We usually don’t use the term “supergroup” for watches. It’s almost always reserved for musical acts, like The Highwomen, The Traveling Wilburys, or Them Crooked Vultures—groups made up of names that alone would generate excitement and together send fans into a frenzy. In watchmaking, these groups are far less common, and that’s perhaps why we haven’t used the term much (one that does come to mind is THA, the movement workshop co-founded by F.P. Journe, Vianney Halter, and Denis Flageollet; while that venture never produced its own watches, it did develop, among others, the 045MC monopusher chronograph movement for Cartier). Few and far between as they are, it’s exciting to learn about such a meeting of the minds. That’s just the case with Artime, a new brand from industry veterans whose names you likely don’t know, but whose work history includes Audemars Piguet, Breguet, F.P. Journe, and Greubel Forsey, among others. And from such a supergroup, you may not be surprised that the resulting watch, the Artime ART01, is an architectural design with impeccable finishing and a suspended tourbillon movement.
While the watch is the result of a collaboration, it bears Didier Bretin’s name. The way the brand sees it, each watch—and the language the press release uses implies this is the first of many to come—is a group effort, but invariably one member is the main inspiration. Think of it as Ringo Starr getting songwriter credit on “Octopus’s Garden.” With the help of his colleagues Claude Emmenegger (designer of the Royal Oak Concept) and Stéphane Maturel (former manager at renowned movement house Renaud & Papi), Frabrice Deschanel and Emmanuel Jutier (both having worked at Greubel Forsey), and Manuel Thomas (also of Renaud & Papi, Minerva, and other esteemed brands), Bretin created a highly structural watch that is crafted of titanium and sapphire, with a movement on full display.
The 42mm case features alternating bands of titanium and sapphire The titanium mid-case forms the foundation with its brushed finish and polished chamfered edges. It gives way to a sapphire band that offers a glimpse at the movement; this is more than just an added layer, instead forming an integral part of the case and continuing its silhouette up to the slim polished titanium bezel. The flat sapphire (complemented by a sapphire caseback) reinforces the modern look of this watch. At 11.4mm, with downturned lugs and an integrated black calfskin leather strap, the case shouldn’t provide too many wearability issues except for the slightest of wrists. The strap itself is closed with a titanium butterfly clasp itself that appears to do its best to keep things slim and features an equally high design as the case and dial—in so far as there even is a dial.
It makes sense to discuss the movement and the dial as one. With no mainplate, the manual wound, white gold movement is mounted into the mid-case through visible screws that are concealed by the hour markers on the sapphire chapter ring. The components are condensed and kept to a minimum, with only 261 pieces including 25 jewels. The bridges, like struts emerging from the peripheral, achieve an impressive symmetry, with a blend of hand-finishing: polishing, graining, sandblasting, and brushing. The show starts at 3 o’clock, with a keyless works and satellite function indicator. Here’s where I’ll discuss the novel crown: instead of a pull-out or screw-down crown, the crown features a push-button selector for its functions, the active function displayed on the dial via a column wheel, and vertical clutch system like those seen in chronographs. While this obviates the need to ever pull the crown out (or, more importantly, to remember to push it back in), one does wonder if the tension is set appropriately to minimize accidental function changing. Imagine, you’ve unwittingly bumped the selector, changed the time by 15 minutes, and look down, thinking you have to rush out the door when you’ve actually got plenty of time. The horror.
From 3 o’clock, the gearing moves to the mainspring barrel at 12 o’clock, then progresses to the center wheels and ultimately down to the floating, double hairspring tourbillon. The hairsprings are concentrically mounted and operate in opposition to each other for improved chronometry. You may not be surprised to hear that they are supplied by Precision Engineering, which is owned by Moser, the brand best known for using a double hairspring configuration. The movement operates at 3hz with a power reserve of 80 hours. At 9 o’clock is a bridge that pierces the center of the watch to support the cannon pinion and the hands. This bridge also features the brand badge on the dial side and the limited edition numbering on through the back.
As mentioned, there’s scant evidence of a dial, as is the case with these sorts of watches. What you do get are luminescent Hyceram hour markers (a ceramic/polymer blend, though it’s unclear if the material itself is luminescent or if something is applied), which are white but glow blue. The handcrafted hands, also luminescent Hyceram, though, feature a black and blocky lume. The Achilles heel of a watch like this is often legibility, with the lack of a contrasting background inhibiting the main function of a timepiece. As ever, it’s hard to tell how much of an issue legibility is from the images provided, idealized as they are. That said, I imagine the generous lume will make legibility a non-issue in low light, and the black of the hands and surrounding the markers should help at other times.
The Artime ART01 design recalls a blend of Minase and Angelus—if you know those brands, you almost definitely see the resemblance between Angelus’ signature movement architecture and Minases case design, including the side “window.” This debut offering from Artime is priced at CHF 195,000, not including taxes you may or may not have to pay. That’s a lot of biscuits, but we’re talking haute horlogerie here. This is a movement developed from scratch, manufactured to the highest standards, and encased in titanium with a peek into the movement’s side (which, if I’m being honest, could be deemed gimmicky given the view already afforded through the top and bottom crystals). In any case, it’s always exciting to see new brands create new watches, and perhaps a bit more exciting to see the result of such a supergroup collaboration. As mentioned, the copy suggests that this isn’t a one-and-done affair and that, at the very least, there will be other editions of this watch. For more information, please contact Artime by email at [email protected].