For 2013, Martin Braun's watch brand Antoine Martin will release their third major timepiece collection with the Slow Runner. Martin explained the concept of the Slow Runner to me last year by telling me that he was producing a simple watch with a huge slowly moving balance wheel. He sure wasn't kidding. If you've ever seen the balance wheel of old clocks operating, you know that there is a sort of hypnotic quality to seeing them move back and forth at a one hertz speed. Martin has successfully produced that experience for a wrist watch.
Antoine Martin likes to point out that the Slow Runner is a "true" one hertz operating movement. What does that mean? Another popular watch that is of a similar vein is the Dutch Gronefeld One Hertz watch. That watch indeed had a second hand moving at one hertz, but the escapement was faster. They used extra gearing to slow it down so that the seconds hand ticked. The Antoine Martin Slow Runner has an escapement assembly that actually does operate at one hertz, with the balance wheel moving back and forth one time per second. That makes for a rate of just 7,200 bph. An ETA 2824 operates at 28,800 bph comparatively.
Turn the Slow Runner over and you see exactly what is so special about the watch. Through the sapphire crystal window you can see the massive 24mm wide balance wheel slowing oscillating. Note that a slower operation doesn't mean the watch runs slow, but rather that it uses less power and less beats to ensure rate stability. So to ensure the watch is as stable and accurate as possible, Antoine Martin uses titanium for the balance wheel and a silicon hairspring. It is wonderful to see this combination of old and new together in a movement.
Silicon is also good in a hairspring this size because it won't deform, won't be affected by temperature or magnetism, and will resist shocks very well. This is all part of the in-house made Antoine Martin caliber AM36.001 manually wound movement. It is produced from 199 parts and has a power reserve of about 92 hours. Martin Braun is above all else a movement designer, so when you buy something with his name attached, you are buying a watch from one of the world's elite watch makers.
Nothing like this watch movement exists - visually. The size of the balance wheel is almost comical if you think about it. What you actually have here is a complex marriage of themes and principles put into one place - as a treat for knowledgeable aficionados. When I come across new watches such as this, I wonder how they are perceived by new watch lovers in the general public. Truly stuff for mechanical art nerds?
According to Antoine Martin, the "Slow Runner" name is all about trying to comment on the nature of time. It goes without saying that in a movement with this rate, the seconds hand ticks more than it sweeps. That we live in such a fast paced world and can have a calmly operating watch is sort of mentally soothing. Casually ticking along to its own beat, without looking as though it is powered by a humming bird's heart. True enough, if I had to wear a watch that operated as fast as one of TAG Heuer's new ultra high-beat movements, I think it would make me a bit nervous. It sounds silly, but there is a calming effect to watching a movement like this.
The Slow Runner watch itself is 42mm wide (a bit smaller than previous Antoine Martin watches such as the Perpetual Calendar that were 45mm wide I believe) and available in 18k rose gold (ref SR01.710.1), as well as two steel models. On the dial you have an off-centered hour and minute dial, as well as a large subsidiary seconds dial. Thankfully, there is also a power reserve indicator for the movement - Martin agrees that these are necessary on manually wound movements. Oh, and don't forget a date window (which the watch also has), you need that too.
Ref. SR01.110.1 is the steel cased model with the white and silvered dial with blued hands, while the Ref. SR01.100.1 is the Slow Runner in steel with the more black dial. Available soon, the prices are actually not too bad. In steel, the Antoine Martin Slow Runner is priced at 19,500 Swiss Francs, up to 34,500 Swiss Francs in 18k rose gold. antoinemartin.ch