Ask anyone to recall a famous artist-scientist and there’s a good chance that one name comes to mind unbidden – Leonardo da Vinci. By the time of his death in 1519, Leonardo’s talents as an engineering artist were well documented by his faithful apprentice in a series of renowned renaissance sketches; it’s a story which resonates well into the 21st century: entrepreneurs and their initial sketch of a prototype or a big idea and this is exactly as romantic as the conception of Rudis Sylva.
In 1998, flying across the Atlantic from the Swiss capital to Brazil’s financial centre Sao Paulo, trained lawyer and amateur painter Nicolas Vaccaro conceived his vision in ink, the beginnings of what Jacky Epitaux and Jura watchmaker Romain Gillet would turn into manufacture Rudis Sylva’s first seminal work.
Heralds of the Grand Artisan
Once all avenues for differentiation via marketing were exhausted by the myriad of comptoirs during the early days of watchmaking, many names in the industry started turning to a more technically savvy form of advertising. Some chose vertical integration in processes to ensure quality, others pursued a loftier endeavour – innovativeness. Tackling the problem of rate variances in different positions (face up, down, crown up, down, etc) then became the crowning achievement- precision timekeeping became paramount and the complication which assisted that pursuit, attracted the best kind of viral marketing possible in the 1800s- word of mouth. Breguet might have been first but that hasn’t stopped the famous and sometimes even the more obscure names in watchmaking from topping that accomplishment. Taking a name inspired by farmer Ruedin’s green acres around Le Bois, Rudis Sylva (or Rudi’s woodlands) takes classical watchmaking as practiced by the artisans on the Haut Plateau of the Jura and re-interprets the humble oscillator into a potent, heretofore unseen concept- a Harmonious Oscillator.
If a horological concept is unprecedented, it’s probably best that it comes from a place of provenance and Rudi’s woodlands in Le Bois is where Emile Huot, orginally from Franche-Comté, founded an assortment, lever and cylinder factory in 1852. It was here that the Huot family plied their trade till May 1941, where they finally incorporated the United Assortments Factories Trust, precursor to the famed Nivarox. It’s here too that the Baume family (yes, of Baume & Mercier) along with the Beaumann and Huot, were the most reputable among these watchmaking families. The lesser known Beaumann family made their fortunes in wheel and cylinder manufacture and while it was a business which ended in 1964, Raymond Beaumann invented a bezel winding device he dubbed mémoparc; selling 80 million pieces which revived Beaumann fortunes; thus, it is this combination of relative genetics, tradition and industry which has distilled itself in 6th generation watchmaker Gillet. Thus, it can be argued that Rudis Sylva is an ode to the region’s finest horological skills.
Rudis Sylva Harmonious Oscillator
Conceptualised by Romain Gillet and developed by Finnish watchmaker Mika Rassinen, the Harmonious Oscillator is a revolution in watchmaking – a 60 second tourbillon with twin balances on a single escapement assortment. Yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds, both balance wheels eschew the usual weighted chatons for gear teeth.
A set of escape wheel and lever serves only to provide impulse for a single balance and with its teeth, that balance wheel oscillates the other balance wheel. “Harmonious oscillation” occurs when the two balance springs, each attached at opposite points, breathe in symmetrical opposition to each other. In English, when one is open and expanded, the other is closed and constricted. The result of these
“opposing breaths” is that each balance wheel averages the rate variances for the other, cancelling the errors. The dual balance wheels, turning in union are in turn set upon a carousel platform making a full rotation once per minute, mimicking the gravity-cancelling effects of a tourbillon. Artistically, it is as sophisticated as it is technically complex.
Each timepiece is gorgeously decorated with alternating decorative techniques, giving each watch an almost grandiose, musical quality to it, much like rock ballads punctuated with ear-shredding guitar solos. The “batarang” cage holding the two balance wheels has 28 bevelled angles, which itself shows material mastery as hand bevelling an inward corner in titanium is 10 times more difficult than a rounded corner in steel. Meanwhile the surfaces of the other components are treated to a variety of guilloché and brushed finishing which adds to the meticulous attractiveness of the entire construct. Visually, the lower half of the watch face is dominated by its emotional core, the aptly named Harmonious Oscillator while beneath the rotating cage, lies the field of handcrafted tapered pyramids each hand tooled by local artisan Georges Brodbeck, case in point of his mastery, each pyramid is smaller than those of the neighbouring row which follows toward the periphery of the movement.
With all Rudis Sylva Harmonious Oscillator components produced between Saignelégier and Le Locle; each finished by specialist craftsmen, engravers, bevellers, enamellers and guilloché artists, the Harmonious Oscillator lives up to its namesake region- a 44mm horological tour de force with 70 hours power reserve and answering questions to the nature of its credibility and legitimacy by being 99% in-house (or more accurately in-village) save for jewels, hairspring and escapement. This watch is truly a hallmark of grand artisans.