BaselWorld was abound with big anniversaries. Rolex and TAG Heuer celebrated 50 years of their respective Daytona and Carrera models, it's been 30 years since the inception of Swatch changed everything and Seiko have been making watches for 100 years. All presented suitably high profile new watches in celebration. Among this rash of celebratory pieces another jubilee watch was unveiled without the hoopla but very much eagerly awaited all the same, the Peter Roberts Concentrique Grand Complicaton 5.
The Concentrique and its creator are so remarkable that global interest has been building since last year's Salon QP. Whether you are a true watch fan with nerd-istic tendencies or even if you just dip in and out of the world of horology on a more relaxed basis, the story of this watch is deserving of attention and is one which I think you will find needs no additional narrative license in order to produce a "good read".
Much has been made of the fact that Mr. Roberts was the first Englishman to attend the Swiss Watchmaking School WOSTEP, and rightly so - it is a prestigious and highly intensive course, culminating in the "opportunity to create a WOSTEP School Watch" from a blank movement, otherwise known as the Graduation Watch. Following months of tutorials and theory and hours upon hours of disassembly, cleaning and reaassembly of minute components this would be a character-proving task for any young apprentice.
Perhaps then upon hearing about the young Mr.Roberts' plan for his finished piece, his Master may have at best considered his student to be overly ambitious, at worst slightly deluded. His intention was to create a chronograph featuring five hands from the centre - an example found only in academic text and a seemingly impossible task.
With unswerving perseverence Peter Roberts did create his five-handed chronograph, based on the same Valjoux 726 calibre supplied to each member of his class and presented it in a case which he also made, even though that was surplus to requirements as the school would have happily provided him with one fit for purpose.
He wears the piece to this day, slightly patinaed and still bearing the WOSTEP inscription on its dial. Only those close to him will have glimpsed it peeping from beneath his cuff and its complexity has never been equalled - until now.
The years that followed Peter's WOSTEP qualification are rich with achievement and quite frankly deserving of a separate written article. However, never far from his mind was a yearning to recreate and put into production his graduation watch. To do so would require a similar vintage calibre to that used in the original with its "classically beautiful pillar wheel layout" but such a movement was no longer in production. Having searched for years he chanced-upon a batch of Valjoux 88's from the 1960's, and I use the term "chanced" loosely, because to find such a booty of still-packaged vintage movements was fortuitous indeed. Finally the re-creation could begin.
A youthful watchmaking student may find it easy to stick his neck out and try something new without fear of failure and judgement. To do so as a Master Watchmaker of considerable repute is not so easy. This industry is highly judgemental and picky, but stick his neck out he did, and with high expectation we all waited to see what difference 40 years would make to his "class of 1971" creation.
The Concentrique Grand Complication 5 is perhaps best described as a synopsis of Peter's skills gained thus far. Not simply an emulation of the original, the new piece adds a moonphase complication to a dial which even with such a compendium of indications is still highly readable and usable. Functions are hours, minutes, seconds for timekeeping, chronograph with seconds, minutes and hours, a 24 hour GMT with second time zone on the bezel and full calendar with day and month displayed in individual windows and pointer date via a ring positioned just inside the markers. The name Peter Roberts appears on his own watch for the first time, along with the highly symbolic cross hairs/Union Jack Logo.
Forty Peter Roberts Concentrique Grand Complication 5 pieces will be made with stainless steel case with an additional four pieces reference numbers 10,20,30 and 40 to be cased in rose gold - one for each decade thus far in his career.
More details, and a whole wealth of other information at the meritoriously well designed Peter Roberts website here.
A hands-on image of the original piece via The #Watchnerd here.