In line with the crazy, insider market conditions for independents currently prevailing, we announce the release of the Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans Subscription Edition at embargo lift at 3pm GVA time on April 12 (today), and the 12 subscription editions are already sold out.
New independent release: Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans Subscription Edition
Here are the details of the sold out subscription series, which is limited to 12 pieces. For reference, the retail price for the Simon Brette Chronomètre Artisans Subscription Edition was CHF 50,000 before tax. We understand that a The Chronomètre Artisans production edition will be launched at the end of the year. It will be priced at CHF 60,000 and will have a titanium case instead of zircronium, and will have a different finishing technique on the red gold dial done by the same artisan. The production watch will be limited to 12 pieces a year for a total of 100 pieces in total.
The watch was quietly released in some kind of an insider track, where the watch’s existence has been a well kept secret amongst some cognoscenti. I was aware of Simon’s existence and that he was working on something interesting, but had no idea of the watch details until I first met him in the streets of Geneva, just outside the Four Seasons Hotel recently. He had stopped to greet and show his new watch to Philippe Dufour. I too stopped to greet Philippe and was then introduced to Simon.
I then requested for more information, but nothing was available then. I maintained an open WhatsApp channel with Simon, where he clarified many of the details of the watch. I received the press release document yesterday, and the high resolution photographs later that afternoon. The photographs on this commentary section were taken on my iPhone, with the release notes containing the Press photographs.
The first impression is the watch is extremely impressive. The hand engraved “dragon scales” look like a cross between “tremblage” (as found in Lange Handwerksundst watches as well as the dial of new Moritz Grossmann) and copper “arashi-ji” on the bezel of the Casio MR_G-G2000A Tetsu Tsuba. Both these techniques are a result of painstakingly hand punching the metal with a hammer and chisel. This contrasts very nicely with the black polished conical bridges of the exposed wheels, and the black polished components of the keyless works. The dial is made in red gold, with a raised lip, which is then rhodium plated for the contrast. The lip is then polished. The production pieces will also be made by the same artisan, also in red gold with the same rhodium plated lip, but will feature a different technique (click here for sneak peek).
The movement as visible from the case back is a showcase of high end finishing. From the wolf’s teeth of the barrel and transmission wheels, to the gold chatons, and the magnificent balance bridge, reminiscent of the works of Kari Voutilainen. The plate itself is in a darkened anthracite hue, with a textured finish to provide contrast to the high polish of the components it bears.
At 39mm in diameter, the watch is very wearable, with enough real estate dedicated to showcase the exceptional finishing. I liked what I saw in this new watch, and the spark of brilliance in Simon Brette. And hail the dawn of a new independent committed to haute horlogerie.
Independent watch- maker and movement designer Simon Brette presents his first timepiece, the Chronomètre Artisans.
Simon Brette’s Chronomètre Artisans Subscription Edition features a distinctive design, in- house chronometer movement, and highlights superlative independent artisanship.
More than just a nascent brand, Simon Brette’s endeavour is one of human values. It is about offering artisans elevating their crafts to the highest artistic levels the opportunity of wor- king on projects in which they have a say in the outcome and can be genuinely proud of their contribution.
Putting his years of experience in developing and fine-tuning some of the most exceptional watch movements of our era for well-known brands, with the Chronomètre Artisans, Simon Brette has created a platform in which in- dependent artisans have rediscovered and reinterpreted older fabrication and finishing techniques – and developed new ones. Re- presenting the absolute best in their respective crafts, these craftsmen and craftswomen have contributed to a project while enjoying their work and taking pride in the results.
At its core, Chronomètre Artisans is a dialogue between Simon Brette, the movement designer responsible for conceiving and developing the timepiece, with the artisans and watchmakers who bring their invaluable know-how and craft. Free from the pressure of high production volumes, those involved had the time to ensure that every component is crafted without compromise.
Every component is crafted without compromise.
Simon and his partners are creating watches at the highest level of artistic expression, and the Chronomètre Artisans is the first in this collaborative effort which will build a solid foundation.
With the Chronomètre Artisans, Simon Brette has developed a highly original, easily recognizable, and evidently hand-finished timepiece focusing on the essentials: hours, minutes and seconds. It is in the design and execution that Simon expressed his aesthetic sensibilities and allows the work of all the artisans involved to stand out spectacularly.
While his past experiences have taught him that technical features come before aesthetics and design, the Chronomètre Artisans has taken the reverse approach, first focusing on the design and then tailoring the movement to suit. Starting from a completely blank slate, the objective from the outset was to avoid using any pre-existing components in order to build everything from scratch.
For the Chronomètre Artisans, Simon Brette did not restrict himself to one watchmaker or a particular period of watchmaking, but rather specific creations and singular elements that have long stood out to him as exceptional. Among the many pieces that have fascinated him are the original pocket watches by Urban Jurgensen and his descendants, the emblematic Three Golden Bridges pocket watches by Girard-Perregaux and many others.
But beyond historic timepieces, it is the technical prowess and ingenuity of 20th century watchmakers such as George Daniels and Derek Pratt that inspire Simon Brette. His ideal watch would be a miniaturized pocket watch with optimized mechanisms and decorated in the most beautiful way possible, while also incorporating a pronounced contemporary edge.
Starting from a completely blank slate, the objective from the outset was to avoid using any pre-existing components.
And that’s precisely what he set out to create with his debut timepiece, the Chronomètre Artisans.
Simon Brette began designing his first watch from the inside out, starting with the movement. Conceived as a classical chronometer, Simon opted for a visually pure and symmetrical construction with a large prominent balance wheel. Held by a single straight rounded bridge crafted in non-magnetic grade 5 tita- nium, the large balance wheel beats at a traditional rate of 2.5 Hz, similar to historical marine chronometers that used a large diameter/high inertia balance wheel coupled to a low beat rate. All the steel parts adjacent to the balance wheel are crafted in Phynox, a non-magnetic steel alloy.
The balance wheel of the Chronomètre Artisans is fitted with a hairspring featuring a Breguet overcoil and adjustable inertia blocks for fine adjustment of the poise, serving to slightly in-crease or decrease the frequency and amplitude at which the balance oscillates.
For precise time-setting, the movement features a stop-second mechanism in the form of a single flexible “S”-shaped arm, which engages via a sliding pinion to contact the balance wheel rim in order to stop it from oscillating while the time is set.
To offer a unobstructed view of the balance wheel, the third and fourth wheels are lowered to the dial side. The mirror-polished escape wheel and pallet lever feature a completely new design with counter-pivots. These are positioned to enable a watchmaker access without having to remove the balance wheel.
The winding mechanism of the Chronomètre Artisans is a technical highlight that can be seen, heard and felt.
Exuding more contemporary tones, the three- quarter bridge is decorated with a grained texture and finished in an anthracite ruthenium tone. When fully wound, main-spring barrels, having mirror-polished concave sur- faces, deliver a healthy 3-day power reserve. In a nod to chronometers from the golden era of watchmaking, the ratchet and crown wheel feature “wolf teeth” gearing.
The winding mechanism of the Chronomètre Artisans is a technical highlight that can be seen, heard and felt. Using an innovative sys- tem that Simon developed while he was stu- dying engineering, the click is a contemporary and pragmatic solution to a rarely revisited component. This innovative click replaces the multiple components usually found in conven- tional movements.
The Chronomètre Artisans’ click is both more robust and reliable compared to a conventional click as it also provides a much more res- ponsive feel when winding the movement. A compliant monolithic mechanism integrated in the crown wheel, the winding mechanism further enhances the symmetrical aspect of the movement.
The crown wheel is one of the most complex components to produce in the Chronomètre Artisans’ movement and was developed from a deep understanding of micromechanics. It comprises three different types of gear-cut- ting: wolf teeth in connection with the ratchet wheels, vertical teeth which engage the win- ding pinion, and internal teeth ensuring the paw meshes which engage in only one direction during winding.
Perhaps the most visually distinctive com- ponents found throughout the Chronomètre Artisans are the amazing screws. Simon wanted to give these screws his personal touch, so the surfaces were deeply concave and then mirror polished to perfection. This provides visual depth because, from a dis- tance, the heads look domed rather than concave. The movement’s screws are fixed into solid gold chatons, providing visual contrast and emphasising the three dimen- sionality of the movement.
The crown was developed from a deep understanding of micromechanics.
The rest of the movement is similarly superlative in execution, where one can admire the impeccable finishing and attention to detail in both the form and execution of the myriad of components. The finely hand-chamfered and polished edges of the three-quarter and individual titanium bridges have all been entirely mirror-polished, as well as the edges of the gear spokes and inner rims, the chatons, and even the pinions.
While the Chronomètre Artisan’s movement has been constructed with symmetry in mind, the dial takes another direction entirely. Partially open, the dial reveals a balanced interplay between tradition and modernity. Familiar forms seamlessly merge with completely original shapes creating a sense of volume and depth. Asymmetrical yet balanced, the dial features two distinct openings to reveal kinetic parts of the movement and highlight its complexity.
On the left side of the dial, an opening reveals the third and fourth wheels, which are supported by two parallel titanium bridges with rounded and mirror-polished surfaces. The motion of the seconds hand is accompanied by a clear view of the gearing that drives it in an endless kinetic flow.
The small flame-blued steel seconds hand is placed on the same plane as the dial, minimizing the parallax effect. This provides an opti- mal reading of the seconds against its frosted sapphire sub-dial, regardless of the viewing angle. To further optimize readability, contrast is enhanced through different colours and decoration techniques of the main plate, tita- nium bridge, and gearing.
The right side of the dial features a smal- ler opening in which one can admire the ingenious and lavishly finished time-setting mechanism, shifting as the system toggles between winding and time-setting positions. Ingeniously conceived, three springs make up a single mechanism, effectively carrying out multiple functions.
Often an overlooked part of the movement’s overall aesthetic, these springs are mirror-po- lished with chamfered edges and sharp in- ternal angles, which are further embellished with concave mirror polished screws fixed in gold chatons.
The dial is crafted in solid red (5N) gold and embellished with a unique dial decoration technique that will be exclusive to the Chronomètre Artisans Subscription Edition.
Scintillating with a three-dimensional mosaic structure, the exceptional finish of the dial has been dubbed “dragon scales”. This lustrous dial is the result of integrating exceptionally talented artisans early in the creative pro- cess. Far more than just third-party suppliers, these craftsmen have stretched the boundaries of their creativity to produce something truly unprecedented.
Further adding to the sense of visual depth and lending a contemporary accent to the dial, the chapter ring with its minute markers is crafted in translucent sapphire crystal with a frosted fi- nish ensuring high legibility with minimum glare.
The raised sapphire ring is surrounded by a sil-very opaline ring on which the Arabic numeral five-minute markers are pad printed.
Scintillating with a three- dimensional mosaic structure, the exceptional finish of the dial has been dubbed “dragon scales”.
The central hour hand is inspired by the Urban Jurgensen “observatory” hand designed by Derek Pratt, here reinterpreted with an inte- rior angle in the pointed tip. Rounded, flame- blued and polished by hand, the upper surface of the steel hand’s open portion is mirror-po- lished, seemingly disappearing and reappea- ring as it moves with the light.
Perfectly proportioned with the other elements on the dial, the opening of the hour hand passes precisely above the seconds hand’s pinion as well as the main screw of the crown mechanism. The slender blued steel minute hand features a downward-facing curve at the tip, emphasizing the dial’s volume while making precise and effortless reading of the minutes.
Once the movement and dial had been designed and their proportions established, Simon began working on the case. He fo- cused on proportions and ergonomics, while also maintaining coherence in design, extending from the movement to the dial and finally the case.
Measuring 39mm wide and 10mm high (in- cluding the domed sapphire crystal), the case is surprisingly compact for a watch with such tremendous depth. The Chronomètre Artisans Subscription Edition is exceptionally crafted in a lightweight yet durable and highly corrosion-resistant zirconium alloy. Traditional metal alloys will be used in the production series.
In keeping with the concave surfaces of the screw-heads, this signature trait carries to the components of the watch that the wearer will interact with: the case and crown. The slightly oversized and easily gripped crown features the same polished concave form as the screws, while the case’s combination of satin-brushed surfaces and concave polished bevels complete the coherent exceptional finishing of this modern chronometer.
Measuring 39 mm wide and 10 mm high, the case is surprisingly compact for a watch with such tremendous depth.
The case consists of three distinct parts, but there are no visible screws so it offers a seamless and monolithic appearance. The lugs are invisibly screwed to the inner case from the inside. The bezel and case back are then screwed to the midcase. This type of practical construction both accommodates the use of different materials and enables the case to be finished to the same degree as the movement and dial.
The tapered lugs are unusual in that they feature two sets of holes that accommodate either curved or straight spring bars, each offering a different look and feel for the strap on the wrist.
The Chronomètre Artisans is delivered with two straps in textured calfskin and a folding clasp, as well as a tang buckle for personalized comfort.
As the finishing touch to his first creation, Simon has incorporated a little sentimental signature on the case. On the left side, a small, polished element shaped like a dovetail subtly protrudes – exceptionally crafted in rose gold for the subscription series. The dovetail is a joint Simon often saw in his father’s carpentry work, and on the Chronomètre Artisans, it serves as a tribute to his father, who inspired him to pursue a life dedicated to independence and excellence while also being a symbol of the craftsmanship that he seeks to defend and cultivate.
With the Chronomètre Artisans, Simon Brette is writing the first chapter of his self-titled ad- venture. His convictions and the role of his fel- low artisans are intentionally evident from the onset. This three-hand timepiece embodies and establishes many of the codes that will carry on to future creations, heralding a new era of artisan-centric watchmaking.
The case’s combination of satin-brushed surfaces and concave polished bevels complete the coherent exceptional finishing.
• Caseband with embedded gold brancards, screwed bezel and caseback.
- Diameter: 39.00 mm
- Height: 10.50 mm
- Total length: 45.00 mm
- Distance between lugs: 20.00 mmCRYSTAL• Sapphire crystal with anti-refection treatments above and below crystal to minimise scratches.WATER RESISTANCE• Water resistant to 30 metersDISPLAYDIAL• Red gold
• Hand engraved
• Top face circular grained
• Hand polished anglage and straight grained flanksHANDS• Flame blued steel
• Top face mirror polished
• Rounded and hand polished anglageMOVEMENTMOVEMENT• Manual winding: 45 rotations of crown • Ruthenium treated: 24 rubiesDIMENSIONS
- Casing diameter: 32.70 mm
- Overall height: 7.80 mm
- Height of winding stem: 3.00 mm
- Diameter of winding stem: S1.20 mm
• Variable inertia balance with adjustment weights • Hairspring with Breguet overcoil
• Adjustable stud holder
• Free sprung balance
• Greiner collet
• Geneva style stud
• Frequency: 18’000 a/h (2.5 Hz) • Inertia: 40 mg/cm2
• Lift angle: 52°
• Manuel winding
• 2 barrels in parallel
• Two-position winding stem (winding and setting) • Time setting in position 2
• Escapement anchor ‘coudée’, 15 dents
• Central hours and minutes
• Small seconds at 9:15 o’clock
• 72 hours (±5 hours)
- Haute horlogerie
- Mainplate and bridges featuring hand finishedgraining and anglage
- Concave screw heads mirror polished and set ingold chatons
- Pins and screws with mirror polished convex heads
- Wheels with flat teeth, hand polished anglage andhand polished faces
- Steel components mirror polishedNUMBER OF PIECES• Movement without dial: 194 • Cased with strap: 226TECHNICAL DESCRIPTIONHand wound mechanical movement, 33.30 mm diameter x 7.80 mm high, 2.5 Hz/18’000 a/h, large diameter balance wheel with visible gearing. Mainplate and bridges in ruthenium treated brass, wheels and chatons in red gold.