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Tricky Times

tricky_time2A new class of uber-complex watches showcases the artistry for which the top watchmakers are known writes FUNKE ADETUTU

It is the ninth hour Banji Adeosun has a meeting to attend; he looks at his watch, place a call to his confidential secretary to confirm if the agenda is ready. Just then, the alarm on his wristwatch, a Tour de l’lle by Vacheron Constantin comes alive —– a notification for another appointment scheduled for the next hour.

Before now as an upwardly mobile executive, Adesoun was satisfied with placing reminders on his mobile phones or relying on his secretary to remind him of important meetings until his friend introduced him to the world or complicated wristwatches. The kind of watch that comprising a minute repeater with torque indicator for the striking mechanism, a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar, a power-reserve indicator, a second time-zone indicator, a moonphase indicator, an indicator showing the time of sunrise and sunset, a chart showing the celestial vault in the northern hemisphere and the equation of time, like the Tour de l’lle he is wearing.

“I never knew what lies in the world of wristwatches like this,” he says pointing at the beautiful piece on his wrist. “I was never interested in what terrestrial time until I came in contact with this watch. It is a whole new experience. It is beyond just looking at the seconds and minutes as they tick by. It is about the creativity, the artistry involved in the making a timepiece that is as complicated as the human life.”

Last year in Venice, Jerome Lambert, chief executive officer, Jaeger LeCoulture, launched three of the most complicated wristwatches one is likely to find. Two of the watches (Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Gytrotourbillon, Reverso a Triptyque) were launched early last year before the special unveiling of the third, Hybris Mechanica a Grande Sonnerie to a selection of collectors in Venice late last year.

But is the third watch, the Hybris Mechanica a Grande Sonnerie, of which Lambert is most proud, boasting of its 17 patents and rattling off its complications and attributes like a 19th century  scholar conjugating a pile of Latin verbs. “Westminster Carillon, world premiere carillon, longest carillon, four sonorous monobloc crystal gongs, grande sonnerie, petite sonnerie, silence, minute repeater, flying tourbillon, instant perpetual calendar, retrograde date, bissextile year display, jumping hour, regulation device with inertia blocks, strike-power-reserve indicator, incremental time setting. It tells the time too, displaying the hours and minutes.”

This is clearly a very important piece of work for Jaeger-LeCoulturte, and no detail is deemed too minor. Take the kangaroo-skin-lined strap, there is even a patent on the buckle made by Roland Iten, which offers single millimetre adjustments. There is another patent for the one-tonne safe, which also acts as an amplifier for the chiming watch and allows the owner to enjoy the sound of his watch without having to expose it to the risk of theft.

Lambert approached specialist manufacturer, Dottling, to carry out the commission. “We are very proud of this watch and we expect our friends to do something better for the future, but we still see how long it takes the,” says Lambert in an online interview.

Obviously, the Bybris Mechanica a Grande Sonnerie is at the extreme and of the complicated watch market, but there are plenty of marques offering timepieces that are in effect a compilation of the greatest hits of haute horlogerie. Although theses complicated watches are expensive, they also offer value. The global economic crisis has had an effect on the way people buy watches. “When times are good, people are not so selective.” Indeed, the period from 2004 to 2008, saw a frenzied omnivorousness when it came to timepieces. Today, the binge appetite for wrist worn exotica has been replaced by a more discriminating approach in search of true horological value, and it is at just such a customer that one the most satisfyingly designed watches to be launched this year is aimed,” says Jerome Lambert.

Gino Macaluso, CEO, Girard-Perregaux, is one of the most cerebral men in the industry and having trained as an architect before joining the watch business, he has an innate of proportion and harmonious design, qualities blended with watchmaking savoir-faire in the Girard-Perregaux Tourbillon Perpetual Calendar, chronograph with moonphase.

“There is a very strong segment of true, heavy collectors who buy watches for pleasure and the heritage, and not just to show off to others, this is really our target group; these are not watches for the fashion crowd. Everything is produced-in-house, and this is very important since, by making watches like this, we are continually improving our skills. The three-bridge tourbillon is a piece of the history of Girard-Perregaux, and then you have some additional interesting functions with the chronograph, the perpetual calendar and the moonphase underlining our history and tradition in complications.”

Juan-Carlos Torres of Vacheron Constantin agrees Macaluso, he feels that watches with multiple complications from long-established brands reassure the customer, putting years and centuries of expertise into their grandes complications.

The Tour de l’lle by Vacheron Constantin sold for 1.2 million Euros. It is no longer available. It is a wrist watch comprising a minute repeater with torque indicator for the striking mechanism, a tourbillon, a perpetual calendar, a power-reserve indicator, a second time-zone indicator, a moonphase indicator, an indicator showing the time of sunrise and sunset, a chart showing the celestial vault in the northern hemisphere and the equation of time. Among the watches he bought out in the New Year is a tourbillon with the equation of time and 300 hours of power reserve. Of all complications the equation of time is surely the most arcane, showing as it does the difference between solar and terrestrial time, Sideral time, as Patek Philippe reminds us in its brochure for the Sky Moon Tourbillon worth 727, 500 Euros. It is another super complication.

One would have thought since human beings are earth bound creatures, terrestrial time would have been entirely sufficient for us, but when it comes to these more complicated watches, the movements of the heavenly bodies suddenly assume an inordinate level of importance. Take the Moonstruck for instance, just launched by Ulysse Nardin, a mechanical timepiece that gives the correct time of the tides. Renowned watchmaker, Rolf Schnyder, together with Ludiwg Oechslin, has been working on this project for about eight years. When he gets into describing the various factors that have to be taken into account it becomes clear it is amazing it got done so quickly.

It may be easy to trace the change in the current perception of timepieces from what it used to be to innate attitude of man to year for something different and unique for those who can afford the luxury.

Of course, the manufacturers of these rare timepieces are not sleeping as they engage the best hands and designers in a creativity war that further heightened the artistry they showcase in very appealing timepieces they produce explains a staff of

Polo, a company that is currently imports some of these creative watches.

The market is now for the very conscious buyer especially now there are viable alternative for time keeping.

It seems that things are now looking up for young people in high paying jobs or businesses. They still want to identify with timepieces despite the easy way provided by modern technology. But one sure way to make them strap wrist watch is to make signature pieces that will appeal to their sense of sight.

With the many beautiful design painstakingly made for the trendy person, that are on display in shelves of most supper stores, many are still keeping to the tradition of strapping the wrist with not just a timepiece, but with one of the most decorative and fashionable tool in the market.

The artistry is prominent in upscale and high-end watches that feature uncommon styles besides combining timeless classic styling with understated elegance.

The beautifully implanted emerald on the strap of her Gucci designer watch really marks out Funmi Oyebanji, a senior sales executive in a top hotel on Lagos Island . She thinks the designers of the watch knew it was going to be worn by a fashion-minded lady like her. While her husband wears Casio brand because of the calibration that helps his accounting job, she thinks watch should be worn beyond the functionality sense.

“These days, you don’t just wear anything. If must wear a wrist watch, it has to be a signature piece, something that is uniquely you for your husband and even others to truly admire beyond your wrist.”

Due to the growing cravings for fashionable things, she notes that even the manufacturers of Casio, sports, military and even underwater watches are employing great deal of designs to make them appeal to a larger market or loose customers.

But who are these designers and what inform their designs?

Lukman Mogaji, a fashion outfit operator on Awolowo Way Ikoyi, Lagos , notes that the designers are of course people with high technical proficiencies and great aesthetic sense.

With his over 10 years in the business, Mogaji says the more aesthetically enhanced a watch is, the more patronage the brand gets. Hence the designers are taking in cognizance the fact that modern day watch wearers are looking beyond functionality to luxury or making a statement with their timepieces.

“A roadside watch-repairer can do everything but cannot make a watch. If equipped with the necessary skills, he can do better. But I doubt if he can create the artistry in some of these luxury and fashionable watches because they seem to be beyond skills.”

He is of the view that watches with great show of artistry of the maker offer the best value to the customer in both price and service because of their multi-use nature.

The designs, according to him, are informed partly by the fashion trend. In quest to make statement with their fashion, celebrities go for watches that will match their fashion sense, luxury and worth. A good designer has no option than to craft designs that will create groovy moments for the customers.

Apart from following trends, Mogaji says designers also improve on children’s designs that end up appealing more to adults. “I once sold a double-strap watch that contains the main watch and a small mirror when you flip open. The attraction for my customers especially women was the mirror, it is until getting home that they discover that the diamond linings in its glitters at night.” He notes saying further that the designer aim to attract more customers with both features that simple timepiece don’t have.

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