We are a big fan of the Habring² family of watches. Special complications. Honestly made. Reasonably priced. Their new(ish) Foudroyante-Felix is no exception. The watch merely tells the hours, minutes and seconds. But with a jumping seconds mechanism. And a foudroyante which is so efficient, it runs the entire power reserve of the watch – a full 45 hours.
The little family company in Austria continues to impress. They won their second GPHG award this year. Capping their first, for the Doppel 2.0 in 2012. This year’s award was for the Doppel-Felix bagging the Petit Aiguille. We have also been very impressed by their Five Minute Repeater, which we subjected to a veritable torture test and passed. And their Doppel 3, which is an improvement over the Doppel 2.0. And here we examine their visually exciting Foudroyante-Felix – a watch which combines the slow, deliberate jumping seconds mechanism, to the fast and furious foudroyante.
Two versions of the Foudroyante-Felix are available. Both with the jumping second (seconds morte), foudroyante and pointer date. But one is automatic winding, and the other hand winding. Our review sample is the automatic version.
On first impression two things stand out. First, the furiously spinning foudroyante hand at 9 stirs the emotions…my first reaction was one of palpable excitement. And many people I showed the watch reacted in the same way. This contrasts to the slow, deliberate movement of the center seconds hand, jumping once every second. And secondly, the vintage vibe the entire watch exudes. From the classical, almost art deco style markers, to the date pointer, and the warm colours of the dial. Very nice.
The case, dial and hands
The case is the same shape as the Habring’s Felix case. Smooth lines, very sleek and aerodynamic looking. The lugs integrate into the case side in long, svelte, sweeping lines. The proportions are judged by us to be just right.
As mentioned, the dial evokes a vintage feel. The theme is achieved without the use of appliqués. Colour is added via a technique called par epargne. This is a technique to work out the rose gold numerals and markers, and typical for dials in the 1950s. According to Richard Habring, the technique is more diffficult than using appliqué markers.
For the Felix dials, the metal dial is polished and plated with pink gold. A cover print is then applied to protect the hour markers and numerals. The dial then gets polished by brushing and silver plating. After that the protective cover print is dissolved, and the hour markers/numerals are revealed in rose gold on the silver dial. Fianlly a clear varnish covers the silver from oxidation and the hour markers and numerals have frames printed over to provide contrast. This is an old method of making dials in the 1940s/50s before applying hour markers became the standard.
The result is the vintage look and feel we spoke in the opening paragraph.
The dial itself is multi-layer, with a raised chapter ring for the date, and a sunken sub-dial for the foudroyante hand. The inner of the dial is a brushed finish. And the foudroyante sub-dial features a textured, matte finish.
Hands are long and elegant Dauphine hands, and the jumping seconds hand is just slim rectangle with a leaf shaped counterweight. The glass cover is a box shape, and is sapphire.
The piece de resistance in the Foudroyante-Felix is of course the movement. This is the second foudroyante movement by Habring². The first was launched in 2010, using the A09 movement which is a development over an ETA base. The new Foudroyante-Felix sports a new movement, based on the Habring in-house A11. The foudroyante system wheels are now made in silicon and skeletonized nickel-phosphor instead of the aluminium used in the earlier generation.
The silicon and nickel-phosphor wheels have low friction and are ultra light. The foudroyante hence is able to work well, without need for a shorter service interval, even though it is constantly engaged and running throughout the power reserve of the watch. The wheel is produced by Sigatec, a supplier of the Swatch Group before the latter began producing silicon parts in-house. The wheels use patented technology from Swatch, and supplied to Habring² on the condition that they do not supply any movement parts with this component to other watch brands.
The foudroyante itself is comprised of only two wheels, one axle and the hand. The parts are all made as lightweight as possible with the mentioned silicon manufacturing by Sigatech. The wheel is just 0.1mm thick with a diameter of 7.2mm and a special diamond coating is needed to ensure that this is stiff enough. This wheel design and manufacture technique allows a 10% reduction in power consumption over the older aluminium ones.
The design of the foudroyante is such that it only absorbs a constant but small amount of energy, and Habring compensates for this with a mainspring whose torque is specified to a level slightly higher than needed. The movement tends to overbank without the foudroyante, but with the additional mechanism, the amplitude of the balance drops to normal levels.
Movement finishing is typical Habring², which means its very competently done, but without the usual elaborations and decorations which we would expect from haute horlogerie. But the Habring² is not targeted at those levels, being aimed firmly at the affordable complications genre rather than the ultra high end. Even with a dual complication like the foudroyante and seconds morte, it comes in below € 8,000.
In the specific playing field of a wristwatch with both the foudroyante and jumping seconds complication, the Habring² Foudroyante-Felix is perhaps the only occupant. And at €7,350, it is hard a hard act to follow, much less to beat. A very reasonable price for a very handsome watch with the double complication tricks up its sleeve.
Surveying the foudroyante market, one recent watch is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Duomètre collection. Several models are available, but all the watches combine this with further complications other than the jumping seconds. For example, the Duomètre à Quantième Lunaire (US$40,900 retail) is one of three Duomètres featuring the foudroyante. The others are the Duomètre Chronographe is priced at $47,200 and the Duomètre Sphérotourbillon is priced at $238,000. All these watches are truly magnificent, and beautiful aesthetically as they are technically.
Greubel-Forsey has a Nano Foudroyante EWT, but not in their regular production. As does Girard-Perregaux with their Foudroyante Rattrapante in the late 1990s.
Is the foudroyante it a useful complication? Perhaps not. But it is certainly an animated one, with strong…no powerful, visual interest to the dial. Mesmerising and evoking emotions. Combined with the arguably more useful seconds morte with its deliberate and staccato movement of the seconds hand, the juxtaposition more than just hints of irony. But a brilliance that is an unexpected pleasure.
This is where the Habring² comes to live. It is at once complicated, and animated. It shows beautiful aesthetics in the art deco styled dial. But it comes with a very reasonable asking price of only €7,350. Certainly an interesting conversation starter piece, and for that, is worth the retail price.
Habring² Foudroyante-Felix Specifications
inhouse movement A11FD (Foudroyante-Felix), manually or automaticly wound, diameter 30mm, height 6,6mm (7,9mm), 28,800 half oscillations per hour (4Hz)
Indication of hours, minutes, patented dead beat center seconds device and “flashing seconds” (Foudroyante) at 9h; pointer date indicator
Fine adjustment via tangential screw, Amagnetic escapement with a Carl Haas balance spring in chronometer quality, KIF shockproof pursuant to DIN and NIHS
23 or 27 (auto) jewels
Power reserve after being fully wound: approx. 45 hours
Elaborately refined by hand with polished bevels, decorative grinding, perlage, etc.
77 maintenance relevant parts
Foudroyante-Felix available in 42mm only