There’s always been a special place in my heart for Bovet‘s Récital Collection. Each one has brought a unique aesthetic to high complication. The result? Some of the most beautiful contributions to haute horlogerie watches in recent memory. Unveiled at SIHH 2019, the Bovet Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter One is no exception. Featuring a new sapphire case utilizing the collection’s signature “writing desk” shape, the Brainstorm allows the wearer to see the movement from every angle. And today, we get to go hands-on with this highly complicated delight.
Sapphire cases are increasing in popularity. While they’ve been around for many years, we’re starting to see more and more brands experiment with this case style. The Hublot Big Bang UNICO Magic Sapphire immediately comes to mind as one of the more popular sapphire cases in the industry. The Richard Mille RM 056 was the first watch that allowed me to realize the insane machining and production effort put into carving out a material only surpassed on the Mohs scale by diamond — which is, interestingly, how the Brainstorm got its name. Apparently the engineers, watchmakers, and decorators spent quite a bit of time “brainstorming” a laundry list of challenges presented by making a case out of sapphire. To engineer this piece, the domed crystal that tops the “writing desk” slope proved particularly difficult. Nonetheless, it was accomplished and, with it, a new favorite was born into the Récital Collection.
The sapphire case measures 48mm x 15.5mm, making the Brainstorm a couple millimeters larger than previous models in the Récital Collection. The sloped “writing desk” case is even more striking and pronounced in sapphire than the precious metals of previous Récital models. When looked at straight on, it appears round, but twist your wrist away from you, and the domed wedge profile leaps out.
Sapphire is even harder than titanium. Hardness is great for scratch resistance, but it also means the case is more brittle than softer materials. In practical terms, this means it’s more likely to chip. As a result, I would be obsessed with avoiding door frames, table edges, and car doors. Metal is only used for two case components. The crown is the most obvious, but there’s also a thin bezel of metal on the back of the watch. This is used to fasten the crystal elements together. Despite the size and weight, the watch is quite wearable and a joy to look at.
The Bovet Récital Brainstorm comes with two dial variations. One features a black, apparently customizable, dial plate, while the other (photographed here) features a blue disc made out of blue quartz that I find to be the most attractive of the two.
It’s difficult to talk about the dial without mentioning the movement, as well. It’s on full display in layers from front, back, and peripheral viewpoints. Bovet has done a fantastic job of not only making the watch legible, but also coherent, considering the complications.
At 12 o’clock, there is a three-dimensional spherical moon phase that fits nicely into the curve of the blue dial plate. Arguably the focal point of the dial side of the watch, the surface of the disc features two aventurine glass plates and a lume-filled hyper-realistic engraving of the moon. Moving down is the blue quartz dial plate with embossed white numerals that are superbly legible. Off to the 4 o’clock position is a crescent shaped power reserve cam that fits nicely into the movement and doesn’t distract from the symmetry of the dial. At the 8 o’clock position, an encircled date can be found. Utilizing two gears, one engraved with 0, 1, 2, 3 and a transparent gear beneath it with 0-9, Bovet has created a non-intrusive way to blend the date module into the movement without using a pronounced date ring. With the small circular aperture, the dates looks and feels like it belongs in the movement, and it conveys a sense of harmony by its inclusion.
The Bovet Récital Brainstorm utilizes the in-house Caliber 17DM04-SMP. For movement voyeurs, this watch is most certainly a treat. It features the patented “Double-Face” Tourbillon, or, as it has come to be known, the “Shooting Star.” This aesthetic addition has been seen before in Bovet’s astronomy-inspired watches. First unveiled in the Récital Asterium and Grand Récital in 2016, the Grand Récital went on to win 2018’s Aiguille d’Or Grand Prix award, among many other awards throughout the industry. This gave notable recognition to the Récital Collection and makes the movement a perfect fit for Bovet’s first sapphire case.
Interestingly, the movement is fastened to the back of the case rather than the side, making the movement appear like it’s floating when the watch is flipped over. This draws particular attention to the unique winding system, since the crown is the only part of the watch that appears connected to the sapphire. The movement uses something call a “spherical differential winding system” based on the idea of saving energy to allow for a 10-day power reserve generated by a single barrel. The idea is that creating an extra-long spring means an extra-long wind time is required. To alleviate this, Bovet adds a differential gear that cuts the number of rotations in half.
The movement beats at 18,000vph (2.5Hz), and the finishing is, as always, impeccable. Tying the watch together is a blue alligator leather strap. The strap is simple, comfortable considering the size of the watch, and draws attention to case and dial.
The Récital Collection has always been about technical innovation and progress. The brand’s ability to take that innovation, give it a bit of transparency (quite literally here), and create a balanced dial is nothing short of astounding to me. The sapphire case is a natural extension to the collection and feels like a terrarium for the fantastic Caliber 17DM04-SMP. Overall, I’m hoping we see a continuation of this style, similar to what Jacob & Co. has done with its Astronomia Collection. Price for the Bovet Récital 26 Brainstorm Chapter One is 295,000 CHF. Read more about this piece at bovet.com.