We presented the VAULT Watches project in July – a new independent brand with an original concept: to show the time in a personal way. While one might say that is just visual gimmick, the implication the time telling is desired much more profound. The VAULT watches do not just display the time in a slightly different manner, the timepieces change their visual appearance by setting of the dial according to the personal preferences. Since the release date is getting closer and closer, we visited the Uhrteil AG, the place where Vault watches are manufactured under the careful guidance of Andreas Strehler.
Places, people and stories
We travelled to Sirnach, a small city in the canton of Thurgau in Switzerland, just about 40km north-east from Zurich. In a quiet neighbourhood, at the end of the street, you can find the entrance to the Uhrteil AG workshop. Looking from the street, you can see master watchmaker Andreas Strehler at work in his street-side room-atelier.
Following a dream – Mark Schwarz
We first met with Mark Schwarz, the man behind VAULT watches. We sat for a chit chat and Mark told us the story of his dream. His world of watches started from a young age with a Swatch Flik-Flak. And slowly, “the collecting microbe” became his master. Later, in his years working as a policeman, he had a Casio G-Shock GW-9010. The watch was close to him in hard situations, being even now in an excellent shape. And yes, we saw it and played with it.
At some point, he started to remember the beauty of his childhood. The freedom to create, to play with LEGOs and to build everything that comes in mind, to make his own world.
In 2012, Mark started to draw the first sketches. Mark desired something different, not just another watch. During a trip to München, he came up with the idea of the rotating dial and a movement without a stem. Together with Philippe Schmid, a close friend, they started a journey to create a special watch and to fulfil a dream. In a twist of fate, they had the chance to meet Andreas Strehler, who was impressed by the boys’ sketches and ideas. The design presented to Andreas was not feasible for manufacturing, but he liked the idea so much that he joined the team to create the VAULT watch. The team also had the help of the talented Laurent Auberson. With a rich experience, Mr Auberson helped with the creation of the Andreas Strehler Cocon, magnificent Sauterelle à Lune Perpétuelle and the Maîtres du Temps Day&Night.
During 2014 and 2015, the team worked intensively on the design sketches and design proofs, culminating in 2016 with the first prototype. The final design was finally established in 2017.
Engineer for the brands, watchmaker for the few – Andreas Strehler
Andreas Strehler is not just a “watchmaker” as he modestly calls himself. In his “solo” career which started more than 20 years ago, he created some spectacular timepieces, his work as “Engineer for the brands” is well known between the watch world’s veterans. He was the first watchmaker hired at Renaud & Papi. There he met Bart Grönefeld and later Tim. Until this day, they are still friends and they work together for different projects. In Andreas Strehler’s repertoire, there are some extraordinary pieces and movements designed for Maurice Lacroix, H. Moser & Cie Perpetual 1, Grönefeld and others.
His pioneered in digital design. His demand on his CAD (computer-aided design) systems pushed him to the level where the machines available on the market were inappropriate for his needs and he had built his own machines. Andreas’s deep knowledge in CAD-design and his excellent watchmaking capabilities can be seen in the Sauterelle à Lune Perpétuelle. This spectacular watch was awarded in 2014 for the most precise moon phase existent in the world: 1-day deviation in 2,060,757 years.
The VAULT watches
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the chance to see an assembled and finalised watch. At the time of the visit, some of the components were not available yet. The VAULT was designed as 100% Swiss made watch. But due to the fact the top sapphire crystal could not be produced by the Swiss companies, it was necessary to outsource it. In this way, the watch is only 95% Swiss made. Still much more than other brands.
The case is interesting built in steel, titanium or gold. The complex multifaceted shape has a multi-part construction. Since there are no visible lugs, the straps, also “Swiss Made”, have an ingenious changing system. It was important to find a viable solution without opening the full case back. In the picture above, the strap system is missing.
The case is decorated with polished and satin-brushed finishes. The case decoration was excellently executed at the cases that we studied in the atelier. The back is a one piece of metal covering the entire watch’s back and is fixed with the VAULT’s bespoke screws. The watch is covered by a complex-shaped sapphire crystal. The unconventional shape brings a certain interesting look but imposed many problems in the manufacturing process.
The openwork dial has a middle point with the minute’s hand. After we saw the drawings for different hand prototypes, we are confident that the chosen design fits excellent in the theme. The rotating hours’ dial is the unique visual feature of VAULT. The position of the hours can be chosen at will. The hour’s indication being realised by a sapphire disk.
Until the official model will be available, we invite you to have a look at the presentation video of the VAULT watch prototype.
The indication has a profound significance. The hour “window” represents the present time. The faded visibility reminds of past and memories that fade in time, while the darkest area represents the unknown future. The entire hour indication is intended to resemble a vault safe door, as a metaphor of the precious time and hidden past and future. The concept is not just about timekeeping, but more about time itself, as each individual perceives it.
The calibre V01 is designed by Andreas Strehler. He updated Mark’s original idea with practical considerations regarding reliability and manufacturability. The movement is powered by a three Hertz inertia regulated balance wheel that reaches more than 50 hours of power reserve. The calibre is built modular. The entire watch is built modular, not only to improve the manufacturing process but also to permit further designs and concepts. The dial and time indication are placed as a separate module to the movement.
The calibre V1 does not have a traditional stem, being connected in the watch just to the time indication. The calibre rotates at time setting. An interesting feature, coming from the mastermind of Andreas Strehler is the time setting system that permits winding of the calibre during setting. Of course, there is also the “classical” winding process available. The inspiration for the winding mechanism comes from the Darda cars toys and their pullback spring, the Darda motor, that release the car with full speed. The watch will feature an indication on the dial of the stem setting position: hours, minutes or locked.
After the movement is manufactured and regulated, the time display module is added and all together mounted, as a final step, in the case. The watch’s construction permit working at each module separate, easing the manufacturing process and minimise the accidental damages during production.
The VAULT V1 will have the world premiere on 1st November 2017 at Salon QP in London and 16th November in Zurich, Switzerland. The release price will be CHF60,000 for the V1 Rose Gold, limited to 66 pieces. The V1 Titanium and V1 Steel will be limited to 99 pieces each version and will have a price tag of CHF50,000. Every watch will have a customer’s personalization and it will have two, three months delivery time.
More information can be found on the VAULTt Watches Website.
VAULT V1 Specification and price
The price for the VAULT V1 in steel is CHF50,000, limited to 99 pieces. The rose gold V1 is limited to 66 pieces and has a release price of CHF60,000. V1 in titanium with a weight of only 83grams will be available in a 99 pieces limited series for a price tag of CHF50,000
Calibre: V01, exclusively made for VAULT by Uhrteil AG
Type: Self-winding movement
Power reserve: 50 hours
Frequency: 3Hz / 21’600 vph
Functions: Hours and minutes
Material: Stainless Steel / Rose Gold / Titanium (83 grams)
Dimensions of the case: 46.7mm length, 39mm width and 15mm thickness
Crystal: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Crown: In case material
Caseback: Solid case back
Material: Rubber strap (different colours, leather options available)
Buckle: Pin buckle in case material