“The truth about a man can be found in what he hides.”
Côme de Valbray and Olga Corsini met by chance in 2009 and realized that their interests in horology, design and creativity were closely allied.
They spent two years researching, developing and patenting an innovative diaphragm system for a dial, a technique whereby shutters open to reveal a glimpse of some of the mechanics of their first intriguing timepiece.
Their idea is encapsulated in a phrase they quote by André Malraux: ‘The truth about a man can be found in what he hides.’ They continue the explanation, “This sentence has been our inspiration. What we hide is an intimate part of our personality, of our thoughts and dreams.
It is what we decide to share with others. Our vision has been to create a watch able to hide or unveil a personality that is not noticeable at first sight. Our desire is that the owner becomes the guardian of these secrets.
The watch we propose is fully designed, developed, engineered, and tested in-house. This for us is the essential process that allows us to propose a creative and innovative product without compromises. Our objective and commitment is to achieve the highest level of craftsmanship and quality. For this reason we … search for new and better solutions and never settle for what we do not believe to be the best. Our design is a combination of classical and avant-garde horology ... our watches draw on the different emotional dimensions: the way it looks, the way it feels, the way it sounds. The intent is to craft a watch able to convey pure pleasure.”
- Oculus Minotaurus by Valbray
And thus the Oculus Collection was born. Comprising 16 ultra-thin blades integrated into a rotating bezel, the diaphragm opens and shuts as the waterproof bezel, which functions entirely independent of the watch’s chronograph movement, is turned.
Since then Valbray has introduced the Grandateur Collection and this year saw the launch of the Oculus Minotaurus, the Oculus Argentique Grey in the Oculus Chrono series and a special Limited Edition, the EL1 Chronograph, to celebrate 100 years of Leica Photography.
The Oculus Minautaurus, inspired by the mythological Greek legend of King Minos of Crete imprisoning the Minotaur in a maze, the timepiece has sixteen diaphragm blades that open to reveal a three-dimensional labyrinth with a white ceramic ball that moves freely in the furrows – the goal being the centre circle.
The 43 mm timepiece is in either stainless steel with a PVD coating or in 18 carat red or white gold and features hours, minutes and seconds. The mechanical automatic movement is Swiss with a 42-hour power reserve and the watch is water-resistant to 50 metres. The back of the Oculus Minotaurus has an engraved depiction of the mythological Minotaur.
- Oculus Chrono Argentique Grey by Valbray
The Oculus Chrono Argentique Grey is another Limited Edition nod to the contrasting black and white colouring of Leica and Contax cameras.
The 46 mm titanium bezel has white markings and contrasts with the black of the internal bezel, the crown and chronograph push-pieces. It features hours, minutes and a chronograph with a 44-hour power reserve and has a pleasing multi-layered honeycomb grid. Water-resistant to 50 metres, the watch is completed with a brown alligator strap with white stitching and a deployant buckle.
- EL1 Chronograph by Valbray
Finally, the Valbray EL1 Chronograph, a collaboration between Leica and Valbray – or perhaps to be more exact, between Alfred Schopf, the CEO of Leica Camera AG and Côme de Valbray, the CEO of the watch brand.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Leica, a Limited Edition of 100 pieces of the EL1 (EL for Ernest Leitz of the founders of Leica) will be produced – 50 in sanded titanium and 50 with DLC coating (diamond-like carbon).
The dial is reminiscent of some Leica features with the date at 3 o’clock, the minute counter at 12 o’clock, the hours at 6 o’clock and the seconds at 9 o’clock. The 4.5 appearing on the dial evokes the aperture of the first Leica camera. The caseback has a sapphire crystal and reveals the automatic Swiss movement and its open-work rotor.
Valbray timepieces range from 9,500 Swiss francs to 24,500 for the red gold models. Four years ago Côme de Valbray and Olga Corsini believed in their combined creative and technical talents and produced an innovative timepiece with a distinctive look and a unique operating system.
Today, hard graft, self-belief and that sprinkling of courage is bringing them and their timepieces the recognition they so richly deserve.
Part of the article “A COURAGEOUS TRIO”
A short tribute to three very different brands that dare to believe - including:
Source: Europa Star August - September 2014 Magazine Issue