Founded by a former technical director at watchmaker Ulysse Nardin, Haute-Rive watches debuts with their 1,000-hour power reserve watch known as the Honoris I. I interviewed Stephane von Gunten about Haute-Rive on an episode of the SUPERLATIVE podcast prior to seeing the prototype watches. Then, at Dubai Watch Week 2023, I got to experience first-hand the prototype versions of the impressive Haute-Rive Honoris I. The wristwatch is based on a pocket watch (made for a Pope) that also had a power reserve of 40 days.

The Honoris I watch case is available in at least two styles and in a few different metal options along with two dial colors. What is common between them is the robust caliber HR01 manually-wound mechanical movement. The entire point of the movement is to offer both visual beauty and an impressive 1,000 hours (about 41 days) of power reserve. This isn’t record-setting, but it does place the Haute-Rive Honoris I among a very small number of high-power reserve wristwatches (with that said, the Honoris I has the longest power reserve I am aware of with a single mainspring barrel). The massive power reserve trend started in the early 2000s with Jacob & Co. Quenttin. It offered a long power reserve by stacking multiple mainspring barrels next to one another. Other watches built on this concept, including the popular Hublot MP-05 La Ferrari, as well as the more niche Rebellion T-1000 Gotham. A. Lange & Söhne produced a more traditional Lange Month watch with a long power reserve of about 30 days. Haute-Rive now adds its contribution to this exclusive pantheon of long-autonomy timepieces.

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Haute-Rive shares that the coiled mainspring in the HR01 movement is more than three meters long. Winding it requires considerable torque, which is why you don’t wind the watch using the crown. Instead, the bezel of the Honoris I is turned to wind the movement. This is similar to how the caseback of Ulysse Nardin Freak operates to wind a similar mainspring barrel system. It is no coincidence that Haute-Rive’s founder spent some years at Ulysse Nardin. For this reason, most versions of the Honoris I watch have a fluted bezel. While it has an indirect similarity to Rolex Datejust and Day-Date watches, the purpose of the texture on the bezel is highly pragmatic. With that said, Haute-Rive offers the Honoris I watch with a smooth bezel option, for those who prefer that style. Personally, I’d go for the added grip (though the smooth bezel is knurled on the outside edge).

The pusher on the case next to the crown needs to be pressed for the watch to enter time-setting mode. The pusher is a function selector, and on the dial, you can see more of its operation. There is a small window near the 2 o’clock position on the dial which changes colors when the movement is in time-setting mode. The change in function is controlled by the small column wheel that is under the window, which turns one position each time you press the function selector.

The HR01 movement operates at 2.5Hz (18,000 bpm) which is a slower frequency but it requires low power and is thus suitable for this long power reserve system. It does this via a dial-mounted tourbillon, which has a pretty case and overall architecture. I will expand that compliment to the overall dial of the Honoris I, which is visually attractive while also showing off much of the hand-finished movement. The dial symmetry is pretty as are the belle epoque design cues. That with the Ferris Wheel design of the gear train makes me think of Paris, France each time I look at the Honoris 1 face.

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On the caseback, we find an additional complication as well as lovely design and craftsmanship. Here is where the movement’s power reserve indicator is, and what a display using the entire caseback. Power reserve indicators are usually discreet affairs with small indicators. Haute-Rive decided to make this complication a more grand element of the overall design and thus has dedicated the entire caseback with an interesting spinning hand system that moves along the peripheral 1,000-hour scale. A mechanism such as this without a power reserve indicator would be silly, but engineering it so lavishly shows how much Haute-Rive wants the Honoris I to be an object of desire.

At launch, the Honoris I will be available with either a black or white grand feu enamel dial. The 42.5mm wide case is available in either 18k yellow, white, or rose gold. Note that the prototype watches I handled were merely gold plated, and the final products will clearly have better detailing and cases. The case is also 11.95mm thick (not too bad at all) and is water-resistant to 30 meters. Over the dial and caseback are sapphire crystals. Legibility is also pretty good, especially with the white grand feu enamel dials. I’d say that most people (who love mechanics) will get a kick out of wearing these watches. The pretty visual elements on the dial make up for the lack of more exotic complications, but then again, people typically like more simple-to-operate watches and the long 41-day power reserve by itself could be considered a grand complication. The ruby used as the arrow for the power reserve indicator hand might offer insight into how impressive Haute-Rive thinks the complication should be considered.

Luxury enthusiasts with a penchant for mechanical watch engineering and traditional design will probably find a lot to enjoy about the Haute-Rive Honoris I. With some of the competition out there, the price point feels appropriate for a debut brand. Given his experience and watchmaking acumen, I suspect that von Gunten will also be far less prone to some of the mistakes and learning-curve issues common to other watch brand entrepreneurs. These include everything from watches not being delivered on time to faults with the mechanism. I do look forward to seeing the final versions of the Honoris I in their gold cases and with the final detailing. I think these will be popular niche favorites, and I look forward to what Stephane von Gunten has for the future development of his brand. The price for the Haute-Rive Honoris I watch (regardless of gold alloy) is 148,000 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Haute Rive watches website.

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