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Genus: the never-ending caterpillar of time

THE NEW HAUTE HORLOGERIE

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October 2019


Genus: the never-ending caterpillar of time

They’re called Genus, Petermann Bédat, Cyrus, Sylvain Pinaud, Krayon, Alchemists, Trilobe, David Candaux, Tournemire, Ming… These names, still unknown to the public at large, are those of established master watchmakers or young horology geeks. Their ambitions are diverse, as are the paths they have chosen, but all of them, each in their own way, are trying to add their stone to the edifice and inscribe their name on the Haute Horlogerie map. A brief reconnaissance tour.

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his timepiece is surprising to say the least, and at first sight you scratch your head, wondering how on earth it can fulfil its basic task of telling the time. It was born, probably during a sleepless night, in the head of Sébastien Billières, a master watchmaker described as an “original talent”, who has his own peculiar way of designing 3D movements “in his mind”, as Catherine Henry, the young entrepreneur and co-founder of Genus, explains. Fascinated by the symbolism contained in the figure 8 – eternity, but also the analemma, the ‘8’ shape traced by the sun during the course of a year as seen from a fixed point at the same time – and eager to see a mechanical component moving freely around a watch, when horology is traditionally based on fixed components driven by moving gears, he dreamed up and produced his Genus (from the Latin meaning type, family, but also zero position, departure point).

The result is a free-moving display which is at first bewildering, then amazing, then, suddenly, captivatingly legible. It’s nothing short of miraculous, mechanically speaking, to watch the little “caterpillar” of the minutes, made up of 12 separate parts, shunting along in ten-minute increments, crossing over itself to trace a perfect loop and forming an upper rose window at 15’ and a lower one at 45’.

What’s more, the hour markers move around the outside of the dial – the hour pointer is at 9 o’clock – and in doing so orient themselves towards the reader, pivoting four times by a quarter of a turn. An absolute first!

“To read the exact time, just note the displayed hour (at 9 o'clock) and add the precise minute (at 3 o'clock) to the tens of minutes shown by the constantly travelling Genus,” as the watch manual explains.
“To read the exact time, just note the displayed hour (at 9 o’clock) and add the precise minute (at 3 o’clock) to the tens of minutes shown by the constantly travelling Genus,” as the watch manual explains.

10 years of cogitation

Ten years of cogitation, three years of development. Everything was kept confidential up to its presentation for the 2019 GPHG, to be decided in November, trade secrecy oblige. But confidentiality is also a habit, because with his watch subcontracting company GMTI, founded in 2007, Sébastien Billières specialises first and foremost in assembling Geneva Seal calibres – a domain that calls for the strictest secrecy.

Having done a stint in his early days with Roger Dubuis in person, he continued to frequent the very best schools, with Félix Baumgartner on the Opus V project, for example (which already featured mobile parts) and then Svend Andersen (which top watchmaker has not passed through the workshop of the founder of AHCI?). Sébastien Billières is now passing on his know-how in turn: he has taught horology at the IFAGE vocational training school for adults in Geneva since 2006.

An audacious attempt

Devising completely new ways of displaying the passage of time has tantalised watchmakers down the ages. But they have never succeeded in permanently ousting the ineluctable three central hands. It is a new challenge every time.

This extremely audacious attempt features a movement (with neither dial nor hands) produced and finished “in absolute compliance with watchmaking rules”. From a watchmaker specialising in Geneva Seal watches, one expects no less. All the components are designed and cut by hand. The steel is black-polished, the flank drawing done by hand and the movement in is 18ct ethical gold. The standard of finishing is extremely high.

As for the time-telling itself, it is truly captivating. The first white “genus” – the name given to the ten-minute pointer at the head of the “caterpillar”, followed by its train of 11 pale blue “genera” – traces its double loop of time in space by crossing over itself. The exact minute is read at 3 o’clock, the hour at 9 o’clock. The hour markers turn without you even noticing. Everything is in orbit. Everything is in a state of flux, like time itself. There will be eight Genuses in white gold.

Price: CHF 280,000. For immensely wealthy collectors attempting a double world first in the shape of an eight.

Discover more of The New Haute Horlogerie portfolio here below.