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Rare Watches: Introducing Raúl Pagès and the Soberly Onyx

Personal anecdotes on Raúl Pagès and full specifications and price details on the Pages Soberly Onyx.
by Peter Chong on May 19, 2016

Raúl Pagès, a new independent watchmaker announces his first wristwatch – the Soberly Onyx. Relatively unknown outside the cognoscenti, Raúl has been quietly making waves. His first foray into his own was an intricate mechanical tortoise, which is an automata, working on an engine remarkably like that of a watch, and magnificently finished. His first wristwatch is no different. We present you the Pagès Soberly Onyx. 

 

Raúl Pagès: The man. A personal anecdote.

 

Raúl Pagès, photographed in Fleurier, November 2011.

Raúl Pagès, photographed in Fleurier, November 2011.

 

I first met Raúl Pagès at the restoration workshops of Parmigiani Fleurier. I was working for Parmigiani as a contract photographer and content producer, and he was in charge of the restoration workshops. We shared an atelier, or rather I occupied one corner of his atelier. It was a wonderful atelier. On one side was the original Breguet Symphatique clock belonging to a famous museum being restored. Raúl had completed the restoration then, and was checking on its accuracy, and ensuring that the pocket watch was synchronizing perfectly with the clock.

 

The Breguet Symphatique, just completed its restoration, and undergoing testing. The pocket watch has been removed in this photograph.

The Breguet Symphatique, just completed its restoration, and undergoing testing. The pocket watch has been removed in this photograph.

 

Also at the workshops then was one of the famous Frères Rochat Singing Bird Pistols which Raúl was working on. Watch this video of Aurel Bacs, then at Christie’s talk about the Singing Bird Pistols. I suspect they were restored by Raúl, but can offer no confirmation. Christie’s sold the pair as Lot 2174 at their Hong Kong Sale on 30 May 2011 for US$ 5.8 million.

 

 

The Rochat Singing Bird Pistol, at Raúl’s workbench in November 2011.

 

The Rochat Singing Bird Pistol, stripped off the covers and being worked at by Raúl.

The Rochat Singing Bird Pistol, stripped off the covers and being worked at by Raúl.

 

Delicate handling of the incredibly intricate mechanism of the Rochat Singing Bird Pistols.

Delicate handling of the incredibly intricate mechanism of the Rochat Singing Bird Pistols.

 

Raúl was always a quiet man. Working in a very precise, considered manner at the atelier. And it was during lunch, which we shared many together, that he came alive and showed his passion on watchmaking and the mechanisms. He always struck me as a very deliberate, very controlled, extremely neat to a fault.

I am sharing these as personal experiences with Raúl because I want to provide an insight into his character, and highlight his tremendous skill, patience and knowledge. And so often, quiet individuals get drowned in this world where those who shout the loudest are sometimes, erroneously, assumed to be the brightest. And this is not so with Raúl. Quiet and sober. So it is no wonder he chose to call his first watch the Soberly Onyx.

 

Pagès Soberly Onyx

 

Perhaps springing from his background as a restorer, he chose not to start by creating a new caliber, but instead to work from a very robust vintage 1950’s Cyma 586k caliber. The dial gives rise to the name, as does Raúl character. Soberly Onyx.

 

Raúl Pagè Soberly Onyx. Limited edition of only 10 pieces, with an unusual two tone onyx dial which is hand crafted by Raúl, cased in a white gold case.

Raúl Pagè Soberly Onyx. Limited edition of only 10 pieces, with an unusual two tone onyx dial which is hand crafted by Raúl, cased in a white gold case.

 

The black onyx dial, with handmade 18ct white gold indexes and hardened steel hands are designed in an Art Deco style. The Art Deco style arose in the 1920s, the term was first used by the famous architect Le Corbusier (who was interestingly was born in  La Chaux-de-Fonds and Raúl’s atelier is in Les Brenets not far away) The style is characterized by bold geometric shapes combining traditional craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials.

 

The caseback showing the movement, which is completely and obsessively finished.

The caseback showing the movement, which is completely and obsessively finished.

 

The movement is a totally reworked and hand finished. As mentioned, the base is a 1950s Cyma, and Raúl have built many components from scratch, but he mainly focused on the finishing on the movement. I examined the watch on the floor at Baselworld 2016, and was very impressed with the finishing. Every part of the movement is refinished and redefined by hand, and the resultant work is exemplary.

The frosting on the rhodium plated maillechort plates and bridges are painstakingly done by hand. Note the inward and outward angles on the bridge design to allow virtuoso execution of the gleaming anglage against the frosted plates. Also of note are the large, clear, red rubies in their gold chatons. The chamfering for the screw inserts are done beautifully. Note also the magnificent black polished click.

 

The movement: is magnificently finished. Frosted plates and bridges and spectacularly finished anglage.

The movement: is magnificently finished. Frosted plates and bridges and spectacularly finished anglage.

 

The escapement is particularly interesting.

 

The escapement, hand crafted by Raúl Pagès.

The escapement, hand crafted by Raúl Pagès.

 

The balance is very large (13.4 mm) and bear four arms. The emphasis on the large balance is to bring back the glory of seeing the big balance of a gorgeous old pocket watch of the 19th century. Beating at a slow  18,000 bph.  The balance is built using the principles of construction laid out by George Daniels in his book Watchmaking. But incorporating a blued free sprung balance spring, with a hand made fine regulation device with Phillips terminal curve.

Later that day at SIHH, I bumped into Philippe Dufour, and we spoke about the Soberly Onyx. When asked what he thought, he gently brought his fingers and thumb of of right hand together, raise to his lips, kiss lightly, and joyfully tossed his fingers and thumb into the air. High praise indeed.

Offered at CHF 48,000 before taxes in a limited series of only 10 pieces. More information on the official Pagès Website.

 

Raúl Pagès Soberly Onyx Technical Specifications:

Handcrafted manual winding Soberly Onyx timepice based on the robust vintage 1950’s
Cyma 586k caliber.
Limited edition of 10 pieces with handmade four arms balance wheel system and bridge.
Case
In 18k White Gold with synthetic sapphire crystal.
Transparent display back with synthetic sapphire crystal.
Polished bezel.
Straight-grained caseband.
Gold hand-polished screws.
Dimensions
Diameter : 40mm
Thickness : 9.30mm
Water resistance of the case
3 atm – 30m – 100 ft
Crown
Handmade in 18k white gold.
Onyx cabochon inset.
Dial
Onyx dial.
Mysterious small second display at 6 o’clock.
Handmade 18k white gold frosted indexes with straight-grained flanks and polished
bevelling.
Hands
Handmade straight-grained hardened steel hands with polished bevelling.
Black polished and bevelled small second hand.
Strap and buckle
Hand Sewn Genuine Leather.
18k white gold pin buckle with engraved Pagès logo
Movement
Movement dimensions
Diameter: 33.80mm
Thickness: 3.65mm
Power reserve: 42 hours
Frequency: 18’000 vibration/hours
Number of parts: 112 parts
Number of jewels: 17
Olived-domed jewels in gold chatons.
Balance
Following George Daniels’ principles of construction “Watchmaking” (ISBN 978-2-9700656-
6-1). Large (13.4mm) handmade variable-inertia four arms balance with gold regulating
masselottes.
Blued free sprung balance-spring.
Handmade fine tuning of the whole regulating system with Philipps terminal curve.
Gearing
Circular-grained wheels with hand-polished bevelled arms.
Flat black-polished steel lever.
Barrel
Circular-grained barrel.
Fixed mainspring-bridle.
Winding System
Snailed handmade ratchet.
Black polished crown-wheel and click.
Main plates
Nickel silver plate with handmade frosting.
Black ruthenium treatment.
Bridges
Nickel silver hand-recut bridges with a hacksaw.
Handmade frosting, straight-grained flanks, polished bevelling and countersinks.
Rhodium treatment.
Hand-polished gold chatons.
Black-polished and beveled screws.

 

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