Schwarz Etienne is a manufacturer unknown to most here, but they possess of an impressive array of technical capabilities, enabling them to offer not only a full range of manufacture movements, but also abilities to produce their own escapement assortments and to master a broad range of (aesthetic) finishing technologies like laser-engraving and galvanisation. For Baselworld 2018, SE distilled all this into a set of three watches designed to celebrate spring: the Ode au Printemps set:
The set consists of three automatic pieces, a tourbillon with a retrograde second that is directly driven by the tourbillon axis (an industry first if I am not mistaken), a flying tourbillon and a time-only watch. All of the above watches are driven by automatic micro-rotor movement that belong to the 100 series of in-house movements, named to after their power reserve - of 100h (for the hand wound version).
The 100 series of movements is based upon a highly modular core design that allows to switch between manual wound (two barrels) or automatic (one barrel replaced by a micro-rotor system) versions, and even enables to include a tourbillon. All this without changing the movement's interface points or its dimensions, thereby offering the clients (the movements are available to third parties) much flexibility at little extra technical construction costs. Replacing one barrel with a micro-rotor does btw. not alter the power reserve in a dramatic way: as the two barrels act in parallel, taking one out mainly reduces the torque available to the geartrain (resulting in 86h for the time only and 72h autonomy for the tourbillon movement, respectively).
(SE 100 family: automatic movements (top): flying tourbillon, time-only, time-only in full-bridge design (exclusive to SE) and inverted (escapement to the dial side). Handwound movements (bottom): skeletonised, time-only and time-only in full-bridge design (exclusive to SE))
The movement manufacturing capabilities include not only the bridges, levers and gears, they also include the entire value chain up to mainsprings, balance and balance springs:
Moreover, SE has high-frequency laser cutting and engraving technology in their premises, which enables them to create tiniest precision parts, but also wonderful decorative finshes:
As I mentioned, the parts can be used for watch parts down to critical escapement elements...
... but also for decoration such as engravings or surface structures:
I'll stop at this point and direct anybody who wants to know more to read Don's excellent and detailed report on a manufactory visit at SE - simply click here. Now the above is I think important to evaluate the new BaselWorld 2018 offerings by Schwarz Etienne: They are designed such as to demonstrate the company's capabilities - both core watchmaking as well as decorative ones.
The series all celebrate spring, and their unifying aesthetic elements are two: the hand-skulptured honey bee on the micro-rotor (how apt to place a bee, synonym for hard work, on the one element that is permanently moving in response to the wearer's activity) as well as a honeycomb base structure on the dial.
The first (and most complicated) piece is a 1-minute tourbillon with a retrograde hand that is directly driven by the tourbillon axis.
The close-up reveals the snail cam on the tourbillon axis and the long and generously curved lever which transports its rotation to the retrograde seconds arbor.
The gyration of the lever is directly translated into a slow, clockwise turn of the seconds hand until the lever's tip falls of the cam, and the fine spring returns the seconds back to its zero position, and the entire sequence can start de novo.
The small seconds dial is crafted from a tiger's eye insert, as is the eccentric time dial.
I mentioned the bee already. Here is sits on a micro-rotor shaped like a poppy and crafted (by a local artist) from corals. The hand-carved bee is made from aluminium.
The precision of the laser-cut honeycomb dial elements, the engravings, all this is nicely done, just like the decoration on the case back.
The watch is 44mm in diameter, not too much given the elaborate design elements.
One complication layer below SE offers its flying tourbillon watch. With this piece SE puts the corn flower in the centre of attention.
Flying tourbillon cage.
Again a hand-engraved bee, this time on a corn flower made from agate.
The same material is used for the ratchet wheel top plate.
Backside with a similar engraving, just here on 18kt white gold.
44mm as before, but much 'cooler' in appearance.
Finally, my favourite piece of the three: the 'irreversible' version of the time-only movement with the escapement translocated to the dial side of the movement.
The underlying dial structure resembles kevlar...
... offering a wonderful contrast to the slate matte honeycombs:
Escapement detail with in-house balance, balance wheel, hairspring and anchor...
... and again a hand-engraved bee from aluminium, finally visiting a daisy:
On the back a laser engraved reminder attributed to Albert Einstein that the demise of bees would cause the same to humans as well...
45mm this time, since the case is taken from SE's Roswell collection of 'flying saucers for the wrist'...
Overall, I have to admit was a bit surprised when I saw those watches the first time. I found them a bit gaudy and unnessessarily playful. I certainly would have preferred a more technical, monochrome demonstration of SE's tremendous manufacturing capabilities which would present the finishing techniques, as an example, much better. This is, in my view, one of the main objectives of these watches presented here.
However, while not completely to my taste, I have to admit that the quality of construction and workmanship is a joy to admire. And the more I look at them, the more sense does this set make as the flagbearer of the Manufacture Schwarz Etienne. They are certainly a confident statement that requests its stage time in a self-assured manner, which is why I am sure they will achieve the goal these fine pieces are designed for: capturing our attention!
And then there they are, the less serious moments in life. The times of festivities, of celebrating friendship, and the moments of joyful pleasure. Times when reason has to step aside to give room to emotion. And I think SE has just created the right timepieces for these!