Ludovic Ballouard released the ‘Upside Down’ in 2015 as a limited series of twelve watches cased in red gold and twelve in platinum. The series have been in production ever since, and we recently received a loaner of this magnificent platinum cased version. Here is our close look into this watch.
Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down
The Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down in platinum as reviewed retails for CHF 82,000, and in red gold for CHF 75,000. Both prices are before taxes. Customizations are possible for this watch. Please contact Ludovic for details.
The case, dial and hands
The case is crafted in platinum, and though at first glance it looks like a standard round case, it features some details which make it quite a special piece. The case is 41mm in diameter with a height of 11mm, makes it rather slim, and suitable for a dress watch. The shape extends a rather pronounced curve at the lugs, allowing it to hug the wrist, and for the watch to sit comfortably. Despite it being a rather heavy watch, weighing 120.1g on our digital gram scale.
How does it work?
The hour markers are arabic numerals, each on a small disc. The current hour is noted by the arabic numeral being right side up, and denoted with a dot, while the past hours and future hours are all upside down, giving rise to the model name of the watch. At the top of each hour, a little magic dance occurs. The past hour jumps 180 degrees to become upside down, and the next hour does the same to become right side up. The dot is hidden under the rehaut, as the dial is slightly larger than the case opening.
Here is the Ludovic Ballouard video showing the jump each hour.
The pin buckle is also in platinum, and is crafted in the shape of a B, representing the brand name. The crown is also a simple affair, though fairly bulbous and protected by two guard ridges. The crown is also made in platinum, an unusual choice as most platinum cases come with white gold crowns, and is hand engraved with “LB”.
The arabic numerals, and all other markers including the branding information is transfer printed in white paint which in the review sample is non-luminous. The dial is blue coated titanium, with a very fine texture, allowing it to shimmer in the light under some angles, to provide added visual interest.
The movement is rather complex, and quite a sight to behold from the sapphire case back. The movement is designated the Caliber B01 and is developed in-house by Ludovic himself. It has a power reserve of 36 hours, with a beat of 21,600 bph. The caliber comprises of 228 individual components, with 51 jewels, and measures 35mm in diameter.
Movement finishing is not at the stratospheric levels that some independents achieve in the haute horlogerie space. But judged to be adequate. This is a good level of engineering finish, and should work well. The movement has been in use since 2015, and we assume all kinks have been ironed out. In the sample we had for a week, it worked flawlessly.
And this is how the switching works. Each numeral on the dial is a disc on its own, capable of flipping 180 degrees in an instant. To each of the disk is attached a Malteze Cross behind, held in constant tension by its own small spring. It is locked by a large ring which itself is held in tension and locked, but makes a 30 degree turn once every hour, completing one full revolution every 12 hours. This ring has 12 blocking fingers on its inner periphery and is held in tension by a spring, visible through the open case back in the photograph above at about the 8 o’clock (left portion) position. The ring is prevented from moving under that tension as it is blocked by a lever, shown by the yellow arrow in the photograph below.
The lever (red arrow) traces a snail (blue arrow, showing direction of movement of the snail) which is connected to the pinion of the minute wheel. This wheel and snail makes one revolution every hour. The lever falls from the beak of the snail at the top of each hour. As it falls, it pivots around and lifts the block on the ring (yellow arrow), allowing the spring to move forward, jumping 30 degrees before it is arrested by the same lever at the next finger. Another finger on the outer perimeter of the ring (not visible in the photographs) then releases the Malteze Cross of the former hour and jumps to engage with the next hour. This simultaneously flips the former hour disc upside down, and flips the current hour disk right side up.
The competitive landscape
This section is simple. There is no other watch like this anywhere else. This is the only timepiece to feature this special complication.
Of course, the question then becomes, is this necessary, or it is just complication for complication sake. We opine it is the latter. This is a complication which is completely un-necessary. It does not improve legibility, nor the ability to read time. It does not provide additional information. But we think this is a totally captivating, and supremely interesting design and a bewildering fascination on the mechanical. An non-essential complication, yes. But one which adds to the rich art of luxury watches. To quote Stephen Fry quoting Oscar Wilde, applied in our context of the watchmaking art:
Oscar Wilde quite rightly said, ‘All art is useless’. And that may sound as if that means it’s something not worth supporting. But if you actually think about it, the things that matter in life are useless. Love is useless. Wine is useless. Art is the love and wine of life. It is the extra, without which life is not worth living.
This is a unique watch. At first glance, the complicated nature of the dial may suggest that it will be difficult to read the time. But once on the wrist, it becomes second nature almost immediately. Only one hour numeral is right side up, and easily read with the aid of the dot. The minute and seconds hand are conventional.
And the magic of the numerals switching from upside down to right side up is quite a spectacle. Ludovic explains that the design is to “remind you how important it is to live in the moment. The past time and the future time are, literally, presented upside down to tell you that there should be no regrets about the past which you cannot change and no qualms for the future which you don’t know anything about.”
At CHF 82,000, we think the asking price is par for the course. The watch wears very nicely, with a nice heft on the wrist. At first glance, it looks conventional, and at a closer look, it looks unconventional, Very special, though also quite quirky.