BY ELIZABETH DOERR
Sheer ingenuity combines with the best in handcraftsmanship to create these arresting timepieces.
Rudis Sylva Harmonious Oscillator
Jacky Epitaux is a product of his environment. Born in the Jura region, the mountainous area of Switzerland where watchmaking is most prevalent, Epitaux has worked in the watch and related industries his entire adult life. And after leaving his last job, he founded a small luxury watchmaking company in this area of outstanding natural beauty.
Epitaux is a fountain of local information and his contacts within the community of local artisans have made the project he calls Rudis Sylva a hub of creativity. His brand is named for the ancient appellation of his hometown, Les Bois, and is Latin for “the forest of Ruedin” (the first recorded man to settle here and begin clearing the forest).
The watch gets its name from the fact that its time is uniquely kept by two toothed balance wheels
The premier watch to issue from the small but ultra-luxurious brand is the Harmonious Oscillator, and the idea behind it is not only a world first but also originated in the mind of a watchmaker/farmer from the Jura, Romain Gillet. However, it was a watchmaker from outside of Switzerland altogether who demonstrated the ability to put Gillet’s idea into mechanical reality: Finnish complications specialist Mika Rassinen.
The watch gets its name from the fact that its time is uniquely kept by two toothed balance wheels that are connected to one another. They are classically driven by the energy portioned out by one single escapement. The energy impulse is passed from the escapement to one balance and then the second one, creating a sort of mechanical resonance (as opposed to atmospheric resonance), which in turn—like a tourbillon— serves to eliminate the negative effects of gravity on timekeeping, making this one very accurate mechanical watch.
It also boasts a great deal of local handcraftsmanship: Component manufacture, tooling, finishing and movement decoration. Notably, the dial showcases exquisite guilloché by local specialist Georges Brodbeck.
This manually wound timepiece with a power reserve of about 70 hours is housed in a 44mm 18K rose or white gold case. The styling features an off-center dial displaying the hours and minutes, which leaves room for a large cutaway that reveals the Harmonious Oscillator subgroup and its very finely finished stabilizing bridge. Only ten to 20 pieces are currently manufactured per year, each available for $240,000.
Greg Simonian at Westime Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles
Though few modern watch brands can boast an unbroken chain of watchmakers in one family spanning 25 members across seven generations, this is no longer the outstanding feature of Badollet, an independent brand specializing in very high-end horology.
For the past several years, the modern incarnation of the company bearing the Badollet name—owned by a group of private investors (and watch enthusiasts)—concentrated on customizable timepieces of impeccable manufacture and finishing delivered with a concierge-style promise of satisfaction. This morphed into a standard collection of rare timepieces, which was subsequently discontinued earlier this year.
What has replaced those is pure, unadulterated, understated sophistication: Limited to about 50 pieces a year, the new watch is named Ivresse. Loosely translated as “intoxication,” this French word is a very apt moniker. The watch, retailing for $196,000, only shows the hours and minutes. No further complication is needed for it to be spellbinding. The slightly curved 53.8-by-30mm platinum case—which, despite its stately size, fits any wrist perfectly thanks to its ergonomic curvature—houses this simple time display and a host of satiny blue space. The combination is nothing short of stunning, in particular given the soft rectangular shape that lends the timepiece a slight Art Deco feel.
Though this oeuvre designed by Swiss star Eric Giroud may look simple, it by no means is. One of the most interesting points is the way the cambered bezel on the slim case hides the crown, reminiscent of gentlemanly days gone by. The measurements of this watch are deceiving, though. The use of platinum and the case height of 12.3 mm lend the timepiece a tangible heft—some of which is achieved by the crafty movement.
After CEO Philippe Dubois and designer Giroud had the look of this masterpiece down, they turned to a very special watchmaker to create a movement from the ground up. David Candaux, an independent watchmaker based in Le Sentier (and the mind behind Jaeger-LeCoultre’s insanely complicated Hybris Mechanica), created a wonderfully aesthetic mechanism to match the elegant look of the watch. This manually wound movement with 120 hours of power reserve rests on the base of an untreated German silver base plate housing a flying tourbillon. Needless to say, it is entirely hand-decorated and manufactured in Candaux’s farmhouse workshop.
The watch comes on a midnight blue, full-grain alligator skin strap with tone-in-tone stitching to complete the intoxicating feel of pure luxury.