Time, Editor's Pick

Understanding the Virtuosity of Watchmaking

 
Understanding the Virtuosity of Watchmaking

Through the use of remarkable techniques, these brands demonstrate the fine art of watchmaking.

Pictured above: Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Automatic Satin-Polished Steel 100m

With the saturation of the steel sports watch segment, Bvlgari made the bold move of differentiating itself by slimming its watches instead of going larger or smaller. A combination of aesthetic vision and mechanical expertise sees Bvlgari herald a new dawn for luxury steel sports watches. The results paid off handsomely as the Octo Finissimo collection has won more than 50 awards and holds six world-records since 2014 for its ultra-slim watches and movements. Massive amounts of research and development were invested into the Octo Finissimo collection to enable the creation of the ultra-slim calibres, the BVL138 Finissimo calibre fitted in the Octo Finissimo Automatic Satin-Polished Steel 100m comes in at a knife-slim 2.23mm.

The art of miniaturising is more complex than one can imagine as tolerances decrease dramatically with each micron shaved off. Given the sporty nature of the Octo Finissimo, structural stability and reliability are priorities that require addressing. Despite its slimness, the BVL138 Finissimo calibre manages to offer 60 hours of power reserve, made possible by a platinum micro-rotor to maintain the movement’s svelte nature. The addition of its stainless steel case sees the total thickness of the Octo Finissimo Automatic Satin-Polished Steel 100m measured at 6.4mm and given a 100m water resistance.

Seiko Presage SBP171

Enshrined within Japan’s cultural identity is its deep respect for tradition and art. Seiko’s newest release combines two ancient practices in the limited edition Seiko Presage SBP 171. Suigetsu — whose Kanji characters signify water and the moon — was the enjoyment of the moon’s reflection on ponds and lakes during the late eighth to the early twelfth century known as the Heian period. Though the ephemeral and unattainable, Seiko captures the fleeting beauty of Suigetsu through the use of Arita porcelain.

Arita porcelain — famed for its purity and faint blue tinge — dates back to the 17th century when it was discovered in the town of Arita, Kyushu, Japan. It forms the dial of the Presage SBP 171, made by master craftsman Hiroyuki Hashiguchi and his team. A special formula of porcelain is concocted to ensure the dial is strong enough to be placed in a timepiece. Crafting each dial requires great skill and patience as the porcelain pieces are put through a multi-stage firing process to attain a rich sheen of white. Instead of finishing with the traditional blue sheen, a transparent glaze is applied to accentuate the whiteness of the dial. This white porcelain known as Hakuji captures the delicate beauty of Suigetsu and creates a sharp contrast with the shades of blue seen in the hands, roman numerals and sub-dials.

Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary

Innovative watchmaking is the cornerstone of Omega’s heritage as the Swiss watchmaker continues to meld horological history and sports influence in its watches. Technological advancements have enabled the brand to break new frontier in its watchmaking methods, one being the manipulation of materials to fit Omega’s aesthetic appeal. The latest Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th Anniversary is a demonstration of Omega’s trio of watchmaking ethos.

The special timepiece commemorates the 50th anniversary of Omega’s prestigious Silver Snoopy Award from NASA, awarded for its commendable efforts in the Apollo 13 mission. A combination of material manipulation is employed across the watch. Silver — a fairly uncommon watchmaking material — is given a shimmery treatment as the dial material. The hands and indexes are given a contrasting blue shade through the use of physical vapour deposition (PVD) coating. A bi-material blue ceramic bezel is offset with creamy white enamel tachymetre scale. Flipping the watch around reveals a photorealistic moon portrait of Snoopy traversing around when the chronograph is activated. A micro-structured metallisation process is used to create the portrait — numerous metallic coatings are layered atop each other to offer realism and depth to the portrait. Within the Speedmaster is Omega’s Co-Axial Master Chronometer calibre 3861 that features another material marvel — a silicon hairspring — that is impervious to magnetism and deformation.

Hermès Arceau Pocket Aaaaargh!

Leather craftsmanship meets Haute Horlogerie as Hermès creates a unique pocket watch, featuring the T-Rex from the Aaaaargh! silk scarf designed by English artist Alice Shirley. After the success of the Slim d’Hermès Grrrrr! (gruff bear) and the Arceau Awooooo (howling wolf), Hermès adds the king of tyrant lizards to its bestiary. A motif of the prehistoric reptile set atop the pocket watch case, coming to life with its half-open jaws and menacing gaze.

The head and scales of the dinosaur are made by leather mosaic — thousands of hand-cut multicoloured leather fragments are applied individually while the jaw and tongue are crafted in leather marquetry of fine leather tesserae thinned to 0.5 mm, before being juxtaposed on the enamel base. A cabochon cut Grand Feu enamel forms the eye of the T-Rex, imparting a glint and realism to the three-dimensional structure. Artistry does not end with the motif as the Manufacture Hermès H1924 movement within features the complex minute repeater complication and a flying tourbillon — the latter visible from the white enamel-set white gold dial.

Louis Vuitton Escale Spin Time Meteorite

Widely regarded as the epitome of sophistication, luxury and glamour, the same values have been translated into Louis Vuitton’s watchmaking arm with its dedicated La Fabrique du Temps Louis Vuitton division. In 2012, the acquisition of La Fabrique du Temps set the works in motion as Louis Vuitton sought to establish its haute horology pedigree.

Named after its hour rotating cubes, the release of the Louis Vuitton Escale Spin Time Meteorite presents a new and resolutely modern way of watching time go by. The automatic calibre LV77 is the brains behind the unique concept — 12 hour cubes set on spokes around the dial spin independently to mark the passage of time. 11 idle cubes display Louis Vuitton’s famed motifs in grey while the twelfth presents the current hour in gold. As the minute hand traverses the dial, the next hour cube flips to reveal the next corresponding hour. The use of the Gibeon meteorite dial contributes to the novelty of the Escale Spin Time Meteorite as it is Louis Vuitton’s maiden usage of the cosmic material. Grey streaks characteristic of the material elevates the gold dial elements and complements the 18k rose gold and black PVD titanium bi-material case.

This story about the art of watchmaking first appeared in the November 2020 issue of Men’s Folio.