It’s January once again – and before the industry takes off on its annual circuit (- circus?) of exhibitions, events and unveilings; before the wining and dining and wooing begins once again, perhaps we should remind ourselves that it’s not all about big business and big budgets, it’s not all about mass-production order books getting filled up and it’s certainly not all about clean rooms and slivers of silicon. There are still independent watchmakers out there who are knowledgeable enough, talented enough and stubborn enough to – while they remain respective and remain wholly inspired by traditional horological techniques - are not afraid to tweak, fiddle, refine and improve on what went before and are definitely not afraid to bloody their fingers in the process.
Romain Gauthier is a fine example of such an individual. A precision mechanic-turned-watchmaker, he is no stranger to the machinery and technology required to make a couple of hundred micro-components perform the business of accurate timekeeping, yet his eponymous watches are as handmade as can possibly be in these times of modernity.
His watchmaking adventures thus far have produced innovation and inventiveness in equal measure – including a caseback winding system which is efficient, reduces wear and tear and which has been cleverly designed to be operable without actually removing the piece from the wrist – the only fault in an otherwise flawless arrangement – his calibres are in fact so painfully beautiful that should you choose to invest in one of his pieces you will want to unclasp it from your wrist and turn it over to admire it every chance you get.
You may remember him as the man who took the chain-and-fusee constant force arrangement, improved it and presented it complete with ruby chain links dial-side on the astounding Logical One, a watch which gained him much well-deserved publicity. But for now, let us now celebrate the man and his achievements with another piece, the one with which he has chosen to celebrate his first decade of watchmaking and the piece which you have no doubt been oogling over in the above image – the Romain Gauthier HMS Ten.
Romain Gauthier is picky about hand-finishing so that even the minutiae of his movements are given extraordinary attention to detail. The architecture of the “finger” bridges of his HMS calibre give a glimpse of the masterful handcrafting which lies beneath them and even the polished “s-slot” screws which are ultimately functional become things of beauty to be admired. Dial-side there is a further look-see through a generous opening so that the balance and gearing can be admired. Enough can be seen to appreciate, but this is not a calibre laid bare instead it hints at its pedigree with just enough on view to seduce and evoke appreciation.
Careful consideration results in a quiet but memorable design, and the dial of the HMS Ten features Clous de Paris which adds texture and multi-level indications which give depth. The curvature of the retrograde seconds should have a ruinous effect on the symmetry of the arrangement, but instead it conforms with the arc beneath the maker's signature and brings the wandering eye of the beholder to the panorama of the lower dial, which is exactly how M. Gauthier intended it to be. Sensible Arabic numerals, seductive tapering hands and droplets for hour markers complete the classic aesthetics.
A trio of editions of the Romain Gauthier HMS Ten will be made available each limited to ten pieces. The Platinum model has a blue dial, silvered numerals and rhodium hands; the 18k red gold version has an anthracite dial with black numerals and gilded hands and the 18k white gold edition features a champagne dial with black numerals and gilded hands. The pebble-smooth case of each piece measures 41mm across. More details can be found at the Romain Gauthier official website.