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Factory Visit: VAULT Watches and Uhrteil AG Atelier

A trail of crumbs to fulfil a horological dream. With early release info on the new VAULT V1.
by Dan-Andrei Kluska on October 30, 2017

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.

 

Vault Watches Mark Schwarz and Andreas Strehler

Portrait VAULT Watches: Mark Schwarz (left) and Andreas Strehler (right)

 

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.

 

Vault - Mark Schwarz

Mark Schwarz, CEO of VAULT Watches started his own journey in the world of watches.

 

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.

 

Vault - team work

Andreas Strehler and Mark Schwarz explain the complexity and uniqueness of the VAULT timepieces setting and winding design.

 

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.

 

Andreas Strehler

Andreas Strehler talks with passion about his love for VAULT watch. The watch has an interesting way of telling time, a modular construction permitting improved manufacturing processes and future developments.

 

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.

 

Andreas Strehler

This is the watchmaking workbench of Andreas. The desk is full of VAULT watch parts and prototype pieces. We had the chance to take a frugal look at the VAULT V01 calibre components. The design, the finishes and the entire concept is promissing.

 

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.

 

Vault watch's case

One finished and one unfinished case of the VAULT watch. The left one has visible polishing and more fine lines. On the right, there is an unfinished case with rough sides and no polish. Please note the multi-faceted case design and the complex shape of the sapphire crystal holder.

 

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.

 

Vault watches bespoke screws and tools

VAULT watch is built using bespoke screws. For this are used special screwdriver manufactured special for VAULT in Uhrenteil AG’s atelier. In the picture, there are different screw sizes and the custom tool.

 

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.

 

Vault CAD design

A glimpse of the VAULT’s dial design.

 

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.

 

Vault calibre V01 CAD

Andreas Strehler presents the complexity of the VAULT calibre V01. Andreas split his time between the CAD station and the workbench. His rich experience in computer-aided design made VAULT timepieces possible. He is presenting the unique construction of the V01 calibre.

 

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.

 

Vault watch movement case

VAULT V01 movement’ cage and the bridge making the link between the time display module, movement and setting/winding system.

 

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.

 

Vault watches prototypes

VAULT prototyping goes as further as metal 3D printing. In the image printed prototypes, in the right in black PVD. Due to the young technology, the parts are not usable in the actual watch. To be noted in the lower right side of each frame the L, H, M letters for the visual representation of the setting state.

 

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.

 

Vault straps

The VAULT straps are produced in Switzerland. The changing strap system is based on a screwed design instead of classic spring bars. The look and feel of the straps are very good.

 

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.

 

VAULT watch back case

VAULT watch’s mounted case (this is a prototype and not the final product) as a teaser before the 1st November release. Notice the bespoke screws keeping the case safe from non-authorised entries and the normal screws used for the straps. This permits an easy change of straps, even by the collector. Image courtesy of VAULT watches.

 

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

 

Movement

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

 

Case

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

 

Strap

Material: Rubber strap (different colours, leather options available)

Buckle: Pin buckle in case material

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