Emmanuel Bouchet is another talented and extremely creative “modern thinking” watchmaker to abandon the idea of working with other third-party brands and simply begin his own eponymous company with Emmanuel Bouchet watches. His first watch, the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One, is among the most interesting and novel mechanical watches I’ve seen in a while. Love it or hate it, the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One is extremely exotic and offers all the conversation points horological enthusiasts love to discuss. What is also very important to note about the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One is that seeing it in still pictures is not at all the same as seeing it in person. Even understanding how to tell the time can be a challenge without a bit of an explanation.
I first met Emmanuel Bouchet back in 2012 when he and Harry Winston presented the Opus 12 watch (hands-on here). Being a part of the Opus project is a huge honor for watch makers, and Bouchet exists among a small, but venerable class of modern watch makers who are best known for their creativity versus sheer application of traditional techniques and values.
People like Max Busser and the rest of the independent luxury watch community know that beauty is not enough when trying to sell a modern luxury watch from a new brand. Watchmakers must be both engineers and artists, offering novelty and emotion as well as originality in their craft. Not everyone gets it right, of course, and not every result of this complex assignment yields crowd-pleasing designs. Nevertheless, it is the variety and imagination that goes into novel mechanical watches which keeps me coming back for more.
There is a huge amount to like about the admittedly quirky Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One timepiece. Even now, the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication Two is in the works, so I think we have a lot to expect from the mind of Mr. Bouchet.
One of the first things you’ll notice aside from the marvelously three-dimensional dial on the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One is the case and sapphire crystal. Speaking of the latter, I wish more watch companies used domed sapphire crystals such as this which aren’t prone to glare. The particular shape and thickness as well as AR coating on this sapphire crystal is something others should take notice of. Quite specifically, I am thinking of you, Panerai.
Waves and curves make up the design of the case which is, in a most basic sense, round but has a lot of interesting details. The Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One case is 44mm wide and is on the thicker side, but that is not a bad thing, given how it looks and feels. Emmanuel Bouchet offers the Complication One case in either glossy black-coated DLC titanium, 18k rose or white gold, as well as solid platinum.
The rear of the case is particularly interesting, not only because of how the movement is finished, but also because of how it is displayed through the sapphire crystal caseback. Here, again, you have a curved look, and you get the impression that the movement “bubbles out” toward you. It is a great visual effect and one of the most impressive views of a mechanical movement in a watch caseback that I’ve seen in a while.
Even though the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One looks intense on the dial, it really just indicates the time. It does that with a subsidiary seconds dial at the top (with a built-in day/night indicator disc) and two other subdials below which indicate the hours (to the left) and the minutes (to the right). Even here, there are a number of unique elements which defy what you expect to see.
First of all, the hands all “jump.” That means rather than slowly moving from hour marker to hour marker, the hour hand jumps to each of the 12 positions. This is the same for the minute hands. Did I just say minute hands? Yes, the minute scale is 0-9 and has two hands. That means one hand indicates the tens of the minutes and the other hands the single digits. That also implies the first hand totally flies over some of the positions going from 0 to 5 and then back to 0 again. It is a unique way to read the time but surprisingly easy to get used to.
A big thing for watch makers these days, as well as historically, is to invent or discover innovative ways to indicate the time. Emmanuel Bouchet faithfully follows this tradition in the Complication One but also offers a new way of having a movement work. The in-house made and designed caliber EB-1963 is made up of 283 parts and has two large mainspring barrels for 72 hours of power reserve. One of the mainspring barrels is used to power the subsidary seconds (and day/night) indicator dial, and the other mainspring barrel is used to power the hours and minutes, along with the unique secondary regulation system. Why separate the power like that? Well, for one thing, the seconds hand is continuously moving, whereas the other hands are not.
The movement operates at a slower 18,000 bph, which is something you can view in the balance wheel on the back of the watch. Look closely, and you’ll notice the really cool detailing of the balance wheel bridge. Isn’t that cool? On the front of the watch are two other stacked balance wheel-style components and what looks to be a massive escapement. All of this is a special invention by Emmanuel Bouchet that is, in a sense, a super-slowed-down regulation system that moves once each 15 seconds.
Thus, power accumulates and releases each 15 seconds to move the parts on the dial as well as the hour and minute indicator hands. Reading the minutes is a bit tricky but makes sense after getting the hang of it, and I like that you don’t need to wait a full minute to see anything move, but rather, just 15 seconds.
Legibility isn’t terrible, in theory, but the smaller dials and skeletonized “everything” makes reading the hands a bit more challenging. That’s sort of a tradeoff, given the severe uniqueness of the how everything is displayed and arranged on the dial of the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One. I would say that at the end of the day, Emmanuel Bouchet delivers on his promise to create something immediately eye-catching, novel, and complicated.
The question, of course, is whether watch collectors will bite. Even at its lowest price, the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One timepiece is a hair under $100,000. Emmanuel Bouchet as a brand needs to first convince watch buyers that the man Emmanuel Bouchet is worth investing in, and second, that the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One is a timepiece worth its price in novelty and engineering value. I will say that as avant-garde as the design and presentation of the EB-1963 movement is, Emmanuel Bouchet does a huge number of things correctly in the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One watch that enthusiasts will be able to quickly appreciate and that other brands should emulate.
Ultimately, the success of watch makers such as Emmanuel Bouchet aren’t going to be the cleverness of his designs or the meticulousness of his detailing. It is going to be collectors rallying behind his personality and art. As a watchmaker, he will have to shred any latent shyness and come out to talk about his work and why it is important for him. While the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One isn’t radical, it is different enough that a solid explanation from the concept creator about what the watch is all about is merited. Do Bouchet and his organization have it in them? Perhaps. At the very least, I now know that there are a lot of things they do well such that if they were to communicate their values to others, they would not be greeted with idle attention.
Fascinating and original, the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One opens the doors to an interesting new brand. The Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One in black DLC-coated titanium is $98,000, in 18k rose or white gold, it is $108,000, and in platinum, it is $128,000. emmanuelbouchet.com
>Brand: Emmanuel Bouchet
>Model: Complication One
>Price: $98,000 USD – $128,000 USD
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Watch movement junkie with a healthy budget for both novelty and price.
>Best characteristic of watch: Many wonderfully executed details and successful concept of being truly unique while existing in the larger world of horology nicely.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Not an aesthetic design that will appeal to everyone. Certainly not the most legible dial, despite efforts to create visual clarity.