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Feature: The Dream Watch Collection: Part 2

It’s time for another trip into the world of our imaginations as we wonder what it’s like to buy whatever watch we want. And why not make it three while we’re at? For this dream watch collection, we’ve assumed the persona of a traditionalist, someone who likes their watches with a more classical taste—but with a bit of a twist.

H. Moser & Cie Mayu 321.503-016

Just poking out from under a cuff—beneath which this watch from H. Moser & Cie. fits very nicely—and it would be easy to think what you’re seeing is a Patek Philippe. Slim, simple, classic, the H. Moser & Cie. Mayu—which has since been renamed ‘Endeavour’—is every bit the traditional timepiece, from its 38.8mm, 9.3mm thick white gold case to its feuille hands and sunburst dial.

But this is no traditional piece. It may look like one, feel like one, but beneath the surface there’s a lot going on that advances watchmaking in some rather special ways. You get clues to H. Moser & Cie.’s leftfield approach from subtle details like the scalloped case sides, that blend into the finger divot under the crown, and the big, modern applied numeral at twelve.

There’s hacking seconds and a handy power reserve on the back—a useful addition to the manually wound calibre HMC321 that actually spins the dial rather than the hand—but that’s all run-of-the-mill for a brand like this. Don’t be fooled by the traditionally styled, hand-finished bridges and the variable inertia, free-sprung balance wheel—those are all very, very nice, but it’s the architecture you should be paying attention to here.

The curves of the balance bridge may look ornamental, but they actually hide a secret. Look closer and you’ll notice the stud carrier—which affixes the balance spring to the bridge—tucked in tight; closer still and you’ll spot the unusual perpendicular arrangement of the gold pallet and escape wheel—and that’s because the entire escapement is modular.

Think about when a watch goes for a service; it’s dismantled, cleaned, reassembled and only then can the regulation happen, but what about this instead: the movement is disassembled, cleaned and then reassembled with a new, complete, already regulated escapement module. Quicker, easier and incredibly clever, this interchangeable escapement turns what seems to be a pretty simple watch into something uniquely special.

F.P. Journe Centigraphe Souverain 1506CT

To continue the theme of classic watches hiding technological advancement, we’ve got something from the house of F.P. Journe, a watchmaker many consider to be the very best in the world—better even than Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin.

Like H. Moser & Cie., F.P. Journe is relatively new to the scene, given a big break by Harry Winston when the two brands collaborated on the very first Opus piece in 2001, but that hasn’t done anything to lessen this award-winning watchmaker’s impact. Given that Journe’s first wristwatch featured a constant escapement remontoire tourbillon—the first ever—the bar wasn’t just set high, it was positively astronomical.

This Centigraphe continues F.P. Journe’s dedication to advancing horology, and despite its resemblance to a 1930’s doctor’s pulsometer, is packing some pretty impressive ideas within its 40mm platinum case. You get a hand-wound calibre 1506 in rose gold with 80 hours of power reserve, ideal for a watch that could be worn in the week and swapped out at the weekend.

This long power reserve is achieved by having a 21,600vph beat—that’s six beats per second. That’s fine, many vintage and classic watches have a slower beat—but here’s where it all gets a bit wacky, because the rocker-activated chronograph that makes up the second half of the ‘Centigraphe’ name completely conflicts with a feature that makes up the first half of the ‘Centigraphe’ name: the ability to record a hundredth of a second.

One thing at a time: a watch that beats at 21,600vph shouldn’t even be able to read a tenth of a second let alone a hundredth, but here’s the trick: by isolating the chronograph mechanism from the timekeeping mechanism, F.P. Journe has been able to install a brake on the hundredth-of-a-second sub dial hand so it can be stopped at any point between each of the six beats. So, although it may only receive six impulses per rotation, the brake can grab it at any point, effectively cheating it into being way faster than it actually is. Pretty clever!

IWC Portuguese Minute Repeater IW524002

This last watch may not throw any technological curveballs, adopting technology derived centuries ago, but despite that it’s still one of the most impressive and mythical complications in watchmaking, and so it deserves a place in amongst these two other young bucks.

The lever on the side of the case gives away the nature of this particular IWC, winding and engaging a mechanism that—I want you to think about this, really think about it—sounds the time with a series of chimes. The reason this is such a hallowed complication is because it is one of, if not the hardest to make, and it doesn’t take much pondering to realise why.

The time, for example, is based on gearing that’s driven by an unwinding spring and regulated by a locking mechanism—not too hard to get your head around. A chronograph, that engages with our time mechanism and runs until it’s disengaged again, brakes applied and reset to zero when no longer required. How about a calendar watch? Still uses the same march of time with a program wheel that determines how many days a month has by the length of its teeth.

A minute repeater, though, how does that work? At any moment the user can request to know the time, and the mechanism must read it and proclaim it. It’s no wonder the setup is the reserve of the master watchmaker; with three series of chimes to draw from—hours, quarters and minutes—and any combination thereof, construction of the two hundred and fifty parts in this on-demand system takes some serious know-how. It takes time too, and a lot of it; each minute repeater takes over 300 hours to assemble.

And the best bit isn’t even the complexity of a mechanism like this, if that’s even possible; it’s the chime. Much of the time spent building a minute repeater is devoted to tuning the hammers and gongs to ring clear and loud, with great effort made to choose the right materials and design the ideal resonance chamber. We’ve spoken about the parallels between watchmaking and art before, but this really blurs the lines. All you have to do is listen.

These are three very unique watches that will most likely never be part of your or my collection—but never mind that, because it’s fun to dream and enjoy these creations regardless.

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