June 8, 2021
Among ultra-high-end watch collectors, few word pairings have the same visceral impact as “pièce unique.” For automotive enthusiasts, the words “Rolls-Royce” hold a similar power. The latest release from boutique haute horlogerie brand Bovet combines both of these evocative attributes, creating a bespoke his-and-hers pair of timepieces for a well-heeled collector to match his newly unveiled one of a kind coachbuilt Rolls-Royce Boat Tail convertible. Developed over the course of four years of effort and designed to function as wristwatches, desk clocks, and removable dashboard clocks for the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail, the unique pair of Bovet Boat Tail watches are an opulent and theatrical showcase of the possibilities of collaborative commission watchmaking.
Both pieces of the custom Bovet Boat Tail pair use the same 44mm case design in 18k white gold. The case is deceptively simple at first glance, with a cylindrical overall form featuring asymmetrical T-bar style lugs and a cabochon crown at 12 o’clock. This gives the impression of an adapted pocket watch case in images, and that impression is nearly, but not entirely, correct. This is not an entirely new proposal for Bovet, as its Amadeo Convertible Case concept has been in occasional use across the brand’s stable since 2010, but this is undoubtedly its most complex execution to date. By activating the quick-release spring bars and the hunter-style hinged display caseback, the Amadeo case can be converted between a standard wristwatch, a supported desk clock, a necklace-mounted pendant watch, and a dashboard clock for the owner’s bespoke Rolls-Royce Boat Tail. Although it may sound simple on paper, this last purpose is one of the most engineering-intensive elements of the entire design, with craftsmen from both Bovet creating a secure, fully mechanical 51-piece aluminum and titanium cradle for the watches within the car’s dashboard. This cradle is designed to isolate the delicate tourbillon movements from engine vibrations, muffle any detectable noise from the movements, and even protect the watches from shock in the event of a high-speed crash. Bovet differentiates this his-and-hers pair through case finishing. The men’s design sports a clean mirror polish throughout, while the women’s companion piece is hand-engraved in an intricate filigree pattern and subsequently filled with blue lacquer.
The Bovet Boat Tail is designed as a reversible watch, with dials for both the front and back of the movement. Both models share the same skeleton main dial design, which draws heavily from motifs from the paired Rolls-Royce convertible. The main dial surface itself is Obsidian Ayous ebony wood marquetry laid into a white gold frame, the same wood and overall form that defines the distinctive rear decklid of the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail. The lower half of this skeleton dial design is dominated by a massive white gold tourbillon bridge, featuring a hand-sculpted and engraved centerpiece echoing Rolls-Royce’s iconic “Spirit of Ecstasy” hood ornament. Counterbalancing this at 12 o’clock is a small and cleanly executed power reserve indicator. Bold, unabashedly opulent, and personalized with the owners’ names, this dial captures the imperious and grandiose ethos of Rolls-Royce, which like the automaker may not be to everyone’s tastes. On the reverse side, the two watches in the pair diverge slightly. Both feature small timekeeping subdials at 12 o’clock flanked by a hand-engraved, lacquered, and miniature painted sculpture of the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail in profile. Most of the other visual real estate is taken up by a clean and elegant three-quarter plate with Côtes de Genève and blued screws throughout. A simpler, tapering tourbillon bridge completes the package at 6 o’clock. The men’s model puts its own spin on this layout with an aventurine dial surface hand-painted with the owner’s personal sky chart motif, whereas the women’s version instead uses an ornate hand-painted floral design atop a mother of pearl base dial.
Beyond the complex hand decoration and finishing, the bespoke hand-wound manufacture tourbillon movements inside both Bovet Boat Tail models include a handful of unique engineering solutions to combat the stresses of dashboard clock use. Simply beefing up every component to better withstand vibrations and stress was not an option, as Rolls-Royce mandated a maximum weight for the watch assembly. Instead, the tourbillon uses pivots instead of more common ball bearings to reduce the transfer of vibration, and the beat rate was increased to 21,600 bph to improve precision in spite of the mechanical stresses. One of the only components with substantial added mass is the balance wheel, which in turn better insulates the balance from the effects of minor vibration. Bovet claims a power reserve of 120 hours for this movement. While the Bovet Boat Tail is designed for a variety of applications from dashboard clock to pendant watch, for when these watches are worn on the wrist the brand includes alligator leather straps in midnight blue for the men’s model and deep blood red for the women’s version.
Complex, ornate, and strictly a one-off development, the Bovet Boat Tail watches are a potentially divisive, but undeniably spectacular canvas for craftsmanship from two of the most luxurious nameplates in horology and automobiles. As the Bovet Boat Tail watches are designed as a unique commission series with no intention of selling to the public, there is no MSRP information for these watches. For more details, please visit the brand’s website.