Back in 2015, I was pleased to debut the Complication One watch by the talented Mr. Emmanuel Bouchet on aBlogtoWatch here. Over time, the Complication One concept and watch has grown on me quite a bit, but I have to admit I really wasn’t sure what to think of the watch when I first saw it. In the Complication One review (link above) I said much of the same – and I think it is because of just how novel not only the look of the Complication One was, but also how innovative the operation of the movement proved to be. For me, it is proof of what an uphill battle actual novelty in the mechanical watch industry is, and the effort it takes to appreciate something fresh – let alone something new and admittedly interesting.
The somewhat obscure watchmaker Emmanuel Bouchet first became known to me when Harry Winston introduced him as the watchmaker responsible for the Opus 12 back in 2012. A sort of overriding goal of the Opus project (at least, historically) was to support interesting independent watchmakers and help promote them in a way a brand like Harry Winston could – and that they could not do themselves. A few years later, the Mr. Bouchet launched his eponymous brand, and it remains one of the few real high-end treats in the world of independent watchmaking. This is what a $100,000 watch should be like.
The way the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One watch indicates the time and how the movement works is its own interesting story, but right now I want to focus on its aesthetic form as well as quality of construction. To make a great watch you need a few things working together harmoniously. First is the overall aesthetic design. Second is the physical execution of that design as a function of production techniques, materials, colors, and finishes. Last is a novel mechanical concept or ability to function as a tool which allows the user to connect to the device in a way that is impossible with mere decorative objects. I really think that the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One has all of that, and the efforts by people like Emmanuel Bouchet aren’t immediately appreciated by even the most seasoned of collectors.
While the 44mm-wide and 11.2mm-thick case (offered in a range of metal from titanium to gold and platinum) is round on a superficial level, it has an architecture unlike what you’ll see in other watches. The design isn’t just graceful, but it doesn’t remind me of anything else out there. It is actually (surprisingly) an excellent example of what good modern minimalist design is. Not boring, but limited in details, the value of the design is expressed in just a few major lines versus a series of smaller details. It might not be a look for everyone, but in my opinion, it will be a celebrated design in the future in how it adds a surprisingly fresh appearance in a very crowded and familiar market.
The case also serves to emphasize the fact that the wearer/viewer should be looking at the dial as well as the movement through the two sapphire crystals that sandwich the case. Allow me to once again remark on how brilliantly Emmanuel Bouchet conceived (or chose) the design for the domed sapphire crystal. It has just the right level of curve at the edges and mostly flat top surface to give the perception of depth while avoiding distracting glare. This not only makes the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One watch highly photogenic, but also eye-pleasing to glance at when it is on your wrist.
Viewing the movement (refreshingly offered in different color finishes) from the rear of the watch is a distinct pleasure because the movement is so gosh darn good-looking. The curved angle of the frosted movement bridges appear to follow the contours of the rear sapphire crystal in a way that is aesthetically very pleasing. The “split” architecture of the movement is cool-looking, and one can appreciate the major parts of the movement such as the twin mainspring barrels and the escapement. Emmanuel Bouchet calls the movement his caliber EB-1963 and it is designed by him and produced entirely in Switzerland out of 283 parts (mostly all custom parts, at that).
In addition to being impeccably detailed, the EB-1963 movement has an interesting operation that requires some explanation. Emmanuel Bouchet didn’t just want to offer a novel design, but something actually technically novel. This is in fact quite hard to find, and what he managed to do is actually invent something in a space where most “new” things are merely novel assortments of existing ideas and concepts. The movement’s real trick is having two escapements, and how the second one operates.
The first escapement in the manually wound movement is visible on the rear of the watch and operates at a frequency of 2.5Hz (18,000bph). The second is on the dial and features a unique construction as well as a single operation each 15 seconds. That’s right, the escapement on the dial of the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One does in slow motion what most other escapements do five times each second. In fact, the two mainspring barrels exist so that one powers the regulation system which powers the main running train of gears, while the second mainspring builds up power to move the regulation system on the dial each 15 seconds. You can see it operate with its special three-pointed star synthetic ruby gear and other components that help make the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One so very interesting.
In terms of functions, the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One watch merely indicates the time with a day/night indicator, although perhaps I said “merely” too quickly. The upper part of the dial has a bridge over the (typically) black or white onyx dial that holds a sapphire crystal dial. This larger upper dial has a day/night indicator disc as well as a running seconds hand. Things get a bit more interesting with the second set of dials below which are there to indicate the hours and minutes.
One might not be out of line calling the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One dial a “regulator” because there are separate dials for the seconds, minutes, and hours. Hours are indicated traditionally via a hand over another sapphire crystal dial, but minutes are indicated using two hands. Why two hands? Essentially, one is for the first decimal and the second is for the other. Thus the shorter hand only ever points at 0-5 while the other hands moves all around the dial. This makes the operation of the movement deceptively complex and is where a lot of the novelty value is in the watch. Emmanuel Bouchet might have even made the system so cryptic-seeming that many people viewing the watch don’t even know what they are looking at.
Aside from being a wonderful example of pure independent high-end mechanical watchmaking, the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One watch has grown on me as a stylish timepiece. Not all dial/case combinations are for me, but that is OK because they aren’t supposed to be. Emmanuel Bouchet offers the Complication One in various titanium finishes (natural, blued, ADLC-coated black), 18k yellow gold, 18k rose gold, 18k white gold, and platinum. For me, the rose gold with onyx black dial or the blued titanium is the sexiest look, but all are pretty interesting. For the thinking, feeling watch lover, there is the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One collection, and in my opinion, Emmanuel Bouchet should be very proud of that. Prices for the Emmanuel Bouchet Complication One are $105,000 in natural or DLC-coated black titanium, $115,000 for blued titanium, $115,000 for all types of gold, and $135,000 in platinum. emmanuelbouchet.com