For watch enthusiasts, a stunning movement is something that will easily make us excited. That is why most of the time, we are fixated with a loupe, and looking out for the stunning details that will undoubtedly leave us in awe.
Finishing is definitely highly regarded by many of us. We appreciate not only the beauty that comes out of it, but more importantly, we understand the difficulties and skills that are required by craftsmen to create such stunning visual effects. A well-finished movement, notably, brings a timepiece into a whole new level altogether.
When it comes to movement finishing, there are certainly a variety of aspects that we look out for. For luxury watches, important details include having Côtes de Genève, perlage, anglage (also known as chamfering, and blued screws. As we progress into the higher realms, we also look out for other touches, such as black polishing, hand-engraving, graining, and more pronounced anglage (typically with sharp inward and outward angles, which are signs of meticulous hand-finishing). Even the most minute details, such as the screws and sinks, are also not spared when it comes to such detailing. Our friends at Watch Affinity, notably, had written an article that briefly described the various watch finishing techniques, and we highly encourage newer collectors to take a look at it.
Now that we have put forth the minute details that we are looking out for, we will now bring together six watches that we reckon exemplifies a movement with stunning finishing. What are the watches that we have selected? Let us find out!
A. Lange & Söhne Datograph
We begin the article with a timepiece that changed modern chronographs: A. Lange & Söhne Datograph.
When the Datograph was launched in 1999, it took the entire industry by surprise. Here, as a relatively young brand (since its revival in the 90s), A. Lange & Söhne made its mark by creating an all-new movement – with the chronograph complication – from scratch. This was in a period whereby most top manufacturers were using ebauches, and that there were no new in-house chronograph movements produced for a long time.
Typical of all A. Lange & Söhne watches, the movement is one of the highlights of its watches. The finishing here is impeccable, with all the fine techniques present. In addition, as with all of the movements from this Glashütte-based manufacturer, it comes with a hand-engraved balance cock.
And the best of all? The legendary Philippe Dufour claimed that it is the only watch he had bought, in retail, with his own money. That is surely a praise of the highest level indeed, and that is coming for a watchmaker who is highly regarded by some as the best in the industry.
AkriviA Chronomètre Contemporain
Rexhep Rexhepi is probably not a familiar name for anyone who is not well-versed in the scene of independent watchmaking, but this gentleman is a rather special talent. Touted as one of the most talented watchmakers in the industry today by Kari Voutilainen, the claims are certainly proven in full transparency with his exemplary creations.
The AkriviA Chronomètre Contemporain is one of the watchmaker’s latest collections, signed off in the name of the craftsman himself. The 38mm timepiece is a neoclassical interpretation of the wrist watch, with a nuanced but graceful design that features plenty of sensual curves all around. The art deco dial – which is made of grand feu enamel – is rather pretty as well, especially with its contrasting scheme against the case material (black/gold on rose gold, or white/blue on platinum).
The movement, however, is where the watch really shines. Powering the timepiece is the in-house Caliber RR-01, a manual-winding movement which boasts a power reserve of around 100 hours with a single barrel. We are particularly intrigued by the symmetrical movement, which makes it a visual treat especially when the entire package is finished at such a level. For some, the attention to detail on the Chronomètre Contemporain is virtually at the top of its game – not dissimilar to the likes of Philippe Dufour or Kari Voutilainen.
As mentioned, the watch is available in rose gold (CHF 55,000, or approximately S$77,828) or platinum (CHF 58,000, or approximately S$82,073). This is amongst some of the very best in terms of finishing and execution, and Rexhep Rexhepi is surely a name to look out for in the field of independent watchmaking.
Credor Eichi II
For the longest time, the art of watchmaking has been dominated by the Swiss. Seiko wants to change the narrative altogether, with the introduction of the Credor Eichi II.
On paper, the Credor Eichi II seems like a simple piece. But this is where it gets interesting. The level of detail on the Eichi II is amazing, with immaculate touches all around. The flawless dial, for instance, is made of porcelain by Noritake – whose clients include the Japanese Imperial family. It is then painted by the artists at Seiko’s Micro Artisan Studio.
And then we get to the movement. The Caliber 7R14 is the pièce de résistance of this watch, with finishing techniques done at the highest level possible. These techniques include convex bevelling, engraving, flame-blued screws, anglage, and linear brush finishing. The movement may look simple, but the techniques and presence of sharp outward and inward angles showcases the dexterity and sublime craftsmanship of the watchmakers.
The 39mm Eichi II is priced at ¥4,300,000 (approximately S$46,395) for the platinum variation. We do love the purity of this piece, with the fine details being done at the highest level. If the Japanese are looking to prove a point, they have certainly achieved it with this piece.
When it comes to independent watchmaking, master watchmaker Kari Voutilainen has always been touted as one of the most talented individuals in the business. The Vingt-8, a mainstay in the Voutilainen repertoire, showcases that point beautifully.
One of the latest variations of the Vingt-8 was launched in SIHH 2019. This particular example comes with a plain grand feu black enamel dial, unlike most of the other pieces that features either striking colours or guilloché patterns. The 39mm timepiece also features other signature touches, such as the teardrop lugs and a superbly finished movement.
On the subject of movements, this is one aspect that Voutilainen really shines. Designed and crafted in Voutilainen’s workshop, the movement features Geneva waves, the perlage, and the snailing, to the exterior and interior angling, and the polished bevels, screw heads and rounded balance bridge. It is not difficult to see why the brand is so highly regarded by many.
The Vingt-8 is priced at CHF 86,500 (approximately S$122,400). This is a little steep for a time-only watch, but this is what one has to pay for such superlative craftsmanship. Granted, this watch is not for everyone. But if one is lucky enough to be able to afford it, we’d highly recommend this sublime watch any day.
Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire
The name Gronefeld might not be the first brand that comes to mind in the scene of independent watchmaking, but we reckon this outfit – which is founded by siblings Bart and Tim – will be one of the luminaries in the industry.
One of the glimpses into the brilliance of the brothers can be seen from its award-winning 1941 Remontoire. The watch features the remontoire d’egalité complication, which allows for a constant discharge of energy throughout the entire power reserve of the watch. This helps to maintain accuracy of the watch, especially for watches with large mainsprings (which are known to discharge energy unevenly as it unwinds).
If the complication does not interest you enough, then perhaps the manually-wounded Caliber G-05 will do so. Gronefeld chose a more modern interpretation for its finishing, with a frosted finish on its bridges. It also features well-polished raised lips along the peripherals of the bridges, as well as beautiful anglage, snailing, and black polishing.
Limited to a production of 188 pieces, the 1941 Remontoire is surely a highly exclusive and rare timepiece. It is priced at €49,500 (approximately S$72,126).
Philippe Dufour Simplicity
We round up today’s column with arguably one of the finest watches from one of the best watchmakers in the world: Philippe Dufour Simplicity.
The Simplicity pretty much needs no introduction. Introduced by the eponymous watchmaker in 2000, it was widely touted as one of the best timepieces in the world. That same claim stands even till today, despite the fact that we have seen numerous incredible watches being launched over the last two decades. The talent and passion of Philippe Dufour is unparalleled, and it certainly shows in his creations and dedication towards his craft. In fact, we are hard pressed to find a movement – which is finished by a single watchmaker – that is as exceptional and refined as this.
Cased in 34mm and 37mm, there are said to be only around 200-odd Simplicities in existence (inclusive of the 20th Anniversary edition that was specially produced last year). It is highly exclusive, and for good reason as well – it is extremely time-consuming and tedious to produce a single timepiece, considering the amount of work that goes into the production. The watch is literally in a league of its own, and we reckon it will hold this title for a long time to come.
On the risk of sounding like a broken record, today’s selection is certainly only the tip of the iceberg. There are definitely many other pieces that are worthy enough to make it on the list.
However, what we have here is perhaps some of the watches that are textbook examples of what fine finishing techniques are. And these are crafted by some of the most accomplished watchmakers and manufacturers in the world, and they are unanimously agreed by most collectors.
Interestingly enough, most of the watches today are produced by independent watch manufacturers. Even for the Credor, it is produced by a specialised small team of craftsmen, in its Micro Artisan Studio. This is a testament that good finishing is not a simple process, and it is a skill that only a handful people are blessed with. Hence, these watches are usually only produced in small quantities, due to the amount of time and effort that is needed to do so. That is also why these watches typically come at a higher price point, minimally at the high five-figure sum.
So, what are your thoughts on our selection? Also, what are some of the watches that you reckon deserves a spot on this list? Let us know in the comments section below!
So many beauties out there that are actually attainable. Here are some that are not part of the current crop of “hype” watchmakers
1. Czapek SXH5.01
2. Chanel Calibre 5
3. Breguet 502.3 DR1 in the iconic ref. 3137
4. Armin Strom ARM09-S and ARR18
5. Moritz Grossman Cal.106 Hamatic
One of my faves in the crazy price realm:
Breguet 588N in Classique Double Tourbillon 5345 “Quai de l’Horloge”
excellent choices Duffy.
The Glashutte Original Chronograph date has a beautiful movement and it never gets a mention anywhere…
it does here…GO Chronograph. As does the Sixties and Seventies Chronograph.
Thank you for the selection, which are all gorgeous. You really did highlight something that didn’t occur to me: the fact that most are independents. When I tried to think of others, they all turned out to be independent, too. Two that I would mention (which would not replace any on your list) are the Krayon Anywhere, which has a movement which is supposed to look like Lake Neuchatel and David Candaux’s DC6 Half Hunter…in shiny titanium.
I felt challenged to find stunning movements at that level from the big houses. How about the Patek 5236, or the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE.1 (does that count as non-independent?)?
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For a fraction of the price of the showcased absolutely stunning watches, one should always consider the Arnold & Son Nebula.
I think the Chopard 1.96 should have been mentioned