At the launch of Celsius X VI II in 2010, many industry observers voiced a certain scepticism, not seeing any future in this hybrid between the telephone and high-end watchmaking. Furthermore, the watch industry had barely recovered from the economic crisis of the preceding year (as a reminder, the Swiss watch industry suffered a decline of nearly 25 per cent in exports), and the telephone, even one equipped with a tourbillon and selling for €250,000, seemed a highly unlikely venture.
Yet, the young founding team at Celsius stayed the course because, since the beginning of this adventure in 2006, they had a detailed and very coherent road map to follow. What confused the issue, but at the same time firmly positioned Celsius in the circle of prestige, was that its first product, the LeDix Origine, was the most prestigious product in the brand’s collection. A collection that Celsius X VI II is extending, step-by-step and with great rigour, towards its ultimate goal of combining the two quite opposite worlds of advanced mechanical engineering (“high-mech”) and waves and electric currents. And, contrary to many brands, Celsius has chosen a strategy of gradually decreasing its prices. These decreases are, of course, relative, since the second model, the Optic GMT, whose introduction is imminent, sells for around €75,000 and the future model, Hybride, will carry a price tag of around €35,000.
The second paradox of this unusual strategy is that, despite their decreasing prices, the more models that are created, the more their technology is innovative, and the more it pushes the connection between advanced mechanics and the telephone even further. Celsius’s rather crazy plans (which are clearly different from other attempts to accord nobility to the mobile phone) are to integrate the two opposing worlds, even to the point of creating a telephone signalling its calls by a mechanical chime! Surely no easy task… While waiting for the holy grail of “high mechanical telephony”, let’s take a look at the present offer that is part of the move in this direction.
After the inaugural LeDix Origine, in titanium with inserts of ebony wood, created in a limited series of 18 pieces, came LeDix Véloce, in black PVD treated titanium with inserts of carbon fibre, also available in a series of 18 pieces. Now, the latest series of these inaugural telephones has a tourbillon and is called LeDix Furtif, made in carbon fibre and produced as 3 series of 8 pieces, respectively, with black, platinum or rose gold inserts.
Functionally similar to the founding LeDix Origine piece in titanium, the choice of carbon fibre created, however, some thorny problems for its designers. Contrary to a traditional watch, the problems of interference between materials and electronics are particularly acute in telephony, most notably for the antenna and its position. Because of interference and shock resistance issues (a telephone is more easily dropped than a watch), it was impossible to use proven techniques such as forged carbon.
The designers were forced, therefore, to develop a special technique, and in this case in collaboration with Buch Composites, a company in the Jura specializing in these domains. Carbon fibres are glued by strata inside a matrix to form a compact block of carbon fibre that is heat transformed in a high pressure oven. Next, this block is machined in three dimensions, a complex operation that devours tools, but that results in a telephone case with furtive forms that are reminiscent of aeronautics and very unusual material effects. Some 18 months of research were needed to overcome the problems of interference between waves, electric currents, materials and mobile component parts.
The Optic GMT
Around the same time as the introduction of the latest series of LeDix, Celsius launches the second stage of the rocket this autumn. It is the new and innovative Optic GMT. Here, we find the now famous “butterfly winding” that arms the barrel of the watch mechanism of the telephone (as a reminder, each opening and closing of the telephone winds the watch movement 2.23 hours). The watch mechanism is based on a Unitas-style movement that has been turned upside down so that the regulating organ is visible under a sapphire crystal (of hitherto unseen proportions) on the telephone’s outer shell.
The movement has been entirely reworked, especially on the level of the index-assembly and the swan’s neck. What particularly differentiates the Optic GMT is the display of the GMT indication and the date. While the hour, minute and power reserve are traditionally indicated by hands, here the GMT and date are indicated by fibre optics, thus giving the piece its name.
For the first time in timekeeping—and in telephony—mechanically generated indications are displayed using quartz fibres. The choice of quartz fibres (which we also find on the nose of some fighter jets) is due to the non-magnetic properties of this material—an indispensable quality with the presence of antennas, Bluetooth and many other waves. The optical fibre showing the GMT time is positioned vertically above the disc displaying the hours. The effect is a little like a magnifying glass, except that here the number doesn’t seem to be placed at the bottom of a well but rather seems to be floating on the surface, with a slight pixellisation. The date is inscribed on a rotating cylinder and is read at the end of a long fibre optic that, after a bend (shown in blue in the below illustration), ends at the bottom of the telephone’s case. The number seems to appear on the surface of the lower section of the telephone (for example, when it is set on a table), which, thanks to a hybrid technology, is lit by a small LED. This gives it the appearance of a central headlight of a concept car, emphasizing even more the design qualities of the Celsius X VI II products.
Three different models of the Optic GMT will see the light of day, each available as a limited-edition of 28: the Optic GMT Furtif in microblasted carbon fibre and braided quartz fibre to protect the antenna; the Optic GMT Origine in grey titanium, braided carbon fibre and quartz fibre; and the Optic GMT Veloce version in black titanium, braided carbon fibre and quartz fibre, with polished and satin finish on the case and blued bridges of the mechanism.
A second use of fibre optics in the Optic Lune model is expected to be launched at Basel-World 2013.
En route towards the Hybride
The third phase of this technological melange is already in development, and its name evokes the research underway: Hybride. Essentially, the idea is to wind a very large barrel (containing a 4-mm spring unwinding over a length of 1 metre) by opening and closing the cover of the telephone. The barrel then unwinds in a sort of kinematic spectacle that comprises four generators rotating at 8,000 revolutions per minute, with considerable forces thus generated in the teeth. The four engineers at Celsius involved on this project full time (some ten prototypes have already been tested) have worked closely with Mimotec, most notably on the bearings, which cannot be made in the traditional manner with jewels. For the moment, one opening of the cover provides one second of conversation. They are still far from the final result, but, step-by-step, the dream of a totally mechanical and autonomous telephone is well on its way.
When the Hybride model is finally released, it will include an authentic “watch” mechanism, although it will not display time indications. Its price tag will be around €35,000. As to when that will be, the brand’s management understandably remains cautious. Concerned about confidentiality, it is saying nothing more for the time being.
Simplicity and intimacy
Contrary to the other players in the telephone sphere, Celsius X VI II has chosen a standard keyboard, rather than touch technology. The idea is to remain as simple as possible for this telephone that is an “intimate and emotional object”. Counter to the smartphone, the choice of functions is based on the simplest and the most useful: telephony, messaging, address book, internet sub-menu, email and camera. The last three functions, however, will be removed in the upcoming models of the Hybride, which will be based on the Android 3G platform. One of the reasons for this choice of simplicity is its long lasting lifespan. Like a high-end watch, a Celsius should be perennial, with the possibility of being passed from one generation to the next. And, between now and the next generation, who can say, besides the basic telephone functions, if we will even be using the same channels of communication?
The brand’s passage to 3G technology will open doors for Celsius in the markets of Japan and Korea, which use this platform. Today, the distribution of Celsius X VI II is primarily in Europe (Harrods in London, Les Ambassadeurs in Switzerland, Chronométrie in France...) and in Asia (The Hour Glass in Singapore, Prince and Lane Crawford in Hong Kong...). Markets being developed at the current time are the Middle East, South Africa, Israel, Australia, Russia, and Lithuania.
Celsius works only with retailers that purchase its products directly. The brand does not work on consignment. And, because of exclusivity, the idea is not so much to increase sales points but rather to work only with the most important and the most respected retailers around the world.
Source: Europa Star October - November 2012 Magazine Issue