et up in 2005 in Le Locle by Jean-François Mojon, Chronode lost no time in establishing an enviable position at the forefront of a new era for mechanical complications. Mojon had spent the previous decade at IWC and was bubbling over with ideas, but he was frequently told his suggestions didn’t fit the brand’s identity or match any of its collections. While he could understand this, he felt increasingly frustrated by the lack of outlets for his innovative concepts… and more and more tempted to “go it alone”.
The time was ripe: Chronode’s launch coincided with an upsurge in creativity that sent brands in search of original products and novel ideas – things that had never been seen or done before. Meanwhile, new boutique brands brought a fresh spate of creativity. The watch industry was gripped by a form of “mechanical escalation” and Mojon, with his experience in micromechanical engineering, was well placed to benefit from it.
- Opus X by Harry Winston (2010): developed in collaboration with Jean-François Mojon. Separate indicators for hours, minutes and seconds are mounted on a platform that makes one full revolution every 24 hours. At the same time, these indicators rotate so that their orientation remains the same in every position. The manual-winding mechanical movement functions as a planetary geartrain, comprising a solar wheel, satellite wheels and frame. The indicators for hours, minutes and seconds are set on the satellite wheels which orbit the central solar wheel. A second time zone over 24 hours is shown on the periphery. Ensuring the coherence of the design, the linear indicator for the 72-hour power reserve, on the back, also operates as a planetary geartrain.
Despite his having “no references to speak of” – his words – brands began beating a path to his door, seduced by the originality of his ideas. His big break came when Harry Winston invited him to create the Opus X. It would take two years to finalise this technical tour de force (Mojon insists on the fact this was “a collective effort”). When the Opus X launched in 2010, Chronode was thrust into the spotlight.
“A perfect balance”
Almost 15 years on from this exploit, Chronode employs 35 people in Le Locle, has a packed order book and “long-term visibility”. Despite being inundated with requests from both new and established brands, “all wanting to move upmarket,” Jean-François Mojon has no plans to expand. The company has plenty of projects in the pipeline and loyal customers to serve. “I’m not looking to grow beyond the size we are now,” Mojon says. “We’ve already struck a perfect balance.”
Many of the brands that call on Chronode’s expertise still demand the utmost discretion. Among those he is willing to name, Jean-François Mojon is especially proud of the company’s “magnificent collaboration” with Hermès. Created in 2019, L’Heure de la Lune offers a unique moon-phase indication by way of two large moons that remain stationary while dials for the time and the date rotate in front of them, covering and uncovering the moons to show the current phases.
- L’Heure de la Lune, by Hermès. A fine example of close collaboration between Chronode and Hermès, resulting in one of the most original and visually compelling ways of depicting the progression of the phases of the moon.
Another success story is the ongoing collaboration with Czapek, including the movement for La Rattrapante, a dial-side split-seconds chronograph. Then there is Cyrus, which has given Chronode carte blanche to devise every one of its collections and products from A to Z. Not forgetting occasional collaborations, recent examples being for Trilobe, Breva’s Génie 01 (a watch and a weather station with hours, minutes, altimeter and barometer functions), HYT’s H1, Legacy Machine N°1 for MB&F and the Sequential One for MCT.
All these watches bear the stamp of Chronode and that of Jean-François Mojon, whose approach to movement construction, architecture and finishing, remains singularly modern and is evident in every one of his propositions.
Chronode’s services range from movement development to the manufacturing, decoration and assembly of the entire watch, down to after-sales service. To date the company has completed over one hundred projects, all to clients’ specifications.
Each product is developed exclusively for that client. Chronode operates on two levels: movements are either designed, developed and produced from scratch (these are usually the most innovative) or built on one of the four in-house base calibres. Calling this a catalogue would be a misnomer, as these movements are systematically personalised and are designed to be “augmented” with additional modules or to undergo transformations requested by the client.
When developing completely bespoke products, Chronode describes itself as an “accelerator of ideas”. The starting point can be a concept put forward by the client or an original idea proposed by Chronode.
One of the areas most frequently explored is the time display. Solutions “imply the very architecture of the watch. There is no longer any separation between movement, dial, hands and indications but instead a complete synthesis of functions.” Chronode enters the client’s world so as to express its origins, characteristics and values “as a continuation of its history or to begin a new chapter.” One of the best examples of this “fusion” is the previously mentioned L’Heure de la Lune, which perfectly captures the dreamlike and poetic quality that Hermès brings to telling time.
From initial concept to after-sales
In practical terms, Chronode is not a vertically integrated manufacture. It plans, designs, builds, finalises, tests, greenlights, decorates and assembles movements and watches, but doesn’t produce components in-house. Instead, it can count on a tried and trusted network of suppliers and partners, all located within a 30-kilometre radius.
It begins by carrying out a detailed analysis of the initial concept, produces 3D simulations, identifies the best technical solutions and drafts construction drawings for each component. Once these components are delivered, Chronode’s prototype-makers assemble the first products, checking performance, ease of assembly and compliance with the initial specifications. Once every box has been ticked, series production can begin.
- CALIBRE C 101: manual-winding mechanical movement, 7-day power reserve, customised decoration. Other functions can be added. Hours, minutes, centre seconds or at 6 o’clock, power reserve at 12 or 9 o’clock. Diameter: 31.10mm, height: 3.98mm. Frequency: 3Hz – 21,600 vph.
- CALIBRE C 102: manufacture automatic movement. High level of personalisation. Other functions can be added. Five-year warranty. Hours, minutes, centre seconds or at 9 o’clock, date at 3 o’clock (or other positions within the same diameter). Power reserve: 60+ hours. Diameter: 31.10mm, height: 4.00mm (4.15mm at the centre). Frequency: 4Hz – 28,800 vph.
For its base movements, Chronode handles the entire logistical flow but outsources production and assembly to third parties, in order to absorb volumes that can run into the thousands. Exclusive products, including one-off pieces, are pre-assembled, assembled and cased in-house by Chronode’s own watchmakers.
- CALIBRE C 502: manual-winding mechanical tourbillon movement for personalisation to the customer’s functional and aesthetic criteria (geometry and finish of the tourbillon carriage and bridges, logistics for external parts). Other functions can be added on the dial side. Hours, minutes, tourbillon carriage, power-reserve indication (60+ hours) rotating 180 degrees. Diameter: 32.80mm, height: 5.76mm. Frequency: 3Hz – 21,600 vph.
Importantly, Chronode also provides after-sales service and maintains a stock of replacement parts. It guarantees the full traceability of technical as well as logistics data, while staff training ensures that clients’ products can be serviced now and into the future.
- CALIBRE C 501: manual-winding mechanical movement, precision 24-hour gong alarm. Custom decoration. Chronometer-certified (certificate on request). Winding and setting by the crown. Alarm On/Off mode via a pusher at 4 o’clock. Hours, minutes, seconds (can also be concentric with hours and minutes), day/night indicator for standard time, 24-hour gong alarm, day/night indicator for the alarm, gong. Power reserve: 65+ hours. Diameter: 34.80mm, height: 7.00mm. Frequency: 4Hz – 28,800 vph.