There was the 'Watch' by Danish designer Flemming Bo Hansen in 1990, a multitude of design awards and the introduction of Titanox® and Durinox® - hardened titanium and steel respectively - throughout the mid-90s, the v-matic Ego with its 'invisible' rotary mass on an automatic watch in 1998, the world's first and only auto-quartz chronometer in 1998 and the self-winding digital watch, the d_Sparc fx and px in 2000.
Today, in the midst of what appears to be an increase of interest in mechanical watches, Pierre Nobs, the founder CEO of Ventura, heads in the other direction and launches his fascinating 'v-tec alpha digital watch'.
“I like mechanical watches,” Pierre Nobs says. But to underline his affection for the electronic watches he exclaims, “The development of the electronic watch today compares to the development of the mechanical watch in the past. So I decided to try and develop a modern multi-function device and got lost in my search for the perfect combination of electronic readouts with elegance.
”When I realized that the crown was far better suited to set the functions of a digital watch than those multiple push buttons commonly used, I decided that a scroll action similar to those on computers would be ideal. That's how the 'EasySkroll' of the new 'v-tec alpha' was born, which in combination with a two-line character display offers a new scope in digital displays."
Nobs is a mechanical engineer by profession and admits to never having constructed a mechanical watch movement himself, but as he says, “I can very well imagine the pleasure watchmakers experience when they 'invent' something new. Nowadays, there is very little left to innovate in mechanical movements, but in the digital applications, combined with the rapid developments in electronics, electro-mechanics etc, there's tremendous room for new possibilities.”
Creating a 'electronic manufacture'
Ventura, or to give the company its full name, Ventura Design on Time, will continue to develop and produce contemporary timepieces with elaborate mechanical movements. But as Nobs explains, “In the long run, I won't be satisfied in 'dressing-up' movements purchased from 'the remaining manufacturing group'. Since I really love mechanical watches, I would eventually be forced to develop one by myself, but as I am neither a watchmaker nor an entrepreneur padded with enough financial resources to start up a 'manufacture' with its own production of mechanical calibres, it won't come to that. And even it did, I would be condemned to repeating tasks already achieved decades ago by others.
”It is in this light that I perceive the development of digital quality devices and the creation of a 'manufacture electronic' as a valid alternative for my company."
The v-tec Alpha digital watch
The new watch is so simple in concept that explaining how it works is almost redundant. Nevertheless, it is in stainless steel and there is a liquid crystal display with 229 segments and a sapphire crystal top. The functions shown on the two-line display are time and date, time and alarm, time and second time zone, time and chronograph and finally, time and countdown.
You can scroll up or down depending on which way you turn the crown or scroller and to adjust the setting you simply press the scroller for 3 seconds. The settings are as simple as a, b, c and the unit as a whole is very pleasing to the eye.
Both Pierre Nobs and the watches Ventura has created since its foundation in the late 1980s merit admiration. Creating a 'de luxe' digital watch has been tried before (Omega to name but one) and it wasn't as successful as hoped. Of course they didn't have the innovative acumen that Ventura possesses today, but in a doubtful economic climate and a period of what appears to be a growth of interest in mechanical watches, it's perfectly reasonable to question the timing and success of the new v-tec Alpha digital watch.
On the other hand, it truly is an innovative timepiece that merits acclaim. Personally I hope it attains the same success as Ventura's other ventures in horology. Only time, analogue or digital, will tell!