Watchmakers revolutionise the industry by putting the spotlight on complicated movementsBy Mike Lou
The watch industry is going through a renaissance period, with many new developments and major brands bringing forth ever-more-innovative designs to increase market share. There are many watch brands, primarily falling into two categories: those with gemstone-setting expertise specializing in jewellery watches; and those that focus on innovative movements.
It used to be necessary to invert a watch in order to see the mechanisms inside. In recent years, however, prestigious watch brands have started bringing the painstakingly manufactured movements to the forefront, literally. The design, construction and function of the movements are all visible on the dial. With this pioneering approach to watchmaking, brands are showcasing their know-how and assuring their prestige position in the industry.
To develop open-work movements can often take up to four or five years, using a considerable amount of resources. A truly innovative open-work movement must meet three criteria: creativity, precision and aesthetics. Audemars Piguet’s Millenary collection is a great example. Besides the elegant oval 18-carat rose gold case, the most unique aspect of the watch is its three-dimensional design. The dials overlap each other asymmetrically, leaving the escapement in plain view, as if it’s floating on top. The detached single-beat escapement has been entirely developed and manufactured in-house. Not only does the watch provide improved precision with a higher frequency of vibrations per hour, its rarity also makes the new Millenary a collectible item of great value.
Breguet, which has long been a prestigious name in the watchmaking world, has come up with an equally impressive collection. It has transported the entire movement of its 18th-century Souscription pocket watch to the new Tradition wristwatch collection. On the dial, one can admire the escapement, the Breguet overcoil spring and the “pare-chute,” a shock-protection device invented by Breguet in 1790. Creating this movement was no easy task, as it took the maison five years to develop. The central main barrel, which is rarely found in modern wristwatches, was previously a component found primarily in pocket watches. Wearing this watch feels like owning a piece of history.
A successful watch is the result of innovative movement and beautiful design. To come up with a creative product, brands strive to achieve technological breakthroughs, bringing out the best in their brilliant watchmakers and maximizing their manufacturing capacity. When everything comes together, the result is a genuine treasure for our wrist. But whether you decide to invest in such significant timepieces, well, that’s a different matter.
China Winter 2010