We caught up with Miguel Morales Ribas of Ophion and talked at length about his watches, what he stands for and find out why they might arguably be one of the best kept secrets of the industry.
Editor’s note: The author is a collector who bought one of Miguel’s watches – the Ophion OPH786, and familiar with Miguel.
Miguel Morales Ribas
If you go, Miguel who? Ophion who? You are not alone. As I said, it is one of the industry’s best kept secrets.
Miguel is a passionate young watch brand owner and I have had the pleasure of owning two of his creations – the OPH970 and the OPH786. After his first, the OPH970, Miguel came to Singapore in November 2016 and showed off his next project – the OPH786. Of course we were all excited – a guilloche dial timepiece at an affordable price point. That has been the cornerstone of Ophion – creating value for money timepieces.
And his brand Ophion? Well, first what it is not. It did not begin its life as a Kickstarter brand, nor does it use the ubiquitious Asian made movement either by Miyota, Seagull or Seiko Instruments. Not that these movements are not good or robust, but they are generic. But what Ophion is is to present affordable, elegant watches, with good execution. More details on their website. (seriously, lots of details)
Ophion is not a big brand but they do make exciting timepieces and I am happy to be owner of two of their creations.
What is your philosophy of the brand?
We have the philosophy of creating watches with the special features and characteristics combined with unique movements. We want to make our timepieces available everyone at an affordable price point.
I have always compared the big brands in watchmaking to an art masterpiece… Many of us get to see watches done by Philip Dufour, Roger Smith, George Daniels etc., but most of us can never own one. In the same token, when you see the Mona Lisa you can only feel it through the pictures or maybe be for a few minutes in the Louvre, but you can never experience in all its glory. With Ophion timepieces, we want to bring a little bit of the magic from the very high end watchmaking to a wider audience, so almost anybody can have a little bit of the magic of the high end watchmaking.
The Ophion OPH786
In as far as the OPH786 is concerned, what is your inspiration behind it?
The inspirations comes from the old pocket watches that I have always admired and for modern elements that we found in the high end watchmaking. But the true seed of inspiration revolves around the using of guilloche. I have been always fascinated with guilloche – the dial and the techniques. And way before we established the brand, I was already conceptualising the perfect watch with a beautiful guilloche dial. We realised that in the mid-range watch segment there was nothing with a good guilloche dial. What we had found were stamped and done in a secondary manner. There wasn’t any watch in that price range that treated guilloche like the main characteristic and that why I have always had in mind creating a watch wherein the guilloche were the main attraction of the piece. And of course the guilloche dial had to be of the highest quality possible without pushing the timepiece beyond most.
How long from conception to prototype to final product?
Usually if everything goes right, around 4-5 moths for designing and prototyping and 8 months for production. We have been lucky with our timepieces and we don’t see much delays. But in reality it is much more.
How is the guilloché dial done?
The guilloché is done by a CNC machine. We did not want a stamped guilloché dial because the quality will not meet our requirement. Instead we wanted to have the result as close as possible to hand engraved guilloché dial. With the CNC technique, we found an acceptable middle ground wherein the guilloché is almost as good as a hand engraved guilloché but price at a more affordable level.
The CNC guilloché in comparison with the stamped guilloché is like comparing night to day. The polished groove that the cutter leaves in the CNC and hand engraved guilloché dial reflects the light in a complete different manner – it is much more alive compared to a stamped guilloché dial.
Editor’s note: This seems to be quite similar to the way Audemars Piguet makes their petit tapisserie dials.
What about the cut out ring with the Roman numerals? How is that done?
For the Roman numerals, first we tried milling them but the result was not satisfactory so we change to using laser cut. The roman numerals are done by laser cutting technique. It gives a more precise finish and one that we are satisfied with.
Any other special features you would like me to speak about?
At first sight, the timepiece looks pretty normal – any three handed timepiece. But the more you look at it and the more you explore and examine, different details start to become apparent. The guilloché dial, the two piece rings, the hands etc. all come together very well. That’s always the goal that I try to achieve with my designs, something that looks very simple but in reality is complex simplicity if you know what I mean. Every detail that looks normal on the timepiece have been thought through countless hours to ensure that all the elements gel together like an orchestra.
What about the Technotime calibre? Any specific reason why you chose this calibre?
Because we wanted to completely redesign the movements the Technotime was a very good candidate. We had already worked with them on our first model the OPH970 and so there is a familiarity with Technotime.
The presence and construction is also very solid. We could count on the reliability and accuracy of their calibres and our previous experience has been incredible. Furthermore, the double barrel accords us a very long power reserve. One of the main characteristics is the perfect geometrical deposition, great for the symmetrical look for the design that we were looking for (the same symmetry found in the movements from the old pocket watches that we were inspired by). And the hand hammered effect on the bridges also gives the movement an edge over other commercial movements.
The problems that we had during production and how we solve them?
The biggest challenge was when we were just about to launch the OPH 786 (right after we did the presentation in Singapore in end 2016) and we learnt that Technotime went into bankruptcy. We had to stop every aspect of the production because we didn’t have the movements. It was a very critical and uncertain time for us, and we hand to wait almost a year until we finally receive the movements when the Festina Group bought out Technotime.
With the dial, we had wanted the best result for both the guilloché dial and the logo plates. We had wanted the brush effect on the logo plates to be match to the two rings. And in order to have that effect, we had to change the brushing tool until we achieved the desired results. And we had to redo all the logo plates until they met our standards and are consistent to the outer rings.
For the guilloché dial we had to go through several different prototypes and samples until we achieve the result that we were looking for.
What is your favourite piece in this collection and why?
In the OPH 786 collection, my favourites are the blue and the silver, but it is the silver one that I like a bit more. The goal was to show the most perfect guilloché dial possible and in the silver you can see the reflection and the effects of the guilloché much more than in the blue one. The Granular Grey is also great, and I´m liking it more and more every time I wear it.
Specifications Ophion OPH786
Case: 316L Stainless Steel hand polish
Bezel: 38.5 mm Case: 39 mm
Lug width: 20mm
Thickness without crystal: 8.85mm
Thickness with crystal: 10.35mm
Top domed sapphire crystal, Botton flat sapphire crystal
Dial: Multilayered CNC Guilloche dial or Granular Gray
Hands: Thermal Blued hands or Nickel plated
Hand made Leather strap, Cow leather with the base price and leather Alligator with the upgrade
Price with cow leathar strap:
Granular Gray and Nickel Hands: 1.890 euros without taxes and shipping
CNC Guilloche dial. thermal Hands or Nickel hands: 2.190 euros without taxes and shipping
Alligator leather strap instead of the cow leather strap: 80 euros
Extra Alligator strap: 150 euros