The Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph
Of all of the imagination defying innovations on display at Baselworld 2017, there is one which could quite literally be considered as the horologic interpretation of the notion of reinventing the wheel, because inside the Visionnaire Chronograph by Fabergé beats a new definition of this centuries old, and much loved elapsed time complication.
Despite boasting an almost mythical legacy which would be the envy of any grande marque, when it comes to high end watchmaking, Fabergé are very much the new kids on the block. However, instead of fumbling around in the dark as they find their way, in teaming up with some of watchmaking's most respected figures to oversee the technicals, its reputation is in safe hands.
Having caused a stir with its dramatic Visionnaire in 2015 which featured a Renaud et Papi manufactured flying tourbillon, further notice of Fabergé's intent followed with the strikingly attractive and sophisticated Visionnaire DTZ, with central jumping hour digit for second time zone. In a returning collaboration with the DTZ creators, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his company Agenhor Manufacture, the Visionnaire Chronograph is the latest addition to a collection which not only places the brand comfortably inside the luxury watch sector, but almost guarantees entry to its mile high club.
After 'simple' time only watches, the chronograph is by far the most popular novelty on the market, thanks in equal part to its practicality in day to day life, and the facts that it provides an additional form of engagement with your watch, and of course it's fun to use as a little mechanical amuse-bouche. Whereas many other complications have been configured in different ways and layouts, the chronograph is one which has rarely been tinkered with, and be it via one, two or three subdials, the elapsed time from a manually triggered start point can be easily monitored, without interfering with the primary time display.
We've got quite used to it thank you very much, and yet through the dissatisfied eyes of master watchmaker and mechanical problem solver extraordinaire Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, there was a niggling issue; an itch that needed scratching, because for all of its ease of use, the chronograph we love so much had a shortcoming. And you know, he's not wrong either.
Using the familiar, nay, de facto subdial solution might seem like it's second nature to us, but Wiederrecht believed that it could be improved on considerably, as with up to three subdials, the eye is definitely, if only fleetingly, focussed on one at a time. Taking too that they're tiny, with even smaller markings and hands, if you think about it getting a precise reference does actually require one's full attention, and this inelegant and unacceptable flaw which no one had noticed is what the "innoventor" set out to conquer.
The Agenhor 'AgenGraphe' solution would dispense entirely with the accepted rules, and instead of scattering little subdials around his dial, the three chronograph functions of seconds, minutes and hours are all recalled to a single central source, where the theory would demonstrate how all can be instantly referenced, with greater precision, at a single glance.
The display separates the dial into distinct layers, and it's centrepiece is dominated by the large, 'floating', dish which accommodates the chronograph array of seconds, minutes and 24 hour registers, with the primary hours and minutes circulating below and around it.
Condensing and integrating the chronograph functions in this way actually magnifies their appearance, and with clearly marked references on the domed rim for the seconds, and on the stepped inner segments for the minutes and hours, they are indeed very easy to consume. Not only that, but as the minutes jump instantly on the 60th second, and the hours likewise on the 60th minute, there's no momentary creep which is common on traditional chronographs, and so the reading is more precise here than on any traditional three dial configuration.
As with the DTZ, only the skeletonised tips of the hour and minutes hands are visible, as they emerge from beneath the elevated chronograph array. With the source of the hands hidden from sight, the illusion of their floating is created. Despite the fact that it's certainly quite unusual, reading the time, and indeed all of its functions is intuitively simple, and the effect is at the same time eye catching and luxurious, and it's satisfyingly practical too.
Applied hour markers and numerals rise up from a ring of sapphire, which is treated with radiating groups of metallic strips, suspended above the dial, and adding depth and contrast to the three dimensional layout. At the dial's extreme, the minutes hand almost touches the markings around the rim, and as the hands tips are filled with bright Super LumiNova, beneath the domed sapphire crystal legibility is really good.
The Visionnaire Chronograph is offered in a choice of two variants. The round, two part 43mm case is available in either 18Kt rose gold and titanium with silvery opaline dial, or in all black ceramic and titanium with black dial, giving each its own personality. The start/stop and reset pushers for the chronograph are located at the 2 and 10 o'clock positions, and the crown with tactile rubber collar off at the 4.
Beneath, a sapphire window reveals what really makes this horological concept so special, so remarkable and so downright beautiful, and that of course is the Agenhor calibre 6361 movement within. Even to the untrained eye it is a mesmerising and hugely elaborate piece of mechanical sophistry, with every facet hand finished to perfection, but its alluring complexity could easily confound a professional too, because all is not what it seems to be, and I've looked a little closer here.
Essentially though, Agenhor's Caliber 6361 is a self winding automatic movement, with two barrels providing sixty hours of power reserve. With its oscillating rotor secreted across to the dial side, it's possible to appreciate fully the exquisite intricacies and workmanship of the gorgeous exposed mechanism, and in its midst, hidden away in plain view, the Agenhor 'AgenGraphe' chronograph module.