Heritage watch manufacture - an improbable encounter
Some duets can be so full of creativity and bright ideas that one would believe that the duettists met each other at their own birth. I think of Renaud& Papi, Greubel& Forsey, Tic& Tac or Nicolas Sarkozy and his discrete shoe-heels.
On the other hand, others are very improbable like the one of Zanetta& Flagollet, Ruchonnet& Coudray, surprisingly, sometimes the improbable ones enable to fulfill duettists’ own potential more than the conventional ones.
Speaking of the improbable joint venture, this one is one of most astonishing that I have seen in concern of the dial - Eric Giroud (the one who gave his touch to fabulous Opus Eleven presented at BaselWorld). In concern of the movement, that would be before all Karsten Frassdörf, the one who was drowned in the shipwreck of FDMN.
However, he is always here, with even sharpened sophisticated art since FDMN, and Giroud, creates one of his most beautiful dials.
HWM, was incontestably the great surprise of the wonder week in Geneva. While the SIHH was bordering with sleepy hollow (fortunately Panerai, Van Cleef & Arpels, Richard Mille and Vacheron Constantin raised the level), the poor GTE exhibition, whose ambience was filled with nervousness from ruling crisis.
Likewise the wonder week in Basel; whereas whole BaselWorld has turned towards Asia, in manner more or less confessed, Hall 6 or Hall of Universe represented Chineses manufacturers/supplier, for the front of the scene, production in China in the backstage.
Watches with white/opaline dial of +/- 40mm which they don’t feel like touching, are about to grab market shares in new the watchmaking sinorado.
Therefore, whereas everyone is there or would like to be there, but nobody would ever confess it publicly, Heritage Watch Manufactory hits strongly by launching a watch truly dedicated to the Chinese market (the first?). Not just any cheap talisman, but the timepiece with a grand complication dedicated to the Chinese time paradigm. I will get back to it later on.
The assortment comprises today 3 timepieces.
The least expensive (25.000€), the Magnus is in very fair-play manner, the one with the most beautiful treatment of its dial and the most aesthetic movement, too. However, one should eventually find this fabulous dial throughout the whole collection.
In any case, the features of Giroud’s style are more than recognizable, thus, Magnus Contemporaine is equipped with a balance-wheel of large dimension, a movement with the brutal finishing, ultra-qualitative, à la German style all in all. In details:
You will notice incredible volumes of decorations of the dial, so called neo-classic, the most effective. Giroud has got a perfect control of the curves, at some points, I can find some aesthetical tricks of Opus IX as well; in the round-offs as well as in the balance of contrasts white black/, bevels at the end of the circular segment and the figures painted in relief. This completely convinced me of the quasi-qualitative perfection of this brilliant dial. Great job Giroud!
Where the bottom disturbs me a bit, it is the steel case, as much as the drawing, that the finishing is just banal, effective, but still banal. After such a firework of creation on the dial, and such a depth of the movement (I come to it immediately, a band of speleologists apprentices), I would expect rather a nice looking case, on the contrary, here we go with the German rigidity.
I would expect i.e. treatment (in rhodium?) like on this KPM001:
Anyway, it’s ok, but a case à la Lange, even in Panerai style (I dream to see a movement of Karsten in PAM), would have been perfect.
We are clearly talking about a case of work and its surprising dimensions; 42,5mmn that encased with a shoehorn a movement of 38mm, finally, it is very coherent, considering that Centenus is completely dedicated to the Chinese market.
But the movement makes me quickly forget the little sins of the case:
Not less than are 3 patents are put on the movement of this watch, the system of fine tuning of balance-wheel (Moser?) is optimized in consequence to inhibit a big amount of energy to move such a giant of 16mm compared to 13mm for Unitas 6497 or the P.3000. You can not notice that there are “strips” all around the balance, which can draw aside or retract via screws and bolts; thus the watch does not require the services of a watchmaking master for his final chronometric adjustments. Not less than three patents exist for the fine tuning of this Magnus, laid out around the balance block.
The word, which comes to one’s mind, is depth, since one plunges literally in the movement; however, the movement makes “only” 6mm of thickness (against 4mm for Unitas and 8 for the 7750) consider almost 38mm of diameter!! One of the largest simple movements of wristwatch of the entire Swiss watch industry.
The depth effect is conditioned by a very smart disposition of 4 small bridges out of 3 levels (idea which had already been exploited in an almost similar way in the time of the FDMN), the balance-wheel is hypnotic, and contributes in a paradoxical way to this plunged in the depths of the movement (undoubtedly is this due to unintentionally magnifying glass effect, that one feels vis-à-vis to this large balance, whose surface is approximately 800mm² against approximately 500mm² for an Unitas balance-wheel).
Earlier, I spoke about brutality and elegance, one could almost say elegance, we are far from the movement of Lange& Soëhne decorated like a Christmas tree (even if I adore this Saxon style, it is feels sometimes like large Strudel with the cream, a smidgeon indigestible), here we can't see frills, no abusive use of bridges' decorations, sabled bridges in white gold, I suppose, the discrete anglages, contrast with the brass wheels, all contribute to the bonding and felted theme.
There is as well a white version:
But before all, there is Centenus dedicated to time reading of Chinese traditional hours, in their system of traditional time calculation, the Chinese formerly expressed time in Ké 刻 based on decimal principle well ahead the French revolution, the day was divided into 100 Ké, representing 14min 24sec.
This indication in Ké is found at 9 o’clock position on the dial; the large pointer indicates Ké (100), small one Fen (60), that is to say Fen 分 lasts during approximately 14 seconds.
On the other hand, the aperture at 12 o’clock (some would have benefited from it to make 2 watches…), indicates Shi 时辰, other Chinese time system vaguely copied in Latin time reading with an exception of that the hours count double times, as well that one day lasts 12heures, each “big hour” represents an ideogram of the Chinese zodiac calendar, therefore various animals: the rat, the tiger, the horse, etc…
Subtlety does not stop there, this aperture can be regulated by a very simple handling of the crown on another time zone, thus a Chinese businessman can keep the main time reading (related to the hours in Ké), as well as local time, and simultaneously the hours in Shi to remain with Shinese time reading. Finally, the day starts with 23:00 in the time calculation of Shi.
If you well understood, you can have a look at illustration in photographs.
The base movement of the HWM Centenus is the .800, here famous 888 (any coincidence with Chinese lucky figure would be purely coincidental); the structure of the bridges is the same one. The numbers of jewels pass from 33 to 48.
Another hint of ingenuity carried out by HWM is to launch a top-of-the-range watch, dedicated to the watch making dandyism. A dandyism more masculine than the one of Patek or Dufour, a real dandyism, which takes form in the intellectual abstraction requiring the full comprehension of the function of this watch.
Tensus is reserved for the pure chronometry; it doesn’t differ a lot from a case side, but strongly from movement side since it includes 2 other patents.
The dial is subtler in the design, i.e. alternation of figures painted and applied, same about the design, and always signed by Giroud, implementing the art of circles that one would believe there is a revolution between them.
In addition to the innovations described in Magnus, Tensus deposits 2 additional patents:
The first patent relates to the barrel, it consists of two superposed barrels, usually, in this traditional configuration, the barrels turn in the same direction, here, the are rotating in opposite direction same as the blades of Soviet helicopters (http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamov_Ka-50 or some Spitfires, or moreover certain Ekranoplans).
After the barrel is unwound, it becomes slightly deformed. As the barrels of Tensus are unwounded in opposite direction, the deformation is auto compensated, allowing a more balanced arrival of the energy to the escapement.
The second and most important innovation concerns the escapement. A double superposed wheel of escapement also receives the energy and transmits it by 2 hammers. The block of escapement is controlled by a complication spiral.
All the chain of energy of the watch is turned towards chronometry, with the end adjustments of balance-wheel, this is supposed to provide a constant force; it is a watchmaking way deeply intellectualizing, which stands for a true homage to traditional chronometry
Henceforth, I will follow with attention this new manufacture, which surfs with talent on the sinophile tendency in the beginning of the year 2011 while they are producing simple watches with 3-4 hands, but which contrary to the others surfs with brilliance and real watchmaking culture.
Nina Friedman (communication) and Karsten Frassdörf:
This watchmaking success, beyond the federalist role of Christian Gütermann, is a little success of the Net, before Internet, (before MB& F also made it known to the public); Eric Giroud was unknown same as Karsten Frassdörf has charmed us with FDMN, today these talents are joined together to make us discover the watchmaking surprise of this year 2011.