January 26, 2016
Vintage chronometers are very popular and have an appeal that is pretty broad amongst “watch people.” To anyone who is a fan of these vintage “competition chronometers,” particularly from the 1950s, the very mention of the Omega cal. 266 (or any Omega 30mm movement) definitely paints a clear image in your mind. The simple mechanics, clean aesthetics, and plain accuracy of the watches from this era are something I personally respond to, and newcomer Atelier de Chronométrie from Barcelona are presenting an interesting customized take not only on these vintage chronometers, but the Omega cal. 266 movement. The Atelier de Chronométrie Number 1 is the brand’s debut piece and while its appeal is for a very specific kind of buyer, those who like it will likely be enamored.
The watch is entirely handmade in Spain between Barcelona and Meyrin, using only the tools of the trade that were available between the ’30s and ’50s. In fact, even the box the watch comes in gets this treatment. Each Atelier de Chronométrie Number 1 watch is made to order, so you can fine tune the design to fit your specific tastes. The movement plates are silver, and are frosted without the use of bead blasting. The edges are hand beveled, and black-polishing is used on the crown, ratchet wheel, and other elements throughout. The movement uses a KIF shock absorption system by default (like many Rolex and Tudor watches), although the client can choose to have Incabloc, or forego shock protection altogether if you really want to flex your “old-timey” muscle at the next watch club meet-up.
Interestingly, Atelier de Chronométrie use the Omega cal. 266 as a blueprint for the movement, though they have definitely made aesthetic and functional changes to the design. Either way, the straightforward durability of this movement is a good place to start if you want to make a watch that can be handed down generation-to-generation, which is something I wholeheartedly appreciate in an effort to preserve mechanical timekeeping. The calibre beats at 18,000 vph, which allows you to hear every tick as it marches on through time, and although this calibre has yet to be certified, they plan on having that done very soon at l’Observatoire de Besançon, in France.
The Atelier de Chronométrie Number 1 watch sports a super-sleek-and-sexy sector dial with blued steel hands, and I can imagine that they have chosen to go with a free spring balance to maintain their clean and minimalist look through to the back of the watch. I’ve also read that the ratchet click system they have created makes a nice crisp sound, more akin to a pocket watch than a wristwatch, just for the simple sonic pleasure. Since each watch is bespoke, the case size can be made anywhere between 35mm and 38.5mm, either polished or brushed in 18K white, yellow, or rose gold. Stainless steel is also an option, and the watch comes with both a display and solid caseback so you can decide whether or not you want to flaunt the inner workings.
Since I haven’t handled this watch in person, there is quite a bit left to know, but I would really like to find out more. Personally, I think this watch is an absolute stunner, and it pretty much left me slack in the jaw when I first saw it. Like I mentioned before, it’s not a style and ethos that’s for everyone, but that only adds to the appeal for me.
Lastly, I have intentionally avoided using the word “brand” throughout this article, as I feel that Atelier de Chronométerie is after something else. The idea of a brand as “a symbol of an attitude or lifestyle that creates market differentiation” has been set aside to a degree here, as this watch is a bespoke object of desire. It’s a slice of a forgotten era, and a pure representation of the crafting philosophies from that time. If you would like to own one of these beautiful examples yourself, you will need at least €36,000 depending on the finish and materials you select. The brand’s site is still being worked on as of publishing, but check out their facebook here. atelierdechronometrie.com