4N Sapphire Planet Watch

4N Sapphire Planet Watch

4N Sapphire Planet Watch Watch Releases

The unique case shape and digital time display of the 4N watch has been around for a few years now, and for 2015 it receives its most notable – and somewhat unexpected – update yet: the 4N Sapphire Planet wraps the original digital-mechanical movement in a sapphire crystal case.

"Sapphire." Even the way it sounds is something special: it comes off as something expensive and refined, and it, in fact, is considered by many to be an essential component of a quality watch. Despite all that, sapphire crystal is a relatively common material in watchmaking, found even in couple-hundred dollar timepieces – and up, of course. It is used for the front and sometimes the back crystals for its remarkable scratch resistance and superior optical quality, when compared to mineral crystals or plastics. Sapphire crystal, however, does become a much more luxurious and genuinely exotic material when it is used not just for the front crystal, but also as the full case of a watch. The 4N Sapphire Planet offers not just that, but matches the sapphire case with an unusual digital-mechanical movement.

4N Sapphire Planet Watch Watch Releases

We have written a number of times before about the 4N – for some cool hands-on images, video, and a detailed explanation visit our hands-on article of the 4N 4N-MVT01/D01 watch here – so today, we will only briefly cover its key features once again. The 4N watch was designed by a certain Francois Quentin who had worked with Hautlance and Louis Vuitton before setting off to come up with this very unique creation - a mechanical movement which indicates the time through a "digital" display.

What that actually means, is that the completely mechanical movement features a number of overlapping and rotating discs which make for a digital-like time display – something reminiscent of what you would find on much, much more usual items like, say, an alarm clock, microwave oven or your phone. It's a deceptively simple concept, because to create the digital layout and jumping effect in a mechanical timepiece, a 514-component caliber had to be created. After a limited production run in white gold, rose gold and titanium, 4N will debut a 46mm wide, sapphire-cased version at BaselWorld 2015.

4N Sapphire Planet Watch Watch Releases

That comes as rather unexpected, as sapphire-cased watches have always been extremely rare. The reason for that is simple: sapphire is remarkably difficult to work with (massive understatement), because it is prone to cracking and must only be machined at a very, very slow pace. When it comes to complex shapes – which all cases suddenly become the moment you try and cut them from 1-3 blocks of sapphire crystal – creating the finished component can require days of work and if it cracks at the final stage, it must be thrown away.

Every once in a while, someone does have a go at it – meaning, they find a specialist who can work with such tolerances. Notable examples from the past include the Richard Mille RM056, the MB&F HM2, and the Cecil Purnell Mirage. Cartier also had a go at creating a completely transparent case with the Cartier ID Two, although that actually was made from Ceramyst, a transparent ceramic – having used such a high-tech material instead of sapphire crystal goes to show just how difficult sapphire crystal is to work with. There may be a few others out there in existence, but these prove the point of just how few-and-far-between sapphire-cased watches are.

The 4N Sapphire Planet, while a fascinating and fitting entry to this closed circle of luxury timepieces, won't add too much to it in terms of sheer volume as it is limited to just 3 pieces, with custom colors and markings; priced at €280,000 or around $310,000 USD each. We look forward to seeing the first finished piece in just a few weeks from now at BaselWorld 2015. 4nparis.com

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  • iamcalledryan

    No front on shot of the actual watch dial?! Looks very nice, albeit prohibitively thick!

  • Are we going to get a video demo/review by you (not the MFG) any time soon?

  • digideth After BaselWorld (in a couple of weeks) when the ABTW crew will have a chance to see it themselves. But outside of the case, this appears to be the same as the previously reviewed watch. Cheers.

  • David Bredan

    digideth Thanks for your comment. As noted in the article you’ll find hands-on images, video and a detailed explanation in our hands-on article here: http://www.ablogtowatch.com/4n-4n-mvt01d01-watch-hands-on-flash-sale/ You’ll see on our video how the time display works. Hope this helps:)

  • David Bredan

    iamcalledryan At the moment these are the only images available as the first finished pieces will be finished just in time for BaselWorld. We’ll definitely take tons of detailed images at BSW when we see it hands-on and share them soon.

  • captaina16

    I really like the concept of viewing all the mechanical operations of the watch, but I wonder about the durability and/or wear-ability of the watch.

  • Wow, I love it. I’ve always like this watch, and articles on it have been floating around this blog for years now. On my list of watches to certainly at least try on some day.

  • Shawnnny

    But, with the Safire case, a video review is mandatory.

  • spiceballs

    Yes, sapphire whilst hard is also quite brittle so one has to wonder how long the lugs might survive, unless this is modified sapphire in which case it might be renamed sapphvoir?

  • wstephens1

    This watch is wayyyyyy to busy looking to give a second look

  • egznyc

    I love the idea of a digital mechanical watch and I find this particular execution really really interesting, too.  I do think the whole case-in-sapphire-crystal approach is also provocative (in a good way), but I just don’t think it’s particularly practical.  Bang into something and all of a sudden, your case might be cracked!  I’m also not sure whether this much access to the inner workings is necessary — it all depends how interesting it would be to see what’s going on inside.  Now, given the unusual nature of this movement, it MIGHT be worth this kind of access.  For my part, though, it seems overkill and more ostentatious.  

    This IS an interesting watch (as are the prior versions that had metal cases).  I am not knowledgeable enough to understand how challenging it would be, but I do hope that there will be a more compact version of this concept one day, too.  The time-telling part of the display on the face is a very small portion of the dial, which might be liked by some, but I’d prefer not only a more compact case, but also a dial where the digits that actually display the time are not a little box in the middle of a large expanse.  

    Nonetheless, while I have no interest in this piece (particularly at this price!), I appreciate the fact that ABTW brings us such weird offerings fairly regularly.  It makes me enjoy horology so much more to be introduced to such unusual time pieces — even though I am far more conservative in my personal tastes.  Thanks, guys!

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  • 4Nwatch

    egznyc 
    Dear Ethan,
    you are right, a sapphire box is fragile against it by completely scratch proof.
    to avoid disappointment, I guarantee free replacement of the case, if you break the case (only once !).

    The transparency is the key to this piece, I wanted we can see the
    entire mechanism and in particular the different levels skip cages (11
    levels for minutes).
    The 4N MVT01 is the only piece of the market with a spectacular animation every minute.
    It is also the only masterpiece of the market with a one-piece sapphire case.
    I
    understand that you find this watch too ostentatious, but the
    complexity of the complication (514 components) required that space. It is very easy to wear with its horizontal format and thickness (16 mm) is very classic for a big complication. In
    addition, this watch is for collectors who like contemporary watches
    (RM, MB & F, OPUS etc.) and not to collectors of PP (although I have
    a collector who also buys PP, in fact he buys everything which is exceptional).
    Finally,
    the price of this watch is very tight, given its complexity,
    manufacturing quality and finishes (Renaud et Papi), and its
    exclusivity.

    And with the new parity EURO DOLLARS, it’s 30% cheaper than last year !
    Best regards
    François QUENTIN 
    Owner & Designer 4N

    • Seth Lim

      if you are wearing this watch you can probably afford bodyguards ~ keep you and your wrist out of harms way