Rémy Cools has been a name which surfaced in our radar since mid-2019, and he presents his first watch – the Tourbillon Souscription.
The name is Cool…no, really its Cools. Apologies for the joke. But Rémy is a Frenchman, and now barely 23 years old. And he has already ventured out on his own brand. Now that’s cool. But who is this young man? Where did he come from?
Rémy became fascinated by the age of 11 with watchmaking which he first encountered in an open house event at a Swiss watch company in Vallée de Joux. Immediately, he knew that he has to become a watchmaker. Four years later, he joined the watchmaking school of Morteau in France, and won the French National Gold Medal for Best Watchmaking Apprentice. In 2015, he started his training in precision machining and construction with Mr. Monnet, a talented prototypist watchmaker, who worked for the most prestigious Swiss brands, such as, Audemars Piguet & Renaud Papi, Greubel Forsey. The year following, he made a hand made tourbillon table clock as his final year project. This was the Mechanica Tempus Pendulette Tourbillon.
He went on to win the Young Talent Competition (an international horological contest) organized by FP Journe in 2018. That same year he graduated from his studies, and as his Ecole watch, he made a tourbillon wrist watch, with winding and setting crowns on the back. It took over 1000 hours of meticulous craftmanship all done by hand, and took him 8 months to complete.
His next step was equally impressive, as on graduation, he joined Greubel Forsey, where he worked in the Atelier tradition where he participated in the Hand Made 1. And in 2019, he decided that he wanted to strike out on his own, with his own brand, setting shop in shores of Lake Annecy in Haute-Savoie, a town in France, but is only about 50km from the city of Geneva.
The Tourbillon Souscription
For his first attempt as an independent, Rémy aimed high and is proposing a tourbillon. A souscription series (French for by subscription), originally used by Abraham Louis Breguet was the inspiration for the startup. It will be built on a by-commission basis and will be limited to 9 stainless steel examples.
The Tourbillon Souscription is an evolution of Rémy’s montre d’ecole. The proposed watch is intended to be a reproduction of the school watch, with the traditional handmade methodology still being key to its manufacture, but with a more refined look. We have not examined both watches for ourselves, but looking at the photographs that Rémy sent, they look very similar.
The case, dial and hands
The movement, case and dial retains the aesthetics of the school watch, but with some rework. The case does not show a crown on the case sides, and is designed with two crowns on the case back. The crowns feature a lever which can be turned up to allow usage. This is similar in concept and execution to the one used in the various Ressence watches.
The case looks refined with brushed and polished finishes being applied, and the shape is the traditional round case with sloped shoulders which extend to become lugs. The overall look of the case is rather pleasing, the elimination of a crown sticking out from the side makes the aesthetics very clean.
The front shows a sub-dial at 12 which indicates the hours and minutes through two Breguet styled hands. The markings in 15 minute intervals indicated by hand engraved arabic numerals and dots for 5 minute markers are shown on a silver ring. The ring is held by an silver cock attached to the ring by a polished screw and to the dial by another polished screw. The engraved parts are not in-filled with a contrasting colour, making reading the markers a bit of a challenge, especially in low light, but that’s part of the intrigue and mystery of such a design.
The center of the dial is a dual finished silver circular plate with a circular brushing in the perimeter and a graining in the center. This becomes the hour sub-dial, acting like a mysterious unmarked hour dial with only a hand engraved marking of the maker’s name. The shorter hour hands reaches just over the grained perimeter. The plate is attached to the dial by a polished screw. Note the locating pin on the right to ensure perfect registration.
The hands are small, and feature a Breguet style shaped, and feature flame blued steel with very fine points. The manufacturing and finishing of the hands requires up to 50 hours of work is indicative of the degree of difficulty. The hands are made of steel, and first given a black polish. Do note that black polishing a small, thin component like a hand is several levels of difficulty higher than a plate. If one takes too much off, there is so little material on the hand that it wears through and breaks. Once this black polish is achieved, the hand is flame blued by hand. Anglage is then applied to the inside of the circle, and polished. The hands are mounted on a steel polished chaton, which has curved sides with a curved dimple in the middle. These hands are a work of art.
The cock holding the tourbillon is at 6 o’clock and is complementary to the dial’s cock as they are arranged symmetrically. The tourbillon itself is visible from the front under this cock, and is presented as a imposing steel cage measuring 15.5mm in diameter. This becomes the visual anchor to the dial, and as it stands high from the dial, offers a 3 dimensional perspective to the dial side.
The dial is protected by a rather high sapphire case, measuring 7mm on its own, making the watch rather thick at 15mm high. We are looking forward to Rémy showing us the watch to try it on and photograph it, when this nasty bit of not being able to travel is relaxed and we rid the world of the virus. When we do, we will report on how it feels on the wrist and share with you our own high resolution photographs, and hands-on impressions.
And the engraving on the grained finished plate on the dial side states “Souscription”.
The watch is designed, manufactured and entirely finished by Rémy in his workshop on the shores of Lake Annecy. The movement are entirely hand finished with traditional haute horlogerie finishes like anglage, black polish, circular graining, interiors angles featuring strongly. The initial impression of the case back is rather pleasant, with the cold steel case forming the top part holding the two “crowns”, and with cutouts to show part of the upper bridge. The entire lower half is open, showing the base plate in a gilt finish. The movement is made of brass with a frosted finish given by microblasting. The gilt parts then receive a gold plating over and the silver parts are palladium plated.
The architecture is very interesting. The movement is designed as a three quarter plate movement with the upper bridge covering about half the movement, and the lower half carrying the wheel train is exposed and supported by individual cocks. The cocks are very traditional in design and beautifully executed, each holding the 2nd, 3rd and the lower pivot of the tourbilon carriage. The cock of the canon pinion is an extension of the top plate. Note also the wolf’s teeth on the rachet wheel of the barrel and the beautifully machined, traditionally designed click spring.
In the photograph below, the wheel is shown with its arms exhibiting sharp angles and a nicely polished anglage. The cocks which hold the wheels by the jewels are also magnificently finished.
The hand finish aspect is taken very seriously, we guess as an alumni of the vaunted Greubel Forsey Hand Made 1 project, this would be a given. The photograph below shows a single bridge which has a grained finish with anglage on its edges. Note the wells in which the screws with black polished heads sit are also highly polished. As are the bowl shaped wells where the jewels sit within.
Shown below is one of the crown with the lever in the down position marked “Aiguilles”. When raised, it provides leverage to adjust the hands. The other lever is marked “Mouvement” is used to wind the watch.
The wheels are cut in a CNC machine by a supplier and delivered raw pictured left in the image below. Each tooth is then cut with a lathe and individually hand finished by Rémy . The work needed to complete a single wheel is more 60 hours. This can be seen in the achieved product.
The hand workmanship is quite refreshing, and is evident as the entire watch is very open, something helped by the very high crystal which allows the tourbillon to be highly visible from all sides. Also the movement exhibits expert treatment of the surfaces.
Overall the Rémy Cools Tourbillon Souscription is a magnificent piece of work. Very polished, and accomplished work from a very young watchmaker. The aesthetics are elegant, though the rather old fashioned looks may seem overly sober and perhaps boring. But as they say, the devil is in the details. and when one takes a close examination, the wonders of traditional watchmaking and all its charms reveal themselves.
Each part is carefully thought through, with skills and workmanship on the details magnificently executed. The beauty of each component and the quality of the work is at a supremely high level. And belies the tender age of its creator. A superb project by Rémy Cools, and well done indeed.
Rémy Cools Tourbillon Souscription Technical features
- Handwound mecanical movement – 18 000 VPH – 36 hours power reserve – 15.5mm diameter and 60 seconds tourbillon – Modified swiss anchor escapement – Specific balance wheel – Hand formed hairspring with breguet overcoil – Hand engraved and numbered movement – Hand engraved silver dials, curved minutes dial.
- 40 mm diameter and 15mm higher – stainless steel case – 7mm higher domed sapphire glass – Numbered case and engraving pin buckle – 19mm hand made alligator strap , avaible in four colors : burgundy, black, deep blue and british green. – Numbered hand made walnut box