Raúl Pagès announces the third chapter in his independent career with the new Régulateur à détente RP1. Entirely developed and manufactured in his workshop in Les Brenets.
Pagès Régulateur à détente RP1
Retail price of the Pagès Régulateur à détente RP1 is CHF 85,000 before taxes.
I have know Raúl Pagès for some years. I shared a studio with him while Raúl was running the restoration atelier at Parmigiani Fleurier. I was doing the photography work for Parmigiani then, and they assigned me a space in his atelier as my photo studio. I was amazed with Raúl. He was knowledgeable, skillful, and willing to share. There, I witnessed him taking on the challenge of restoring iconic pieces such as the Breguet Symphatique clock and the famous Frères Rochat Singing Bird Pistols. Read more about him and his temperament in this article I wrote when he released his Soberly Onyx. And when I later had the chance to do a Comprehensive Review the Soberly Onyx.
I have not seen this new Régulateur à détente RP1 in person yet, but being familiar with Raúl, his work ethics and capabilities, I have no doubt this will be a spectacularly technical development. Indeed the description of the new precision movement which he developed himself is impressive. The pivoted detent escapement is a grail of precision chronometry. It is a device which is commonly found in marine chronometers, and some pocket watches. And the dream of making one which is reliable, and performs well is quite a task. But first the usual rundown.
Raúl also chose to use a regulator style dial, to emphasize the precision chronometry of the watch. The regulator is historically used in precision clocks to set time in villages, towns and cities across Europe, and is viewed as the epitome in timekeeping. Even time signals for radio stations are set with these devices kept in technical observatories. The dial design play comes from Raúl’s keen interest in architecture, and the colour palate is selected to represent the iconography of Le Corbusier.
The seconds sub-dial is in a cerulean blue which is a representation of the sky and sea and comes from the colour palette of the Polychromie Architecturale of 1959. And the other dial elements play into this world view. The black minute ring has a sloped shoulder and contrasts with the sandblasted, nickel plated silvery base dial. The hours ring sits as a polished donut shape, to contrast to the similarly hued, but matte base dial. The flanges are diamond polished and circular grained to stand out. The hands are hand made, and rounded and polished.
And the case is a reflection of the refinement and modern aesthetic of the Soberly Onyx case. The case diameter is reduced slightly to 38.5mm from 40mm. And maintains the same finishing style. The top of the lugs, the bezel and the case back are polished, while the case middle is satin finished. This alternate finishing gives the watch dimensionality. A special touch is the lugs which are screwed into the case middle, a hint at the technicality offered by the traditional marine chronometers. We note that Ferdinand Berthoud also uses this visual cue to suggest the same.
The pivoted Detent Escapement
The technical capabilities in precision timekeeping of the detent escapement is well documented. Originally invented by Pierre Le Roy (1717–1785) in 1748, in the following years it was modified and further developed by other watchmakers, and its virtues been known and expounded. Among the principle virtue of the detent escapement is that the balance wheel is detached, allowing it to swing undisturbed for most of its cycle. The escapement only interferes with the balance during the brief period where the impulse is given to unlock the train. There is no sliding action of the pallet stones used in the Swiss anchor escapement, and thus decent escapements often do not need lubrication. Also known are the shortcomings of the escapement. It may require some time to self start after it comes to a halt, often requiring a full swing to do so, and thus may cause a mis-timed impulse. The movement is also difficult to protect against shock, as the detent system is prone to tripping (the balance unlocks when it is not supposed to) when it encounters sudden forces. These shortcomings become amplified when called on the task to miniaturise the detent escapement to fit the confines of a wrist watch. Large marine chronometers are suspended in a gimbal to prevent shocks, and they feature long power reserves.
However, we do note that it is possible to get it working reliably, but only with careful adjustment and tuning, thus not suitable for mass production. Here is where small independents come in. Kari Voutilainen has a version in his piece unique Detent Escapement Tourbillon, and contributed to the development of the pivoted detent escapement originally designed by Derek Pratt in the Urban Jurgensen 1140C. The Urban Jürgensen 1142C CS chronometer model featuring the patented detent escapement was awarded as the best watch in the ‘Men’s Watches’ category at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genêve in 2014. No doubt we will see UJ watches with this technical feature in the near future, now that Kari is CEO. We have also seen the detent escapement being attempted by the late great George Daniels. And here being proposed by Raúl Pagès.
What is also impressive is that the movement is not only designed by Raúl, but completely hand built and tuned in his atelier. Raúl has opted for a unique construction architecture by positioning the fourth wheel on the dial side of the main plate. This fourth wheel drives the direct seconds hand, and is usually positioned on the other side near the case back. When viewing the case back, the traditional position partially blocks the view of the balance wheel. Thus Raúl made this small change to allow the escapement wheel to be completely exposed on the case back, and thus easily admired without blockage. It also provides space for a good position to locate the detent bridge. The detent is equipped with a beak which engages with a third roller on the balance shaft. On encountering a shock, the beak rests on the roller, and prevents the escapement from tripping. This method solves one of the major roadblocks to a good performance for such an escapement. However, the technique is not new, as the use a third roller is similar to the system developed for the Urban Jurgensen 1140C. However, there must be significant differences, as Raúl has obtained a patent for his. At time of publishing this article, we have not been able to reach Raúl for comment.
The entire movement is technically challenging. For example, the detent spring, seen in the photograph below, which is used to unlock the balance is extremely thin, measuring only 0.02mm and completely formed by hand.
The movement beats at the classical 18,000 bph, and the balance wheel is a rather large 13.3mm diameter, which is the same size as that used in the Soberly Onyx. The balance has a Breguet balance spring with a Philips terminal curve. This arrangement is the traditional approach for the balance to breathe concentrically. The balance also uses 18k gold eccentric weights to adjust the inertia of the balance wheel for fine regulation and adjustment of the rate.
Movement finishing is expected to be top level, if we use the finishing on the Soberly Onyx as a reference. Also, our knowledge of Raúl’s ability and intentions also gives us confidence to make that statement. The finissage should be able to fulfill and exceed the norms required for haute horlogerie.
We hope to be able to examine and photograph the Pagès Régulateur à détente RP1. And when we do, will report back with a Comprehensive Review.
Raúl Pagès Régulateur à détente RP1 Specifications
Sandblasted, diamond and nickel-plated dial
Black nickel-plated minutes flange
Diamond-polished, circular-grained and rhodium plated hours flange
Seconds dial matt lacquered, cerulean blue 59
Hardened steel hands: chamfered, rounded-off and polished
Domed and polished fixing screws
Material: 316L stainless steel
Polished bezel, top of lugs and back
Satin-finished case middle
Bevelled and polished lug screws
Dimensions: 38.5 mm x 10.2 mm (with sapphire crystal)
Between lugs: 19mm
Water resistance: 3 atm – 30m – 100 ft
Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, bezel and caseback
In-house movement with manual winding
Escapement: pivoted detent with anti-tripping system
Balance: variable inertia with four 18K gold weights
Dimensions: 33.6 mm x 5.6 mm
Power reserve: 47 hours
Number of jewels: 17
Number of components: 171
Balance frequency: 18,000 vibrations per hour / 2.5 Hz
Component materials: nickel silver and steel
Treatments: nickel plating and gold plating
Finishing: haute horlogerie, hand-made
Strap and buckle
Supplied with two hand-stitched straps in black and beige leather with blue stitching, fitted with bars featuring a tool-free removal system.
316L stainless steel buckle with “Pagès” logo engraving