Review: Chopin Opus 10 No 12

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We take a close look of the new independent brand Chopin. Aptly named after the great Polish composer, the Opus 10 No 12 is the first watch from them. Made in collaboration with the Frederic Chopin Institute who approved using the name for creating a watch named after the famous composer. Full hands on and analytical review.

Chopin Opus 10 No 12

The watch itself is a collaboration. The Frederic Chopin Institute which was created by the Polish government to preserve the heritage of the great composer was one key instrumental party. The other two were the Industrial Design house of NeoDesis and the work of their principal Antoine Tschumi in Le Locle. And the third key is the manufacturer of the watch itself – Schwarz Etienne in La-Chaux-de-Fonds.

Tschumi had done watch design work for a number of brands, including Breguet, Hublot, Czapek, Harry Winston, Greubel Forsey, and Hermes.

Schwarz Etienne is a completely independent manufacturer since 2007, producing movements according to its own patents and ensuring the production of 100% in-house watches.

The first piece is a limited edition of 56 pieces. The brand is granted by the Frederic Chopin Institute an exclusive license to use the composer’s name and produce a total of 56 watches annually. This first piece is inspired by the Étude Op. 10, No. 12 in C minor, known as the “Revolutionary Étude” (click on the link the introduction played by our own Chester Lau) or the “Étude on the Bombardment of Warsaw”, is a solo piano work by Frédéric Chopin written circa 1831.

The case, dial and hands

The case design is an interesting array of complex surfaces juxtaposed into a melange which we judge to be of somewhat of a cross between a technical showcase and a pleasing aesthetic beauty.

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The case is rather large at 43mm in diameter. But looks and wears smaller than the dimensions might suggest, perhaps as the case is not very thick. The case features a polished stepped bezel with a domed sapphire crystal. The case middle has a brushed band running around the middle with a knurled finish. The lugs look like musical notations, and are polished. While the case design is rather complex case, we think it works as the elements lend themselves to create harmonious overall look which unique to the Opus 10 Number 12.

The crown sits on a raised, and matte polished island rising out from the knurled case middle. But as it sits no higher bezel spill over from the front of the dial and the case back, we found that it is not easy to pull the flattened onion shaped crown out to set the time. A small cabochon adorns the crown with a blue stone.

The dial design makes references to the Revolutionary Étude, in multi levels, a nod to the extraordinary depth of the artist’s music. The central part of the dial is pierced into a large aperture to show the movement within, and within it is placed curved plaque displaying the Chopin logo and a ring with markings acting as the subsidiary seconds hand. The power reserve is indicated by another curved plaque marked to resemble the keys of a piano.

A red rim made of a precious stone – carnelian – surrounds the sub dial located at 6 o’clock. The volcanic stone’s deep, red color is not only a direct reference to the Revolution and Chopin’s incredible sensitivity, but also symbolizes the composer’s heart, which was embedded in a pillar of the Holy Cross Church in Warsaw on the 96th anniversary of his death, as per Fryderyk’s final will. The urn with Chopin’s heart remains there today, while his body rests in a grave in the Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris.

Link to wallpaper: By clicking on this link you confirm that you have read and understood this statement, and agree that you will use the linked photograph for personal consumption only.

The indices are in double stick appliques for each hour. These are placed on the dial proper, which is marked with engraved concentric rings to suggest the lines on a music score. Numerical indices are placed at the hours 10 and 12 as a tribute to Étude in C minor Op. 10 No. 12. The hands are elegant amd are long swallow shaped with the hour hand ending in a spade. All the hands are blued. The bluing is not flame blued, but a plating to mimick the hue and style popular during Chopin’s time.

The entire ensemble gazing onto the dial side is one which a certain stateliness and aplomb that carries from the design and layout. The watch looks elegant, though it is rather large. And quite aesthetically pleasing.

The Movement: MSE210

The movement is visible from the display case back and is an Schwarz Etienne manufactured MSE201, which is made exclusively for Chopin. The movement is manual winding. Two barrels coupled in parallel provide 96 hours of power reserve.

The movement is time only with a power reserve indicator, but is a rather complex design with 197 components, including 37 rubies. The balance runs at 21,600 bph.

A unique feature of the movement is the balance wheel with a deep, red colour. We were told that the task to make this red balance is extremely difficult. The bridges are matte finished and also engraved with the important dates in Chopin’s career. We suspect these engravings are made by laser but the accompanying documentation does not state the method.

The movement layout is rather pleasing aesthetically, with nice clean lines and sensuous curves on the bridges. Movement finishing is not top drawer, but rather the level is judged to be at a good engineering level, and in line with the asking price of the watch.

The Competitive Landscape

The Chopin Opus 10 No 12 retails for CHF 14 500 CHF (EUR 12 750), and is available directly from their website. We are not quite sure if there are other watch brands completely dedicated to a specific musical genius, neither classical nor contemporary.

The closest we know of is perhaps the Chopard LUC José Carreras, made in 2000.

This was made for to support the José Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation (La Fundació Internacional Josep Carreras per a la Lluita contra la Leucèmia), That was a limited edition piece in two dial designs totalling 1,000 pieces and was sold out long ago. The Chopard does have a date, and carries an automatic LUC 3-96 movement, with arguably better pedigree.

Let us know in the comments if you do know of other musically insipired watches.

Concluding Thoughts

We were rather skeptical when we were approached by Chopin to take a closer look at this watch. But they sent us a review loaner, and after spending time with the watch, we came away rather impressed with the Chopin Opus 10 Number 12.

The case is rather thin, and working in combination with the shaped lugs, the watch’s 43mm case diameter wears rather smaller. Subjectively feeling like it was a 40 or 41mm case. The design, with the complex case finishing, with the dial’s tell tale tribute to Frederic Chopin’s amazing musical career is very charming. The movement is nothing to write home about if you are looking for great innovation or brilliant finishing, but it is competently designed and sufficiently well finished to be able to operate well and robustly for years to come. It also carries elements which link the watch to the composer. Nice touches.

Click here for our own Chester Lau playing the introduction to Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude Opus 10 No 12. Note: This is a composite image made by combining the Chopin watch onto a photograph of Chester on the piano. Just for fun, but do click through and listen to the clip. I think its rather good.

Overall, this makes for a rather brilliant package, and one which we enjoyed very much on our wrists. Bravo Chopin, and looking forward to more pieces of the same ilk, hopefully with some complications in the future.


1 Comment

  1. Given the price premium over the Ming 19.01 (CHF 7900) using the same movement I’d have hoped for better finishing at least on the dial side of the movement.