of the dial stands out strongly from the background of the engine-turned designs of the black and grey patterns, dotted with the rose-gold numerals and hour markers. The rose-gold grille ends with a gold ring that encircles the tourbillon, which is suspended under a semi–transparent black net that opens onto the beating heart. Just like its design, this luxurious Twenty-8-Eight Tourbillon, chic and shimmering on the inside, is not ostentatious on the outside. Smaller than usual (10.28 mm thick, 43 mm in diameter), it is, after all, not so “irrational” as that. It is priced at CHF 143,000 (excl. tax).
All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence
Our wanderings to guide.
Taken from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this poem serves as inspiration for DeWitt’s feminine collection, Golden Afternoon. Remi-niscent of Pre-Raphaelite feminine dreaminess, its mother-of-pearl dial evokes an iridescent garden, sprinkled with flowers and diamonds in the form of water lilies that are reflected on a surface that is both misty and shimmering. Above the flowers are two open-worked hands in the form of angel wings, plus a delicate seconds hand that is topped with a little flame.
A number of variations are possible. The one with a dial composed of a chocolate mother-of-pearl sky, with flowers in white and salmon mother-of-pearl, is set in a case of rose gold. Tone-on-tone purity is seen in the version with a white-gold case and white mother-of-pearl dial. These are among the many poetic versions that DeWitt has created for its very feminine 39mm Golden Afternoon timepiece, driven by an automatic movement with a power reserve of 42 hours.
“The only rational aspect of luxury is quality,” repeats Jérôme de Witt. The man harkens back to the key principles of his own manufacture to reaffirm his credo. Totally unwilling to give in to current conformism, resolutely determined to follow the gradual and progressive development and integration of his manufacture, banking on a strong and discriminating style—and giving his constructors, master watchmakers, and master dial makers the time to attain the desired quality—Jérôme de Witt continues to follow, more than ever, his own road. And so much the better for the diversity and poetry in timekeeping.
Source: Europa Star June - July 2012 Magazine Issue