atchmakers are fond of the word “magical” as a metaphor to describe their creations. But magic, or rather magicians – also called illusionists – have on several occasions enriched watchmaking with their ingenious ideas. Starting with the “creator of modern magic,” the famous Robert-Houdin.
It is to this former clockmaker-turned-magician, outstanding mechanical engineer, maker of automatons and inventor that we owe such things as the first Mystery Clock, the hands of which are suspended as if by magic, floating in transparent, empty space. Cartier has made it a speciality of theirs to this day and has produced some masterpieces.
One of the most famous tricks of Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin (who soon dropped the name of Robert, too frequently found in watchmaking spheres, in favour of his wife’s, Houdin) was “The Floating Boy” or “Ethereal Suspension” in which he levitated his own son in a cloud of ether. Every conjuror in the world has made use of his tricks and techniques.
One of the most famous tricks of Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin, the creator of modern magic, was “The Floating Boy” or “Ethereal Suspension” in which he levitated his own son in a cloud of ether.
Levita is a young Belgian company founded in 2018 by two magicians, Clément Kerstenne and Philippe Bougard, well-known for their shows and internationally famous in the professional conjuring milieu for their innovative concepts. After setting up the magic company In The Air back in 2012, they grew and put their talent, ingenuity and humour at the service of a kind of magic they call “promotional”.
- The Levita team
Their performances at corporate events range from close-up conjuring tricks to shows on a grand scale where they turn cars into pumpkins. With Levita, they set about developing a unique technology. This enables small objects to be levitated and then float and rotate inside an otherwise empty showcase, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
With Levita, the two magicians set about developing a unique technology. This enables small objects to be levitated and then float and rotate inside an otherwise empty showcase, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“A mixture of electromechanics and the magician’s secret!”
The watch, since this is the object in question here, levitates and floats thanks to “a mixture of electromechanics and the magician’s secret!” Officially, that is all we know.
The “magic” system is fluid; the watch moves and turns, allowing itself to be viewed from all angles, describing arabesques in the air. It will work perfectly well without a glass pane; you can grab the watch and hold it in your hands.
This possibility is used to fine advantage, for instance, by the Roger Dubuis boutique in Geneva: when a customer comes to collect a watch, they find it levitating in the foyer and can take possession of it themselves.
A software programme lets you define the movements, route and speed of the levitated item or items. “We can well imagine a swarm of bee-shaped jewels, swirling and crossing over in mid-air,” says Nicolas Dembour, operations manager at Levita.
The electromagnetic part of the system has a motherboard that can be connected to numerous additional devices. One example: it could be connected to a camera or presence detector to make the moving object interact directly with the spectator, approaching or moving away depending on the latter’s movements. The creative possibilities of this “automation of magic” seem endless and the opportunities for innovative scenography are numerous.
For the moment, the weight and volume of the objects that can be levitated are limited. But Levita will very soon be capable of making objects weighing two or three kilos float. Moreover, a prototype already works today with a bottle of champagne weighing nearly a kilo.
At the Roger Dubuis boutique in Geneva, when a customer comes to collect a watch, they find it levitating in the foyer and can take possession of it themselves.
One important point is to ensure that the technology – totally invisible – does not take precedence over the object but is simply there to magnify its presence, to serve the object, whether watch, jewellery, accessory, garment or work of art. The big luxury groups from Richemont to LVMH are already keenly interested in what Levita has to offer. Some recently took the plunge, such as Roger Dubuis, or Audemars Piguet who installed around ten Levita showcases, mainly in Asia.
But the objective of this young promotional magic company is to retain a certain exclusivity and build close relationships to allow its customers to gradually appropriate the technology and creatively enrich it. In a way, the price alone guarantees exclusivity, starting at €18,000 for one showcase, reduced to €13,500 each for an order of ten.
They already offer several models in different sizes, in particular small, portable showcases for one-off presentations or exhibitions.
Levita will soon be capable of making objects weighing two or three kilos float. A prototype already works today with a bottle of champagne weighing nearly a kilo.
But as everyone knows, magicians have more than one trick up their sleeve.
“At the moment we’re working on automating other classic conjuring tricks,” Nicolas Dembour explains. “For example, we’re working on teleportation and automation. Imagine a showcase with four bags side by side. Each bag has a different object in it. An object is teleported from one bag to another. It’s here, then it vanishes and reappears by magic in another bag...”.
A spectacular way of breathing new life into the art of window displays.