We’ve taken a closer look at three of the Ladies‘, Ladies’ Complication and Men’s finalists. Today, it’s high horology uber alles in the Mens’ Complication category (back from the dead in 2018). As you can see, there are some wildly different approaches on offer. Choosing three from the six to highlight (with edited official text and photos) depends as much on style as engineering. Well, for me. For me the one to watch is . . .
Audemars Piguet CODE 11.59 Minute Repeater Supersonnerie – 317’800 CHF ($321,953.21)
The minute repeater supersonnerie enriches the collection with a revamped high-end complication that continues to profit from the strong momentum of the minute repeater supersonnerie technology launched in 2016.
This contemporary wristwatch has the sonic power of a pocket watch. Its exceptional acoustic performance, sound quality and harmonic tone are granted by the patented gongs, case construction and striking regulator developed at the time. The performant gongs are not attached to the mainplate, but to a new device acting as soundboard, which improves sound transmission. The redesigned striking regulator eliminates unwanted noise thanks to its more flexible anchor system.
The 18 carat white gold case is complemented by a smoked blue enamel dial set off by white gold hands, applied indexes and numerals, as well as an Audemars Piguet signature in enamel. The soundwave caseback design is inspired by the watch’s exceptional acoustics.
OUR TAKE: The CODE 11.59 is something of a flop. Critics derided its ultra-conservative design and bizarre marketing (a YouTube video without sound?). Adding a minute repeater to the 11.59 lifts the timepiece to a new level. Not nearly enough to win the prize – – unless politics plays a part. Perish the thought.
D. Candaux: DC6 Solstice Titanium – 273’000 CHF ($276,567.73)
The DC 6 Solstice Titanium Half Hunter “1740” pays homage to these precision instruments of the past, timepieces that were in use by the explorers and master mariners of the 18th and 19th centuries. Its engine-turned Pointe du Risoux guilloche pattern in natural titanium recalls the patterns of the local Risoux fir tree forest that surrounds the Candaux atelier.
The hours and minutes are read on a spherical, convex micro-dial under the rightmost sapphire dome with its two curving hands of hand finished and blued steel that precisely follow the curving dial’s exact form. The fully visible, twice-inclined flying tourbillon is situated under the sapphire dome on the left, providing running seconds via a blued index placed on the edge of the tourbillon cage.
The DC 6 Solstice Titanium Half Hunter “1740” has been gently and almost imperceptibly inclined. The unusually positioned bezel provides an optimized field of view. Like the original 1740 model, the DC 6 Solstice Titanium Half Hunter is fitted at 6 o’clock with the unique retractable crown, for which David Candaux has received two patents.
The 60-seconds flying tourbillon has been designed using a ceramic ball bearing inclined at 3 degrees from the horizontal. Within the tourbillon’s grade-5 titanium cage, the balance has been placed in a position with another 30 degrees inclination, hence the name ‘bi-plan’ flying tourbillon — an improvement on the standard, horizontally orientated tourbillon construction found in wristwatches today.
The curve of the spiral has been given a Breguet overcoil ending in a Phillips terminal curve, optimizing the balance spring’s poise and functionality, with a resultant lower friction on the balance staff in every vertical position. The spiral extremity of the spring is maintained by a stud specially developed for this timepiece to guarantee reliable, long-term fixation.
The aerodynamically designed balance wheel in beryllium copper (CuBe2), is fitted with variable inertia adjustment via four 18K gold screws and a load screw also in beryllium copper, which can be adjusted by the watchmaker during assembly and timing control.
The DC 6 Solstice Titanium 1740 caliber has been entirely designed in house by David Candaux, a rare case in contemporary Swiss watchmaking. This innovative movement, protected by several patents, answers mechanically to the philosophy behind the 1740 collection with its asymmetrical approach to aesthetics and the art of chronometry.
OUR TAKE: Even that small sampling of the DC 6 Soltice’s description tells us this is old school watchmaking at the highest possible level. The fact that the end result looks a bit like one of those telescopes you find at the Grand Canyon is neither here nor there. I expect this entry to win.
Ulysse Nardin FREAK X – 21’000 CHF ($21,274.44)
The FREAK X, the little cousin of its “Freak antecedents”, stands out as the entry point into the FREAK collection. Though many of the same aesthetic and functional elements are in place, it pushes out into uncharted territory. The sizing is tighter – 43mm instead of 45mm – but it is easier to read and operate.
It has a crown for time correction, which breaks with one of the most iconic aspects of the crown-less FREAK VISION or FREAK OUT models, which correct time by the bezel. The “baguette” movement is still a carrousel, turning once on itself every hour to indicate the time. It is simpler, bolder, and has fewer wheels. It has no dial and no hands – the central bridge acts as a minute hand and one of the wheels indicates the hours.
Inside and clearly visible beats one of the FREAK VISION’s most outstanding innovations: a super-light balance wheel in silicium, extra-wide, with nickel flyweights and stabilizing micro-blades.
The movement itself, the new UN-230, is a fusion of the manufacture calibers UN-118 and FREAK VISION UN-250. The case, nicely rounded with curved lines, is wholly new, and seriously transformative. It demonstrates the brand’s commitment to expanding and enriching its collections by pushing watchmaking Xpertise to the X degree.
OUR TAKE: For a watch brand once known for deeply conservative design, the Freak came out of freaking nowhere. It’s innovative engineering and groundbreaking design may give it the edge of M. Candaux’s non-corporate creation, but I doubt it.