watch, a dial, a face. The Byrne GyroDial is a radical break from this time-honoured equation, as the timepiece features interchangeable indexes at the four cardinal points of its dial. As they change, they also change the spirit of the dial, which is reflected in the motto of the Byrne GyroDial: “Change your mind in a flash”.
This timepiece was created by John Byrne following an extensive journey of technical and philosophical maturation. A designer by training, he very early on chanced upon collector’s watches. Thanks to a series of fortunate encounters, he found himself a hunter of timekeeping rarities. Thus mandated by the greatest brands intent on reconstituting their heritage through acquisitions, he developed and cultivated the keenest eye for the fundamentals of watchmaking excellence.
On a parallel track, he acquired a watch repair and refurbishing workshop, which soon earned the seal of approval from the most renowned manufactures. This new facet of his professional life inspired John Byrne to add the ambition of technical sophistication to his natural inclinations as a designer.
GyroDial was born out of an epiphany. Creative processes are sometimes laborious, sometimes dazzling, often a mix of both. It was the latter that led to Byrne’s inaugural watch creation. One evening while attending a performance of George Balanchine’s ballet Apollo musagetes at the Paris Opera, he witnessed the strangest scene: Four dancers changed their outfits almost instantaneously, as if they collided; the quartet became a single dancer with four different appearances. That summer evening, as he descended the monumental staircase of the Palais Garnier, something clicked. John Byrne was going to create a watch with four faces. So much for the dazzling. The longest, the most important and most time-consuming part was yet to come: developing the watch.
In the hours following the ballet performance, John Byrne returned to his studio and immediately set to work. Movements and tools in hand, in the middle of the night, he undertook the first verifications that told him that his concept of an interchangeable face was at all possible, even feasible. The birth of GyroDial was a process that took more than four years, from initial research to sketches to successful search for suitable partners – to final delivery of the piece.
The maturation of the project finally materialised: the GyroDial, a titanium watch measuring 41.7 mm in diameter and 14.8 mm in thickness, with taut, modern lines. On its grey dial, four windows that offer as many possibilities for the display, the face, the expression. Underneath, a calibre created-to-measure and manufactured in Fleurier comprising four rotating blocks. At midnight, or at whim, they rotate instantaneously to present a different face.
But what would be the point of offering four faces instead of one if they in turn are also imposed, unchangeable? Absolutely consistent with the spirit of the GyroDial and its reality, Byrne imagined a preselection of index faces from the outset. In addition to neutral indices or Roman or Arabic numerals, the fourth face can bear the number 5, 7 or 8 – one of the three main lucky numbers – as desired. Naturally, a fully bespoke option allows the customer to define what is to appear on each one of the 16 rotating index display faces.
It would have been much simpler to start with an existing, straightforward calibre with a date disc and modify the latter. A controlled rotating ring, with rapid leaps, would have made it possible to avoid myriad complications. But this would have fallen quite a ways short of Byrne’s aesthetic vision. For one thing, a date disc is necessarily set back from the dial.
John Byrne’s design is that of a perfectly smooth dial, the cardinal indexes are perfectly flush. Nothing betrays the face-changing operation, nothing hints at anything but the appearance one expects of a watch... until the next change. This seamless surface, with no edges or indentations, results from the perfect fit and fill of the rotating blocks within their respective windows. This same seamlessness of design follows through with the case and the way it extends to the sapphire box crystal that tops it.
On the other hand, the initial intention, rooted in the imagination whence sprung the dance that inspired John Byrne absolutely requires that the shift from one block face to the next be absolutely instantaneous. This is not only a technical must; it is also an artistic requisite. As is often the case in watchmaking, grace, style and identity are ultimately the expression of purely mechanical fundamentals, which must be mastered and made invisible at the same time. This called for not only an entirely new development on the complication front, but also for a perfectly adapted basic calibre for the GyroDial. Indeed, quite a large amount of energy needs to be generated to operate each cardinal index display module, a continuous process as it needs to again accumulate for the next shift.
It is for all these reasons that Byrne turned to his watchmaking partner Le Temps Manufacture in Fleurier. Le Temps Manufacture works discreetly for some of the greatest names in Swiss watchmaking who entrust the specialist workshop with special, particularly complex projects. John Byrne had been running a watch refurbishment and repair workshop for many years, so he knew what worked and what didn’t, what could bring a specific function to life and what might stifle it. After many fruitless searches, he finally found the partner who understood his vision and was able to transform it into a fully operational calibre, in every respect. Le Temps Manufacture delivered it: the calibre 5555. This 30 mm movement is self-winding and offers 60 hours of power reserve.
As each rotating block of the movement has the task of displaying one of four faces on the dial, the physical and aesthetic interaction between indices and dial was the subject of very special care and attention during development. First of all, their relative positioning leaves no room for approximation. Each index must be on the same plane as the dial, without even the slightest offset. It must very precisely fill the space of the window reserved for it in the dial plate – and precisely find its position after each “jump”, that is to say tens of thousands of times in the life of a GyroDial.
No gaps, no machining irregularities, a perfectly smooth transition between dial and index face – times four, meticulous centring of the axes... the finish of each rotating block had to be irreproachable because the surface of each cardinal index displayed at a given time must present a seamless continuation of the dial’s surface. This also means that each block face must have the absolute same texture and grain as the dial.
As if mirroring what lies beneath, the dial presents a finish traditionally seen on the movement: a sweeping straight grain satin finish. It is executed in a single pass to ensure a perfect alignment of the myriad grooves that create the particular texture and its play with light. It gives GyroDial a sporty, dynamic, modern aesthetic – a hallmark of the Byrne identity. At the very end of the manufacturing process, the dial undergoes a galvanic treatment to dye it in slate grey or blue.
Together, the movement and the dial are housed in the GyroDial case. A case created entirely for this model, entirely original, making no reference to any icon, any canon. It was conceived by John Byrne, who studied at a design school. With its curved profile, the case is as much an original work as the complexities it houses. First carved from a block of titanium, it is entirely Swiss made.
Fluid, even biomorphic, the case form stands out by the tautness of its lines, tense arcs that extend from lug to lug, far from facile indeed. Instead of one through line, the case presents several, harmoniously staggered between the different layers of this original construction. And as if to make them easier to apprehend, these various levels of perception are underlined by variations in finish.
Such was the task of creating and machining the case. The case middle is satin-finished whilst the upper part of the case, between the case middle and the bezel, is entirely polished. The operation may seem trivial, but it is notoriously difficult to perform on the ultra-resistant metal that is titanium. Among the many advantages of its grade 5 variant, there is one that can be grasped and felt immediately: Despite its generous proportions, the watch barely reaches 100 grams on the scale. The second is rarer, as titanium is hardly ever presented in this polished form: the finish and brilliance of the GyroDial’s case are quite unique.
The bezel, slim and clean-cut, effectively counterbalances the impression of thickness. An inevitable consequence of using rotating blocks, it has been reduced to the minimum possible by the state-ofthe- art in watchmaking and, by the magic of design, attenuated to almost the point of imperceptibility by the visual artifice that is the intelligence in the drawing. Indeed, the case design was the subject of an intense and thorough ergonomic study. It ensures perfect comfort, its soft curves following those of the wrist. The result is a slender, taut profile, with outward-reaching lugs flowing in line with the case middle.
This approach necessarily flowed into designing the strap. It was impossible to leave little thought to the element that keeps the watch to the wrist after having put so much care into creating the case, movement, dial and, above all, the underlying concept. Hand-crafted by the specialised workshop of Jean Rousseau and entirely to Byrne’s specifications, the strap is either saddle-stitched rubber or alligator, the latter with large scales. It contains two rigid inserts, placed in an interlining as close as possible to the lug width. These inserts again form a curve that naturally settles the GyroDial on the wrist. On this stage, the watch changes its costume, every evening at midnight or at whim, like a ballerina of time.
- Hours, minutes
- Changing cardinal indices with an instantaneous switch every day at midnight or at will
- Material: Grade 5 titanium
- Diameter: 41.7 mm
- Thickness: 14.8 mm
- Crystal: Sapphire box, double-sided antireflective coating
- Case back: Sapphire box, antireflective coating
- Water resistance: 5 ATM , equivalent to 50 metres
- Black or galvanic blue
- Straight grain satin finish, hollow embossed indices
- Windows at 3, 6, 9 and 12 o’clock
- Calibre 5555: Swiss, developed in Fleurier, mechanical self-winding
- Finishes: Plate and bridges in nickel silver, satin-finished and rhodium-plated, straight grain satin finish, offset Côtes de Genève, chamfering and finishing by hand
- Components: 261
- Jewels: 42
- Diameter: 30.00 mm
- Thickness: 8.00 mm
- Power reserve: 60 hours
- Frequency: 4 Hz / 28,800 vph
- Rubber or alligator (large scales), choice of colour, bespoke curved inserts
- Grade 5 titanium buckle