Hand-patinated? Hand-satinated? - these may sound like some hyper-industrialized procedures, but are in fact new ways of simplifying and beautifying a watch dial. Just ask Ochs and Junior.
Ochs and Junior are the antithesis to those watch brands who are preoccupied with branding, to those who over-detail their detailing and who over-complicate their complications. Ochs and Junior create watches which are almost bereft of branding, which are as unfussy as it gets in this industry and which at a glance give the appearance of being playfully incomplex. Ochs and Junior are so good at simplifying complex mechanisms that they make the whole process appear to be seemingly effortless.
At the heart of Ochs and Junior are founders Ludwig Oechslin and Beat Weinmann, who with a small but carefully chosen team of talented individuals and suppliers have created a refreshingly elemental business. Each year they produce around 300 or so watches, available only from their HQ or from their own website. Nothing is lost from this distribution method, customer intimacy remains a priority and everything is possible including personalisation. The shopping experience and after sales attention to detail promoted by Ochs and Junior have quite simply set a whole new standard in customer relationships, one which other brands could learn from.
When Ludwig Oechslin creates a watch the starting point is usually a conundrum or two - problems which he chooses to solve through simplification. In watchmaking, as with other disciplines it is more of a challenge to simplify a mechanism than to make it more complex - but, the rewards are high. Fewer components mean less friction, and less wear and tear so ultimately reliability is increased. And perhaps just as importantly, fewer components will in turn mean that fewer suppliers are necessary, allowing the manufacturing process to remain tightly controlled and through the use of small-scale suppliers total control over production and quality is achieved. Such a unique business model naturally engenders a portfolio of very unique timepieces. Welcome to the world of Ochs and Junior.
The Ochs and Junior Moonphase Patina is unique in a number of ways. A "single-metal" solution was devised so Mr. Oechslin could develop prototypes in his La Chaux-de-Fonds workshop, without interference, so that new pieces could progress from sketch pad to reality without the bane of every watchmaker - production delays. Each dial is made from only brass, which is then hand-patinated turing it into a dark grey hue. The indices, date and dot and moon are then milled out to reveal the metal beneath the patina.
Most moonphase complications are accurate, most will happily continue to operate precisely with little or no interference from the wearer. This one is different. This one contains just 5 parts, reducing the module to beyond its bare-bones minimum, yet this one is "the most accurate moon phase calculation in a wristwatch".
Restoration work is perhaps the most valuable education a watchmaker can have and while restoring the Farnese Astronomical clock in the Vatican, Ludwig Oechslin learned to renounce the clutter of springs and levers in favour of a system of gears.
The dial arrangement is at first glance crisp, clean and supremely intelligible, revealing the relative positions of the sun, and on the inner dial both the illuminated and the unluminated portions of the moon. The date is indicated using dot displays - 31 perforations which curl precisely and are place exactly two minutes apart, forming an alliance with the indices to aid readability.
Quality is of paramount importance. The gear, case, dial, crown and even the buckle are made by Peter Cantieni, a man who Sauber entrust with the machining of their F1 components. Any visible machining marks left in the manufacturing process should be considered a signature of this ultra-precise craftsman's work, rather than flaws to be tut tutted at.
Two variations of the Ochs and Junior Moonphase Patina will be made available for purchase, 39mm or 42mm cases made from either titanium or silver. Colour options are imaginative and as always are open for discussion.
For more on this enterprising brand visit "Ochsen-World", click through and enjoy here.
Or my previous article, the Ochs and Junior Anno here.