The Swiss watch planet in movement – Part 9

December 2010


Remember this name: Raphaël Radicchi. Owner of Schwarz Etienne since 2008, this Italian, who made a fortune in real estate in the canton of Neuchâtel, became so enamoured with watchmaking that he formed—without anyone really realizing it—a veritable and ‘verticalized’ small watch group capable of independently assuring ‘more than 85 per cent’ of the steps in the production of a watch.
Besides Schwarz Etienne, to which we will return below, Raphaël Radicchi controls: RSM SA, a maker of cases, bracelets, and clasps, which employs nearly 30 people; RM Horlogerie SA, which fabricates bridges, plates and milling tools; and Anglex SA, which, as its name implies, specializes in the decoration of movements. The only things missing from his portfolio are the dials, hands, crystals, leathers and small cutting pieces.
With the strength of this production tool, he created an original basic automatic movement called BSE1325A, which will equip the brand’s models but which can also serve as an alternative for third-party brands wanting to vary their sources of movement supplies. The quantities for now are still modest—1,000 movements in 2010 and between 2,000 and 3,000 in 2011—but the goals are ambitious.
Founded in 1904, Schwarz Etienne has long been recognized for its production of movements and mechanisms, supplying notably many prestigious French brands until the quartz revolution put an end to its mechanical adventure. The company then struggled to survive but in 1992, it introduced the first models under its own name. In 1993, Raphaël Radicchi purchased 50 per cent of the enterprise and in 2008, he acquired the entire company. He immediately launched his grand project of verticalizing the production of movements.

The Swiss watch planet in movement – Part 9

An intelligent base
The BSE1325-A (which denotes the Schwarz Etienne Base 133/4’’’ series A) is a very interesting calibre that is very compact and innovative in many respects. Right away, we note two of its main characteristics—a very large barrel coupled with a very small rotor. This micro-rotor, made of tungsten carbide (a very hard material that resists wear and tear particularly well) has a decentralized axis and is mounted on ball bearings. Coupled to the large barrel, it offers the movement a large power reserve of 80 hours. Designed first of all with the idea of being able to later become a chronographic movement, it already disposes of the holes to accommodate this future device. The countersinks in the plate have also been designed to allow this calibre to receive various possible ‘options’ at the request of the client. It also offers the possibility of passing very easily from manual winding to automatic mode or to suitably adapt the form of the bridges. Another particularity is that the gear train is placed at the bottom of the plate, thus making space inside the movement and reducing the thickness—5.05 mm for the basic model and 6.25 mm for the future chronographic version. Beating at 21,600 vibrations per hour (3Hz), it lacks a regular index but has a balance that is adjustable using four screws. Moreover, it is equipped with a Straumann (Precision Engineering) spring ending in a Breguet curve and lateral steel palettes with a snap-rim system.
Finally, as is the case with all the movements that equip Schwarz Etienne watches, the BSE1325-A is subject to COSC certification. Two models complete this basic three-hand movement, with small seconds at 6 o’clock and small date at 3 o’clock. The first is the module BSE-GMT supplying a second time zone with a central 24-hour hand, whose corrections are made using a crown with two notches. The second module, the BSE-GD replaces the small date with a large date situated at 12 o’clock.

The Swiss watch planet in movement – Part 9 BSE-GMT LONDON / ROMA by Schwarz Etienne

In addition, it can be noted that Schwarz Etienne proposes two modules designed to complete the basic ETA 7750 movement, either with a second time zone with a central hand (VSE-GMT), or with a retrograde date indicated by a central hand that travels between 7 o’clock and 1 o’clock, as well as a retrograde seconds hand over 30 seconds at 9 o’clock (VSE-REQS). These two models are very easy to assemble and require no mechanical intervention on the basic movement since they are supplied with a bridge that can simply replace the traditional upper bridge of the 7750.
This is definitely a company to follow, with its first in-house movements equipping the new Schwarz Etienne collections. The BSE-GMT drives the very classic London line, a simple and very readable tonneau timepiece. As for the BSE-GD, it is found in the new round and classically finished Roma line. Well proportioned, its large date at 12 o’clock balances the small seconds at 6 o’clock. The brand’s wonderful adventure is just beginning.

Source: Europa Star October - November 2010 Magazine Issue