Laurent Ferrier, a brand renowned for its contemporary twist on haute horlogerie, recently launched the Laurent Ferrier Galet Regulateur watch. This watch is the second to be housed in the recently introduced “Montre Ecole” case and, more importantly, the first regulator watch offered by the brand.
The man behind the brand, Mr. Ferrier (who we interviewed here), spent 35 years as Creative Director of Patek Philippe before making the jump into independent high-end watchmaking. Since then, he has developed a reputation for successfully marrying traditional watchmaking techniques and concepts with fresh, yet refined contemporary design, and the Galet Regulateur very much fits that description, as you will see.
A regulator watch is one where the display for hours, minutes, and seconds are separated into their own exclusive dials or sub-dials. Historically, watchmaking workshops would have a central clock where the dials for hours, minutes, and seconds were separated and all watches manufactured or serviced there would be regulated to the time displayed by this central clock. This is also where the name “regulator” is derived from. In a quaint way, a modern regulator watch is a nod to this old tradition. In addition to the nostalgic appeal, regulators are also supposed to be more legible and precise for reading the time.
In the Laurent Ferrier Galet Regulateur, the main dial is used to indicate minutes, which are marked with the help of a railway chapter ring. Hours and seconds are relegated to recessed sub-dials at 12 o’clock and 6 o’clock, respectively. This is a traditional layout for regulator watches and further strengthens the historical theme at play here. The dial itself is silver with a vertical brushed finish, similar but more refined than what we see in the Omega Railmaster (hands-on among its “Trilogy” set here). To contrast against the cool blue of the silver are the recessed sub-dials which have a pleasant and warm nickel finish. There are subtle design choices, such as the diameter of the hour sub-dial being slightly bigger than the seconds sub-dial and the use of long, thin, painted Roman numeral markers that give the hour sub-dial more visual prominence than the seconds.
Part of good watch design, and one that is tough to get right, is visual balance on the dial. A good dial is legible, doesn’t feel cluttered, and is aesthetically pleasing to look at. In the case of the Laurent Ferrier Galet Regulateur, the vertical brushed finish, while refined-looking, might have been too plain if not for the text placed at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. Combined with the recessed sub-dials, there is sufficient texture and contrast to hold one’s attention, but not affect legibility adversely. The final components are of course, the hands, which are made from 18k white gold treated with black ruthenium and a different shape each. The hour hand is leaf shaped, while the seconds is a baton style, and the minute hand, which is the most prominent, is an elegant, if unusual “assegai” shape. The differences in shape are subtle, work well together, and if you don’t look closely, are easy to miss.
All of this is powered, by the FBN Caliber 228.01, which is an automatic movement with a silicon escapement, 72-hour power reserve, and the efficient micro-rotor that Laurent Ferrier is known for. A micro-rotor gives us the perpetual winding advantages of an automatic watch, without covering up the interesting mechanical components and painstaking finishing of the movement that make watches so fascinating for many collectors. What is frustrating and perplexing in this case, however, is that Laurent Ferrier has not supplied any images of the movement or case back. This is rather odd given that the aesthetics and finish of the movement are equally if not more important than the dial and case of a watch such as this.
While Laurent Ferrier states that the movement will be well-finished with Geneva stripes, mirror polishing on the screws, beveled gear spokes, chamfering and circular graining, we will have to only imagine and postulate what it’ll actually look like for now. If previous offerings by Laurent Ferrier are indicative, I’m sure the movement will indeed by superbly finished, but that doesn’t make the lack of images any less baffling. One can more or less expect a very similar look as that of the Galet Micro Rotor watch’s movement (there are a couple pictures of it here).
The dial and movement are housed in the 40mm “Montre Ecole” case which the brand first presented at SIHH 2017 in the form of the Galet Micro Rotor. Montre Ecole means “School Piece,” and the case is meant to be evocative of Mr. Ferrier’s very first creation that he completed at watchmaking school – his “School Piece.” The article linked above contains a more detailed explanation of what makes the case so unique. The Laurent Ferrier Galet Regulateur will be offered in stainless steel or white gold case options, with a sapphire crystal display back, and a water-resistance rating of 30m. The 40mm-wide by 10.95mm-thick case dimensions make it a contemporary size and well-suited for daily wear.
Laurent Ferrier has established a reputation for well-finished watches with refined design and traditional techniques, and the Laurent Ferrier Galet Regulateur lives up to that reputation. This is a watch for the collector who can appreciate the movement, and who likes the simplicity of a standard three-hander but may be looking for something more unique. The Laurent Ferrier Galet Regulateur will be available on a grey alligator strap from July at retailers for $55,000 for the white gold model and $40,000 for the stainless steel model. laurentferrier.ch