Franck Muller is an interesting brand. The Geneva Maison has a great tradition of complications and great case shapes. But yet, it continues to be largely forgotten by the cognoscenti. We only need to remind ourselves of the lovely Vanguard, the Secret Hours, the Giga Tourbillon, the spectacular 7 Days Power Reserve Skeleton or the subject of today’s review: the Crazy Hours Ref. 5850 CH.
The sane origin of the “Crazy Hours”
The Franck Muller Geneve maison is founded by the Swiss watchmaker Franck Muller with Vartan Sirmakes as co-founder and CEO of the Franck Muller Group.
Frank Muller, born in 1958, is raised in a multicultural environment. Having an Italian mother and a Swiss father, Franck has known the best of the parents’ worlds. His early interest in mechanical devices, his creativity and discipline will help him develop a good reputation. After he ended his studies at the Ecole d’Horlogerie de Genève (Geneva School of Watch Making), he started to restore timepieces for collectors and auction houses.
Working on complicated pieces, Franck developed the idea he could build his own complication. He presented his first created pieces in 1983. A year later, Franck Muller presented his first tourbillon. Back in the 80′, there was perhaps a hand full of watchmakers attempting to design and build this complication. He was one of the first watchmakers to use the front tourbillon for his watches. Along with other complication, his watches have brought him the name of “Master of Complications”.
Since 1986, Franck Muller brand comes regularly with World Premiers. We can name a few: from 1986 the Tourbillon with jumping hours, from 1986 the Tourbillon with Minute Repeater, or the 1989 marvel – the inverted Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar with Minute Repeater. In 2003, the first Crazy Hours was released. The unusual use of the jumping hour complication denotes Franck’s joyful creativity and become emblematic for the Genevan maison.
In 2004, the brand presents the tri-axial tourbillon. Named Revolution 3, the watch featured this complication was gifted with a Perpetual Calendar. After five years of development, Franck Muller released the Aeternitas Mega in 2007, a highly complicated piece featuring 36 complications and for which 1,483 components were used. In 2011, the brand released the biggest tourbillon ever incorporated in a wristwatch – 20mm cage. This position was deposed by this year released Kerbedanz Maximus.
Vartan Sirmakes is co-founder and CEO of the Frank Muller Group. Born in 1956 in Constantinople, a descendant of an Armenian jewellers family, Vartan follows his uncle in Geneva. At the age of 18, he starts his apprenticeship in jewel-setting. After opening his own workshop, the reputation grew fast, and started to have big name clients like Cartier or Ebel. Vartan’s small workshop soon became a large company. His entrepreneurial spirit and his eye for beautiful objects lead to a partnership with Pierre Ecoffey – a bracelet and watch case manufacturer. The successful collaboration was the first step in the watch industry. His goal to manufacture high-end watches was fulfilled by the collaboration with the talented watchmaker Franck Muller. Together, they founded the Frank Muller Group.
Franck Muller produced and registered his pieces under the Franck Genève brand until the Franck Muller Genève brand was created in 1991. The brand was awarded with the first prize of the Genève Watchmaking Grand Prix in 2002, as the recognition of Franck’s exceptional talent and the immense expertise of the Franck Muller Genève manufacturer.
Review: Franck Muller Crazy Hours Ref. 5850CH
It has been almost 15 years since the initial release of the Crazy Hours. Back in 2003, the wristwatch created a big sensation. The dial was a big hit: oversized numerals thrown over the dial in a chaotic looking order. But still, the watch showed the correct time via an unusual interpretation of the jumping hours complication. Over the time, the Crazy Hours had various case materials and several variants of the dial, including coloured backgrounds and multi-coloured numerals. We review today the smaller Crazy Hours, the reference 5850 CH.
The case, dial, and hands
The reference 5850 CH comes in a Cintrée Curvex white gold case. This tonneau shape is a brand’s standard case, being one of the most classic shapes in wristwatches. This sensuous, curved tonneau case was first used around the beginning of the century by Cartier for ladies’ watches. Later, in the twenties, men started to embrace this elegant form for their wristwatches. Even Patek Philippe made some watches with this case. But it was possibly Franck Muller who popularised this shape and made from this tonneau case their brand call sign.
The case has a width of 32mm and a length of 45mm. The curved design and the height of only 9.35mm make the Crazy Hours easily wearable and a pleasure for the wrist. The case is decorated with highly polished curved surfaces. On the white gold, this finish has a nice radiating glow. The short lugs continue the case’s sides harmoniously, being more a utilitarian form and not an element of design.
The case is covered with a curved, tonneau shaped sapphire crystal. The watch has a simple, elegant flat crown adorned with an embossed logo.
The Crazy Hours has a solid case back. The plate is engraved with the brand’s name, “Master of Complications” in a beautiful calligraphic font, reference and number and the precious metal hallmarks. The vertical brushing present as a background is continued on the back of the case. Having a closer look at this finish, it reveals that the case back and back plate are brushed separately. It would be a nice detail to have both elements brushed together as a whole, but possibly, the technical process does not allow this type of finishing. The back-plate is fixed using four polished screws. We have no information regarding the water tightness of the Crazy Hours watch.
Turning back the watch, we have a deeper look to the “Crazy Hours” dial. A first look will show the classic twelve hours spread around the dial in a random order. It is stated that the traditional twelve-hour division of time is originated from the days of the pharaohs. This chronological order is used since then and has dictated the appearance of the clock since the first pieces until now. Franck Muller proposal of a dial disrupts centuries of conservative time display.
A closer and careful look will reveal the ingenious trick behind. Several hours are in the classical position: 1, 4, 7 and 10. These are the key elements from which the other hour numbers are derated. The jumping hours movement jumps five positions. From 1 o’clock, the hours’ hand jumps five positions to 2 o’clock, positioned at the traditional 6 o’clock position. The same reasoning follows for the 3 o’clock: from now 2 o’clock (traditional 6 o’clock), it jumps 5 positions to 3 o’clock, traditional 11 o’clock (traditional 6 plus 5 steps equal 11).
The dial itself is crazy good looking. The dial is stamped with a sun-rayed guilloché pattern. After brushing and chemical treatment, the dial is lacquered with several layers of a translucent white coloured varnish. The oversized beautiful Arabic numerals are placed in “order” and hand painted using a special technique. A special dispenser is used to place a larger than usual amount of ink. This method permits the three-dimensional, embossed look of the numerals. The font used is calligraphic and can be also observed on the ghost numerals spread over the dial, around the time-telling indexes. These shadows act to disrupt the norm even more and bring a note of modernism to a very traditional looking dial. Except for the numerals orders, of course.
The dial is further adorned with brand’s name. We find the words “Crazy Hour” not necessary, even if it visually balance the brand’s name from the upper side of the dial. But is just a matter of taste and not a real argument.
The watch uses delicate blued leaf hands for displaying the time. The skeletonised hands are filled with luminescent and create a nice subtle effect in a low light. For someone unfamiliar with the dial, viewing the dial in low light brings no information about the actual time due to the “wrong” positioning of the hour’s hand. Knowing the algorithm, a user will have no problems on discerning the correct time.
The “Crazy Hours” watch has a lovely wrist presence, it is easy to set and reading time is fun. Except for twelve moments: a few seconds before the minute’s hand reaches the 00 position or a few seconds after, it is hard to decipher if it is the past hour or the new hour.
The movement FM 2001
Franck Muller Crazy Hours Ref. 5850CH is powered by the automatic calibre FM 2001. The movement dimensions are 25.60mm width and 5.60mm hight. It uses 203 components of which 27 are jewels. The balance wheel beats with 28’800 vibrations/hour (4Hz), the watch having an autonomy up to 42 hours.
The FM2001 is decorated with Côtes de Genève, circular graining (or perlage) and hand chamfered edges. Unfortunately, these details are hidden under the solid case back.
The competitive landscape
The Crazy Hours Ref. 5850 CH is priced at S$40,104. For the money, one gets a romantic but modern interpretation of the classic jumping hours complication. Due to the uniqueness of this watch, a direct comparison was not possible. But we have in mind other timepieces with a great approach in time telling.
Talking about unusual and avantgardist ways of telling the time, Voutilainen Vingt-8 ISO comes to mind. Because this year’s Vingt-8 is different. The beloved Finnish watchmaker opts out for a 39 mm diameter 18k gold case. The three-part case is entirely polished and features the brand’s signature teardrop lugs. Perhaps as a tribute to Urban Jürgensen as one of Kari’s personal favourites, we salute the design. The watch’s dial is yet another spectacular example of Kari’s expertise for engine turned guilloché dials. The baton appliques hours markers have a dedicated chapter ring. The minute track is printed and comes with a catch. The minute track is rotating at the same rate as the hour hand. That means the minute hand is in the traditional position only at 12 AM/PM. Understanding the algorithm behind will leave no doubt or uncertainty on readings for a classic analogue dials lover. The watch is powered by the beautiful calibre 28. Excellent finishes visible on the exhibition case-back. But this beauty comes with a price – S$136,500, around CHF89,000.
Ludovic Ballouard Half Time is another watch with non-conformist time display. The 41mm case is a simple and efficient beauty: full flavoured and generous sized bezel and lugs with two discrete crown bumps. The dial is a “stop and enjoy” design – it needs a moment of solitary thinking about the true perception of time. While the dial has twelve classical positions, the hour chapter is built using two rotating discs that display the time o an aperture at 12 o’clock. The retrograde minute’s hand is placed at the six o’clock position. The Half Time uses a charming manually-wound movement. Featuring more than 300 components and 53 jewels, the design and execution are entirely in-house.
The last piece of this paragraph is reserved for a hot new piece from a new independent brand VAULT V1. We first announced it in July, made a factory visit in October and we participated at the Official Swiss launch from 16th of November. VAULT V1 is a watch backed up by the renown watch master Andreas Strehler. He is the technical mastermind behind the V1. The watch concept of a vault/safe that displays the time in a personalised mode, chosen by the collector. The classic minute’s hands placed centrally is showing the time in a classic manner while the hour chapter rotates. The hour indication is done by a sapphire crystal on top of hour indexes. The tonneau case measures 46.7mm length, 39mm width and 15mm thickness. It fits excellent on the wrist, even for a small lady’s wrist. The price for the VAULT V1 in steel is CHF50,000.
Franck Muller Crazy Hours Ref. 5850CH is an interesting watch. It challenges the norm of an elegant watch by pushing aside the norm with a playful game of numbers “thrown” all over the dial. In a good way – we might add.
A useful detail we noticed about the Crazy Hours is the relative price stability of the owned pieces over time. In a report of the Collectors Square, we noticed a decent stability. We can not confirm or deny this information, but we find this useful for a future collector that this piece has kept a good, almost flat line value.
Specification and price
Price for the steel version: S$40,104
Calibre: FM 2001
Type: Self-winding movement
Power reserve: 42 hours
Frequency: 4Hz / 28’800 vph
Functions: Central jumping hour hand, central minutes hand.
Material: 18-carat white gold case
Dimensions of the case: 32.00mm x Length: 45.00mm x Height: 9.35mm
Crystal: Sapphire crystal curved
Crown: Crown in case material
Caseback: Solid case back in case material
Material: Hand-sewn alligator strap
Buckle: Pin buckle