Now Baselworld 2018 has come to a close I think it is appropriate to talk about one of the meetings that has left a timeless impression on me...
This was with Romain Gauthier. An independent brand from the famed Vallée de Joux, a picturesque valley that is known as the birthplace of fine Swiss watch-making! If you aren’t familiar, this brand is famed for their cutting edge designs, incredible hand finishing and innovation.
..and that’s exactly what they do
I had first heard of Romain Gauthier from their horological wonder the ‘Logical One’, a time only watch that’s made special from its modern approach to the extremely traditional fusée and chain system. This watch was also one of the first I got to try on!
The fusée and chain system, while extremely complicated basically uses the chain to place torque on the barrel to provide constant force as the power reserve runs down. You can find this on the left side of the dial in the image below, from this angle you can see that the links of the chain are actually made up of hard-wearing, low-friction, synthetic rubies!
Although... the extremely complicated ‘standard’ fusée and chain system wasn’t enough for Romain Gauthier, they went further to develop a (worlds first) straight line chain system to be wound via a caseband pusher. Seriously impressive stuff and I think this watch is a really wonderful example of the values behind the brand. Their commitment to innovation and perfection is truly admirable, and a rare quality in today’s world of mass produced consumerism.
In the metal and on the wrist this watch really was something special. The perfect proportions, sleek curves and the incredible avant-garde yet completely traditional design all work in perfect harmony to back the insane movement up, this watch isn’t just a technical feat – but also a piece of artwork, no corners have been cut in their pursuit of perfection, and that’s what makes this watch so great – The blend of incredible watch making and breathtaking design mean you get to appreciate the incredible movement architecture and finishing at all times, without effecting the practicality and wear-ability of the watch.
This was the first watch I got to look at in the meeting, and I really thought; “Could it get any better than this?”
Yes, it could!
The next watch I was fortunate enough to try on was the new titanium Insight Micro-Rotor with a stunning blue oven-fired enamel dial. This watch was the one that stood out the most to me, mainly due to the case size, at 39.5mm this fit perfectly on my 6.5 inch wrist, almost as if it was made for me! (...and here I am, still wishing it was…)
It also seemed to be everything I like in watches all in one. I’m a sucker for open-worked dials, and I truly think this is one of the best I have ever seen; The impeccably snailed and chamfered micro rotor drawing the wearer in with every subtle wrist movement, the aggressive sweeping bridges with insane hand bevelling work to create incredible depth making this timepiece an absolute dream to look at for any watch enthusiast. Incredibly however, the overall purpose of telling time is not compromised with the small dial aperture at 12 still being very readable and prominent. How such an ‘over the top’ watch can remain so practical I don’t know. What Romain Gauthier have done here is simply a masterful job at executing the design, and it has kind of spoiled other watch design for me…
The watch that started it all
The last watch I feel compelled to write about is the first watch from Romain Gauthier, the Prestige HM, a beautiful and very unique two hand dress watch. This was a watch that I didn’t focus on too much in person, I think due to its understated looks in comparison with the Logical One and Insight Micro-Rotor, although it was the one that I thought about the most after the meeting…
I still had a thirst to learn and explore the watch more, which is definitely part of the beauty of a truly classic dress watch. Perfectly serving its function as an understated time only piece, yet the elegance and sublimity of the design and finishing continue to draw the viewer in time after time. Every time you look at the watch you discover something else, appreciating and admiring yet another hidden detail that all combine with each other and work together, to bring the characteristics and charm of the watch to the fore front of your mind.
I was lucky enough to try on the black dialled, rose gold version. I truly believe this is the strongest variant, the warmth of the rose gold case complement the design perfectly, and it also adds another dimension to the movement, having the large sweeping rose gold bridges contrast against the silver toned perlage beneath provides a beautiful sense of depth and the contrast helps to highlight the world class finishing of each individual component.
The icing on the cake is the ingenious winding system, which even through its complexity only serves to bolster the understated aesthetic. Have you noticed the lack of a crown? Or a traditional one at least.. This watch is actually wound from the flat ‘crown’ on the backside, which increases winding efficiency as the energy does not need to be transmitted through a 90 degree angle, and thanks to its large diameter is incredibly easy to grip and wind.
Their second release, the Prestige HMS also features this type of crown.
A lasting impression
Seeing these incredible watches definitely opened my eyes to the very tip top level of what can be achieved in our industry. Forget marketing tactics and mass production, this is a brand that solely focuses on the innovation and quality of their final product. Exquisite hand finishing, in house development / manufacture and cutting edge design are part of the brands core values, which is incredibly impressive and definitely a rare thing.
I have been left inspired from our meeting with the extremely welcoming brand representatives, an experience that has only made me feel more grateful for my opportunity to be able to design watches for people to enjoy, I like to think that the values for creating a great product carry over, even on a much lesser scale in our own modest way... I hope I can get another chance to handle these stunning pieces for a longer period soon, and be left in awe all over again.
If you would like to learn more about Romain Gauthier, be sure to check out their website here!