Phenomen’s first model, Axiom, seeks to highlight the brand’s French creativity, in a blend of technical prowess and style. As the debut watch for the brand, it demonstrates the design foundation that marks Phenomen’s collections to come.
The Phenomen Axiom: The Automotive inspiration
The first watch from the brand, the Axiom is in essence, the car-lovers’ watch. Producing the watchmaking equivalent of supercars, it stands in a long tradition of “driver’s watches”, made especially for racing drivers.
First made popular as a tool watch, the driver’s watch was designed to be read from the driver’s wrist with his hand still on the steering wheel. Several brands have had different interpretations and adaptations to this. Omega had its chronostop driving watch, and Vacheron Constantin the American 1921.
The main aim of such watches was to provide the time on driver’s wrists, without them having to take their eyes off the road – the reason why authentic driver’s watches all feature an inclined time display.
Other variant features apart from tilted dials, or sloping cases, included the digital display. Recently popularized is the Amida Digitrend, with MB&F’s HM5.
Phenomen’s Axiom excels exceedingly in the curved angled display department. The contoured sapphire crystal reveals time underneath it in a meter display. The dial and time display mimics older analog car dashboard gauges.
The case is unusually complex, which makes for a ‘movement designed to fit the case’. The power transmission plate seats beneath the balance wheel which appears to be on a ‘2nd floor’ of the movement. This play with height allows the downward sloping dial that displays time as though in an amphitheatre.
The case in Grade 5 titanium measures 47 mm by 42 mm with a height of 17.3 mm. While the dimensions sound large on paper, it is much easier to wear on the wrist, considering the integrated lugs and sloping case design. Sapphire crystal is used on the front and back of the case, with double-sided anti-reflective on the top crystal.
The two crowns which resemble thrusters of a space-ship are used to wind and set the time; with one crown used for setting the hours independent of the minutes. This function is useful for those travelling between timezones or simply for collectors who frequently switch between watches. A quick-set hour function is said to also lengthen the durability of the movement, by reducing the frequent retrograde jumps when setting the time.
The movement used is the Phenomen PH-010 caliber, designed and assembled in France. A manual winding double barrel movement, with an independent escapement mount. Axiom’s twin barrels in series provide a power reserve of over 100 hours – more than four days’ worth. Like the engine of a race car, Axiom’s PH-010 movement is designed to provide the perfect power-to-size ratio.
The variable inertia balance wheel is adjusted using four gold flyweights. Rather than being circular, the balance wheel felloe is cut in the shape of a Celtic axehead. Using the AgenEse® technology for retrograde mechanisms, the movement features a double retrograde both for the hours meter and the minutes meter. It is also rigorously tested to ensure that when both minutes and hours hand fly back, that they are aligned one to another.
The bridges and visible movement parts are hand finished with a mixture of polished and satinized finishing. All of which is done in-house by the brand in Besançon, the watch capital of France.
The watch is a well thought out and an elaborately designed driver’s watch. While we had our reservations on legibility, given the small meter markers, we were told by the brand that changes will be made to the production models to address this issue. Overall, first impressions by some collectors were lukewarm given their familiarity with brands with ‘similar’ styles, namely independents like MB&F and Urwerk. That said, we found the Phenomen’s Axiom to have a good narrative of its own, and while a new entrant to the market, has already filled pre-orders for close to 2 years worth of production time. An impressive start, and a brand worth watching.