Watches are not just instruments to tell time. It is more than just that.
This is what we appreciate when it comes to timepieces. By simply looking at it as mere devices that tell time, then frankly, many other items can substitute the function of a watch. Heck, even a simple digital watch, or a mobile phone, can easily do the job.
Watches, for us, are an extension of our personality. It gives strangers a glimpse of what we are like as a person, whether we are loud, subtle, or classy. Beyond that, it is also an extension of the brand and watchmaker’s personality – especially if the watch is produced by an independent watchmaker.
On a less philosophical and direct note, watches also showcase the skill and dexterity of the watchmaker. Some of the watches may appear to look simple, but they are produced with centuries-old techniques that are incredible even these days. What is also brilliant is the fact that some of these crafts are not even replicable by machines, and that makes these features all the more valuable and phenomenal.
Wearable art: Six incredible watches with an artistic touch
In this week’s article, we will be highlighting some of these techniques and incredible artistic touches that were featured on some of our favourite timepieces. What have we selected? Let us find out!
Louis Erard Excellence Email Grand Feu II
We begin the article with the Louis Erard Excellence Émail Grand Feu II.
Louis Erard is a brand that has been making waves in the scene, with its incredible slew of novelties and collaborations that are rather accessible for many collectors. The new 39mm Excellence Émail Grand Feu II, launched last month, is an example where the brand offers a brilliant grand feu enamel dial with a slight playful twist (with a play on red and blue, as well as some stunning Lance-styled hands). The best part? It is priced at CHF 3,900 (approximately S$5,464).
It is really interesting to see Louis Erard making strides in its creations, and this particular piece is definitely history in the making for the brand. Grand feu enamel dials are typically reserved for the higher echelons of horology, owing to the high failure rates in the dial-making process where costs are tremendously increased as a result. Louis Erard has certainly staked a claim in the scene, now it is their job to maintain the high standards and continue to impress us with its future creations.
GoS Sarek Akka
We then move on to something that is less typical of standard watchmaking. Cue the GoS Sarek Akka – the brainchild of master bladesmith Johan Gustafsson and master watchmaker Patrik Sjögren.
The company, which is based in Sweden, offers watches that amalgamate the two individuals’ skills in blacksmithing and watchmaking. The Sarek Akka is an example of that, where the dial is produced by uncoloured Damascus steel. Each of the dial is unique, a result of involving the hot forging of two different kinds of steels. On top of that, the bezel of the 43mm is also engraved by master engraver Stanley Stoltz, which accentuates the theme of patterns and Scandinavian traditions. Talk about artistic talents.
The Sarek is powered by a Soprod A10 movement that has been customized with a GoS triskele rotor. The dark GoS rotor has a circular brushed finish and is equipped with an additional counter weight made from Damascus steel. The counter weight is finished for maximum contrasts on the surface and high gloss polished bevels.
Priced at US$12,800 (approximately S$17,733), the GoS Sarek Akka is an interesting timepiece that focuses a lot on traditional craftsmanship. We like the brand’s unique approach to watches, and it is certainly a conversational timepiece with its unique engravings and Damascus steel dial.
Breguet Classique 7137
When it comes to guilloché dial, Breguet is certainly one of the brands that come to mind. The Classique 7137 is perhaps a timepiece that allows the brand to showcase its mastery in this field.
Based on the historically important Breguet No. 5 pocket watch, the 39mm Classique 7137 is a timepiece that evokes a strong sense of style and substance. It possesses many of the brand’s signature touches, such as Breguet hands, coin-edge case, and complications. However, for us, the dial is the key attraction of this piece. It features a multi-textured dial, with no less than three different engine turned motifs. For the uninitiated, a properly-done guilloché dial requires the craftsman to have great dexterity and patience, amongst other skill sets. As a cherry on the top of the cake, the moon phase display, which has an aventurescent backdrop and craters on the “moon”, is an unbelievable sight as well.
The watch is available in white gold and rose gold, and it is priced at S$57,400. If one is looking for the quintessential gentleman’s watch, the Breguet is an interesting option if two or three-hand watches are not your kind of thing.
Patek Philippe World Time Ref. 5231
A complication that is synonymous with Patek Philippe, the World Time is a collaboration with Louis Cottier back in the 1930s to use his patented method to display various time zones across the globe. The Reference 5231 is one of the latest iterations to join this illustrious collection.
While the World Time is a functional piece, Patek Philippe had injected an element of artisanship in this particular reference with cloisonné enamelling. This goes beyond the art of enamelling. The process involves soldering metal wires – gold, in this case – which are bent to the outline of a design (which are the continents in this case) and filling the cloisons with vitreous enamel paste. The result is stunning.
Driving the Ref. 5231 is the tried and trusted Calibre 240 HU, a self-winding movement that is fitted with a 22k gold micro-rotor. It has a minimum power reserve of 48 hours and operates at a traditional 3 Hz beat rate. It is splendidly finished, in accordance with the standards set by the Patek Philippe Seal which this movement bears. The 38.5mm watch is priced at S$116,900, and we think this is perhaps one of the nicest modern World Time watches that Patek Philippe has produced to date.
MB&F HM9 Flow
In the world of horology, MB&F has certainly cemented itself as one of the luminaries for independent watchmaking.
One of the brand’s more recent creations under the Horological Machine collection – HM9 “Flow” – continues from where Maximilian Büsser had left off previously. The HM9 draws its inspiration this time from classic cars and planes, most notably the Mercedes-Benz W196 race car and the sleek De Havilland Venom plane. The end result is an organic-looking sculpture, which admittedly looks more like a piece of art than a device that tells the time. But then again, that is where MB&F offers something different from pretty much the rest of the crowd.
The titanium-cased HM9 “Flow” powered by an in-house manual-winding movement. The movement also incorporates two fully independent balance wheels with planetary differential, as well as a vertical timing display. The HM9 “Flow” is priced at US$182,000 (approximately S$253,451), and is a good option for anyone who wants a stunning timepiece that marries both art and technical engineering together.
Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Artistica – Master Gyrotourbillon I
We round up the article with the sublime Jaeger-LeCoultre Hybris Artistica – Master Gyrotourbillon I.
Known as the watchmaker’s watchmaker, Jaeger-LeCoultre had produced numerous exceptional timepieces (and movements, of course!) over the years. The Hybris Artistica collection, launched in 2014, aims to show another facet of the Le Sentier brand with its expertise in incorporating ancestral techniques used in watchmaking artistry such as guilloche, enameling, and engraving into their timepieces.
The 43mm Master Gyrotourbillon I is perhaps one of the most interesting pieces to have the Hybris Artistica treatment. Combining the legendary Master Gyrotourbillon complication – together with the perpetual calendar, equation of time, and retrograde complication – with precious stones and marquetry, the artisans at the maison had brought this spectacular timepiece on a whole new level altogether.
Despite it being an 18 years-old watch, the Master Gyrotourbillon is still one of the few timepieces that feature the multi-axis tourbillon. It is a timeless piece, and it certainly deserves nothing less than this treatment. It is priced at an eye-watering S$745,000, but again, perfection does come with a price.
We have another selection of outstanding pieces this week, albeit at a higher price range (sans the Louis Erard, arguably). Artistic touches and techniques, unfortunately, come with a price tag. This is why when a market disruptor such as Louis Erard comes in with such wonderful timepieces at a compelling price point, we really stop in our tracks and listen to what they have to offer.
But beyond just that, we have to celebrate the achievements of watchmakers and artisans as well. These are the collective group of individuals that are helping humanity to preserve these centuries-old craft. Especially at this age where most products are produced by machines or are assisted by computers, if they do not play their part in keeping these skills alive, then who will?
So, it is not difficult to see why timepieces are just merely devices that tell time. It is more than that – and these few watches have proved our point with the immaculate finishing and techniques employed. This is, again, just the tip of the iceberg of what the industry has to offer. We will be more than happy to continue this topic in the future and show everyone what the watchmaking guild is capable of doing.