A little while ago I got the opportunity to have some hands-on time with the venerable Maitres du Temps Chapter One watch. The experience was incredible, as a timepiece like this really stands out above and beyond most other super luxury watches. It is really all the little things when taken together that are awe inspiring. Let me give you an example that you'd never know about unless you handled the watch yourself. It is clear that the Chapter One watch has many pushers. Aside from the crown (with its built-in monopusher for the chronograph), there are four of them on the case. Stylistically, the pushers are large and beautiful in gold. And they are meant to adjust complications on the watch such as the calendar, GMT hands, and moon phase. These are things that you want to be able to adjust easily if necessary, but you don't want to accidentally push them while the watch is on your wrist. The solution? A clever little security lever built into the button. Take a good look at the images of the pushers and you'll see that the vertically textured portion of it has about a millimeter of slide room. You need to push that lever over, and then push the pusher/button in. That way pressure on the pushers from other angles or without deliberate intent, won't allow them to go down. I noticed this awesome little touch right away, but never had any idea about it from just looking at the images. I was told that this complication was very difficult to industrialize. Meaning that it was a good idea, but really hard to execute. Still, it is something that Maitres du Temps kept in. Partly because it is a great idea, and partly because the watches are all part of a small limited edition. I think it really helps add character and value to watches valued at these prices.
A more full discussion of the technical merits (plus another) video for the Chapter One watch is available right here on aBlogtoRead.com as part of an earlier post. this article will be dedicated to experiencing the watch in my own hands.You can tell that I had two of the watch to check out. A white gold "tuxedo" version, as well as a rose gold version. There are other versions of the rose gold models with blue toned dials. Obviously the watch is very large. Most of the size is vertical, so expect the watch look like some luxurious cybernetic attachment to your wrist. Size is over 62mm tall, and almost 46mm wide. You can see the watches on two wrists in the photos (mine and the Maitres du Temps rep at Chatel, where I viewed the watches). Each of the watch elements oozes "well made." There is so much gold that it is almost overwhelming, and you start to think about the modern aristocrats who are eagerly hounding Maitres du Temps to sell them one of the watches. The polish work on the case is of the most complex I have ever seen. There are so many alternating surfaces of mirror polish and brushed finishing. Unlike say, a Rolex watch that has a great feel, but a mass produced feel - you get the distinct impression that someone toiled over a work bench for many hours getting all the little details on the exterior of the watch just right. The watch isn't about branding either. The "Maitres du Temps" name is small and elegantly wrapped around the chronograph minutes subdial. There is no logo on the crown, but rather some interesting design work. Chapter One is about the timepiece and the masters that went into the design.
The watch has four sapphire crystals. Three on the front, and a hexagonal shaped one on the back over the movement. They are attached in a nicely seamless manner, and feel more like windows that coverings. That is because the dial and features of the watch are so three dimensional, you just feel as though you are looking inside at something. I've always felt that Maitres du Temps does a great job aesthetically at designing the watches. Which is true, and makes sense. If you'll recall, the watches are the collective efforts of several watch making masters. The Chapter One watch combined the design, technical talents, and life work of Roger Dubuis, Christophe Claret, and Peter Speake-Marin. Each with their own unique, but equally impressive, watch making backgrounds. As such, I feel as though Maitres du Temps is one of the only watch brands that utilizes the "all star" approach by releasing creations that are the result of combined genius.
For the Chapter One watch, the movement is from the Christophe Claret house. He is known to make of the most beautiful, as well as complex watch movements in the world. He is also responsible for the Christophe Claret Dual Tow watch I discussed here. In the video I made, you can see the tourbillon escapement in action. The timepiece has many functions, including all the calendar information, chronograph, moonphase, and GMT hand. Still, they are laid out in a beautiful manner. You may not use the functions all the time, but instead of them cluttering up the design of the watch, they ARE the design of the watch. To press this point look at the top and bottom of the elongated tonneau case. The aluminum rollers there are part of the aesthetic look of the watch, and are also used fro the moon phase, and day of the week indicators.
While I mentioned this previously in other articles, I really like how the pushers on the watch are all labeled. Trust me that this is rare. Look at some complex Patek Phillipe watches and you'll find little pin pushers all around the case. None of them are labeled and pressing the wrong one results in much frustration. For the Maitres du Temps watches a different approach was taken. They wanted to be more user oriented, so you'll notice on the rear of the watch there are labels engraved into the gold case indicating what the pushers do. Such an obvious element to help in satisfactory ownership, but curiously absent from most other watches.
Looking into the movement you can see that is has an incredible amount of hand decoration. It just overflows with it. So much perlage and Cotes de Geneve polishing all over the place. It shines and glistens and is just cool to see. The Chapter One watch is manually wound tourbillon, while the Maitres du Temps Chapter Two is an automatic. Wait for a follow up article with a hands on look at the Chapter Two watch.The presentation of the timepiece from the personal message engraved on the back to the craftsman feel of the timepiece is worthy of the approx. $400,000 price.
A watch such as the Chapter One requires an impressive presentation box. Look in the image gallery below and you'll see not only the large and impressive box that the watch arrives in, but the specially made piece of luggage that the watch box is placed in. I was really excited about these elements of the watch presentation. Trust me that the box and leather bag themselves are very expensive to manufacture. Over all I am pleased to have had the chance to experience the Maitres du Temps Chapter One watch. Remember that they are part of a limited edition and not easy to find. I met with a Maitres du Temps rep to check these watches out at the watch store Chatel in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Soon I will do another hands-on look at the Maitres du Temps Chapter Two watch.