The watch industry keeps developing all the time, and more and more complicated watches keep hitting the market. The collectors’ attraction for these masterpieces is incredible. The huge interest in top class, innovative craftsmanship makes it possible even for small manufacturers to create exceptional watches according to their own philosophy as to how a timepiece should look and function. Here, WTM presents eight watches from passionate creators.
By Mia litström
Girard-Perregaux can count their days back to 1791 with address La Chaux de Fonds in the Jura mountains. Jean François Bautte paved the way for what would eventually become Girard-Perregaux. Bautte was a genius, and in many ways a pioneer in timekeeping for travellers. As early as 1820 he presented a caliber for pocket watches that showed two different time zones independently.
In 1852 Constant Girard founded his watch company and married Marie Perregaux, a direct descendant of Bautte, and that’s how Girard-Perregaux was born in 1856.
At the time of the industrial revolution in the mid-1800’s, the tycoons wanted to embrace the entire world during their expansion. Girard-Perregaux developed a suitable pocket watch that displayed the local time in five different cities – San Francisco, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, New York and Paris. The quickly growing railroad system made it important with reliable time zones to connect the different timetables. With the Girard-Perregaux watch it became child’s play to keep track of time wherever in the world the owner was.
A new era for the company started when Luigi Macaluso, who was the Italian distributor for Girard-Perregaux in the 1980’s, took over the company in 1992. Things had been problematic for some time after the quartz revolution, but with Macaluso at the helm the company took back its leading role in Haute Horlogerie. Luigi’s role for the art of watchmaking at Girard-Perregaux can’t be emphasized enough, he definitely preserved the company’s craftsman traditions in the best possible way. Today his son Stefano is in charge of product development since Luigi passed away much too early a few years ago.
Girard-Perregaux Traveller Large Date, Moon Phases & GMT in rose gold with a black face is 44 mm in diameter and equipped with a caliber Girard-Perregaux P03300-0095, a self-winding mechanical movement with a 46-hour power reserve.
Mechanics of, Art Deco, Girard-Perregaux Vintage 1945 Big Date Moon Phases, gives the owner the possibility to see the movement in action through the transparent face. The movement is automatic with the rotor visible in the back of the case and a 46-hour power reserve.
The story of Parmigiani Fleurier, like so many others, has its roots in an awkward situation. The year is 1974, Michel Parmigiani has just graduated from his watchmaking education, and he finds himself right in the rocky period when Japanese quartz watches flood the markets all over the world and no one needs a Swiss mechanical movement anymore. More than 90,000 watchmaking jobs are wiped out in an instant. In spite of everything, Michel Parmigiani opens his own workshop in Couvet in 1976 and with the stubbornness of a fool he struggles on with repairing historical mechanical watches. There are many who advice him to seek a different career – but he doesn’t care.
– If like me you have worked with miracles from the past, there’s no way you could ever believe that the tradition of watchmaking would cease to exist, Michel Parmigiani says.
During this period Michel also produced watches made to order, with complications where he often could make the technical decisions himself. His company Mesure et Art du Temps is a small workshop but very prosperous.
Everything changes in 1980 when Michel meets the Sandoz family that owns one of the most impressive collections of pocket watches and automatics in Switzerland. They are looking for someone to take the responsibility for restoring the pieces. Michel accepts the job offer, his skills are appreciated, and he gets the chance to start his own manufacture. The Parmigiani Fleurier brand is born in 1996.
The first years were dedicated to the development of the brand’s own calibers, like two automatic movements with eight days power reserve. Today each Parmigiani has an in-house movement. Michel’s creative freedom is considerable, as among other things the unique Bugatti watches prove.
The Tonda 1950 Squelette model reveals that the thin case contains a complicated miracle of craftsmanship. The caliber is PF705 and the platinum micro rotor is visible. The model is available in white or rose gold and as always the wristband is made by Hemès. The power reserve is 42 hours, the diameter is 39 mm and the thickness only 8,4 mm.
The Linde Werdelin brand was born out of a near-lethal accident in the Swiss Alps. In was in the winter of 1996 that Jorn Werdelin, an experienced alpinist and off-pist skier, was surprised by bad weather. He got lost, slipped down a cliff and broke his back.
In 2002, Jorn Werdelin and Morten Linde started working on a new idea – they wanted to develop a sports watch that could be combined with professional digital instruments to give essential information at the right time for skiers and divers.
– In our opinion, analog display is the best way to read time and digital display is superior when it comes to adding technical details. A perfect combination of the analog and digital gives both style and function without any compromises, says Linde.
A carefully designed sports watch for all situations can be turned into a precision instrument with an extra diving or skiing instrument. You could say that Linde Werdelin combines the best of Swiss craftsmanship, Danish design, and ingenuity. The instruments are at the avant garde of digital technology and are developed and produced in-house by Linde Werdelin.
Linde Werdelin’s new model with Titan Grade 5 is manufactured in a limited series with only 59 pieces. The Oktopus BluMoon shows hours, minutes and seconds and also wears the iconic moon that has become a trademark of Linde Werdelin. The case is 44 x 46 x 15 mm, the movement is a tailor-made LW calibre with in-house moon phase. The power reserve is 44 hours and the price will be around 13,300 euros plus tax.
When the first Richard Mille products were introduced in 2001, they showed a new direction for watchmaking. Their watches were extraordinary and uncompromising right from the start, with new innovations concerning the use and shaping of new technical materials.
With inspiration from research and development in the high tech worlds of aviation and racing, Richard Mille envisioned new previously untried ways of using materials like carbon-nanofiber and aluminum-lithium that have become well used and widely discussed materials in Richard Mille’s watches. Materials chosen for their respective specific, well defined and improved effects for reaching the best results and opening new worlds for watchmaking in the new millennium.
– The ultimate watch can only be created by combining the materials with technical engineering and inventiveness under the right circumstances, Richard Mille says.
The movements are produced with the help of the very best of today’s Swiss watchmakers. The production partners are chosen for their knowledge, their mechanical skills and not least their deep and solid understanding of Richard Mille’s philosophy and strategy.
The RM 33-01 with an automatic movement is one of the watches that will be presented at SIHH in Geneva in January, and WTM have gotten a special introduction to the model. The movement is a skeletoned caliber RMXP3 with a platinum micro rotor. Even though the tonneau shape is the one usually most familiar from Richard Mille, there are also a number of round models. The new RM 33-01 is round with graphic numbers that increase the watch’s dynamic energy. They give the face optimal readability and let the wearer admire the movement’s complex action and titanium bridges. The diameter is 45,7 mm and thickness 9,2 mm, the watch has a rubber wristband with a folding clasp and it’s waterproof to 30 meters.
Their watches sent ripples through the audience the first time they were shown at SIHH in Geneva. Many felt – and still feel – these are the best watches they have ever seen.
Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey started working together in 1992 at Renaud & Papi where they developed complicated movements. Their working relationship for over two decades is based on their common technical creativity and quest for extreme perfection.
In 1999 they started planning a new generation of tourbillon designed to improve the precision of mechanical watches. Four years later they presented Greubel Forsey to much acclaim from watch aficionados for their innovative model Double Tourbillon 30°. The watch made its debut at the 2004 Basel fair and made a sensational impression.
Greubel Forsey are based in a high-tech building in La Chaux-de-Fonds with 120 employees. The production is very small and the watches expensive. The company holds an impressive number of patented inventions and movement constructions that have won many prestigious awards. Their watches cater to the real connoisseurs among collectors. Every detail is refined to the absolute maximum level.
Their very first creation, the Double Tourbillon 30°, embodies the company values like inventiveness, competence and pride of craftsmanship. By changing the concept of what a tourbillon is supposed to be, they set their agenda for the company’s first decade. They explore the thin line between science and art. Besides technical perfection they are very serious about the aesthetics of their products. Technological innovation and revolutionary design are evident in every one of Greubel Forsey’s watches. This doubly creative philosophy has made it possible for the duo to develop in a unique direction while working with the tourbillon concept in a new way, a complication that has pretty much stayed the same since the late 1700’s.
The Double Tourbillon 30° Vision is Greubel Forsey’s first invention and has an innovative double tourbillon mechanism (DT30) that leans 30° and rotates in 60 seconds – inside yet another one that rotates every four minutes to compensate for gravity-related interference to the oscillating system.
QP à Équation in white gold, the watch that marks Greubel & Forsey’s ten-year anniversary, has a movement that has demanded ten years of research. The diameter is 43,5 mm and thickness 16 mm. The watch contains a patented 24-second tourbillon with a 25-degree lean angle, the power reserve is 72 hours and the movement has 570 separate parts and 65 jewels.
One of the new watch brands that have been much celebrated for their different approach on Haute Horlogerie.
The brand was founded in Geneva in 2004 and quickly became known for their unique concept based on famous contemporary legends. Romain Jerome give their customers the opportunity to own a piece of history by creating watches inspired by and with actual DNA from a very special place or legend. The watches are of astonishing quality regarding Swiss craftsmanship and have a subtle and sophisticated aura of manliness.
Romaine Jerome builds their philosophy on the power of the ocean, the air and the earth. They have made watches that contain recycled steel from the luxury liner Titanic and from the Apollo 11, dust from to moon and volcanic lava.
Romaine Jerome have become iconic because of the modern legends they include in their production. Their latest model is a tribute to the collapse of the Berlin Wall. They like to state that it’s never too late to try to bring about change, and it’s never too early to remember. 25 years have passed since the Wall went down, and this watch has been designed with the help of the East Side Gallery in Berlin. After the reunion in 1990 the East Side Gallery engaged 118 artists from all over the world to paint a 1,300 meter stretch of the east side of the Wall – the longest outdoor art exhibition ever. It’s also one of the most frequently visited tourist attractions in Germany. But now the artwork is threatened by pollution, vandalism and destruction.
– That’s why we at Romain Jerome have decided to help preserve the art by presenting the profits for the Berlin-DNA watch to the East Side Gallery, says Manuel Emch, CEO for Romain Jerome.
– The Wall is an ever-present reminder of passion and engagement in freedom for humanity. This is exactly the kind of legend that spurs us on.
The back of the watch, limited to 25 units, is decorated with one of the most famous paintings in the Wall of East Side Gallery: ”Brother Kiss” by the Russian artist Dmitri Vrubel, inspired by a picture taken in 1979 when Soviet Union leader Leonid Brezhnev and East German president Erich Honecker kiss each other after Brezhnev’s speech at the 30th anniversary of the birth of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik.
Spaniard Franc Vila was interested in wristwatches even as a young boy, and had dreams early on about his own perfectly engineered watch. After finishing studies in chemistry, philosophy and Fine Art, and being a collector of art and fountain pens, he decided in the year 2000 to create his own brand. His goal was to produce the best high quality mechanical watches ever.
With Vila’s knowledge in chemistry and art, his watch design resulted in “esprit unique” which has become his trademark since the start. Franc Vila premiered his watches at Baselworld 2005. They were full of complications like perpetual calendars, Flyback Chronograph and tourbillons with minute repeater. His passion for quality and exclusivity make the production figures very small.
– We live in the present and our watches should be contemporary, but with respect for tradition and exclusivity which is the main focus of luxury mixed with avant-garde competence. I design my watches to satisfy my own demands and my taste for how time should be presented, Franc Vila says.
– The original idea was to create an exclusive and modern watch built with extreme quality demands in every detail. When I started out, it was with one foot in the past and the other in the future.
A large part of Franc Vila’s success is that he has been consistent with a very personal concept with the philosophy of his brand.
– I can’t make simple watches, that’s why our production will always be very limited, from 8 pieces to 88 which is really quite absurd within the luxury segment. Our distribution is very limited as well. My motivation is to try to create watches for the future, watches that I myself like, and I try to do things that no one has ever done before, Franc concludes.
The model Cobra FV 18E Manual Suspended Skelett is made in a combination of titanium, steel and carbon fiber. The movement is suspended in a system of springs. The watch has a sapphire glass and is waterproof to 100 meters, with a 44 to 46 hour power reserve. The wristband is made of black rubber and the series is limited to 88 watches.
Van Cleef & Arpels
In the late 1800’s the young Estelle Arpels, daughter of a diamond dealer, met Alfred Van Cleef who was the son of a stonecutter. It was a start of a romantic relationship but also a business venture. “We have always been inspired by the unique and creative energy of love – after all, love is the reason why all of us exist”, people at the company are fond of saying.
Estelle and Alfred got married in 1895 and they had a lot in common, such as enthusiasm, pioneer spirit, ethics, family solidarity and a great passion for noble stones. They wanted to create something together and founded the Maison Van Cleef & Arpels. In 1906 they were joined by Estelle’s brother Charles, an efficient salesman who worked wonders for the business in their store on the Place Vendôme in the middle of Paris. Two years later, Estelle’s brother Julien also started working for the company and in 1912 the third brother, Louis, also joined in. the following years, the siblings managed to make Van Cleef & Arpels synonymous with the most exclusive jewelry that money could buy at the time.
Today’s CEO of jewelry producer and watchmaker Van Cleef & Arpels, Nicolas Bos, tells us:
– We are popular among connoisseurs all over the world. Our customers have heard about our reputation for high quality and knowledge.
Van Cleef & Arpels produced their first watches back in the 1920’s, but it wasn’t until 1935 that they really found their own distinctive style in the world of watches. Today they are a serious player in the area of Haute Horlogerie and hire only the best movement engineers for their revolutionary watches. At the latest fair in Geneva we were introduced to the new Midnight Planétarium Poetic Complication in rose gold. The case measures 44 mm in diameter and the face shows a big part of our solar system.
Six planets keep moving around the sun on the watch’s face – Earth, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, all the planets that are visible from Earth. Their movements are powered by a self-winding mechanism with a module that has been developed with the help of Maison Christiaan van der Klaauw and is made out of 396 separate parts. All of the planets in the module are true to their actual orbit. This means that Saturn will complete one cycle around the watch’s face in more than 29 years. Jupiter makes the full circle in 12 years, Mars in 687 days, Earth in 365 days, Venus in 224 days and Mercury in 88 days.