Every few years it’s refreshing to see new watchmakers take a shot at entering the market with ambitious products. For readers that follow watch media closely, we don’t need to tell you that many of these efforts often fall short of their promises and can even disappear completely after failing to captivate their intended demographic. But sometimes, the result is slightly more enchanting. Set to debut at Baselworld 2018, Phenomen is a new French independent watchmaking house lead by Alexandre Meyer, Sylvain Nourisson, and Maxime Colson; a trio of professionals with an impressive track record in design, movement production, and the automotive industry. With the company’s debut model – the Phenomen Axiom – they hope to deliver their own unique take on the inclined “driver’s watch” while showcasing the team’s collective abilities and cementing a new position in the independent watchmaking space.
Automotive-inspired watches are nothing new and pulling them off while resisting the urge to dump checkered flag motifs and racing stripes into the design seems to be something brands struggle with every year. With the Phenomen Axiom, the execution appears to be a little more subtle, with case lines and finishes that make the wearer feel like they have a concept supercar strapped on wrist. According to the development team, the challenge was to create a simple, and legible time readout in the angled driver’s watch style that is also practical enough for day-to-day use. Inevitably, comparisons to watches like the MB&F HM5 will be made. But, by maintaining a vastly more open dial surface and showcasing a portion of the movement on the uppermost “amphitheater” layer, I think Phenomen is on the right track if their hopes are to create a signature look for the brand.
As complex as the overall case design might seem, the inclined time readout actually appears quite simple. The two-level hierarchy is achieved thanks to a stacked pair of retrograde displays and red integrated “3D hands” dedicated to the hours and minutes. In addition to the retrograde approach, the Axiom also features a jumping hour complication for a readout that’s easier on the eyes. This is useful, considering that several wearers will have to make adjustments to how they usually read the time when wearing the Axiom. With a grade 5 titanium case that’s 42mm wide, 47mm lug-to-lug, and 17.3mm thick, the watch should also wear comfortably and I think these dimensions compliment the overall case design nicely. Water resistance is 30m… but really, who cares?
At the very top of the inclined display, we catch a glimpse of the manually-wound PH-010 caliber thanks to the fully visible balance spring, anchor, and anchor wheel. Interestingly, the balance wheel felloe is cut in the shape of a Celtic axehead, which makes for a cool little design touch while apparently reducing the coefficient of friction and improving balance wheel performance. Adjustments are made via the twin crown assemblies at 12 o’clock (a real Space Age look) and the 267-component movement delivers 100 hours of power reserve courtesy of the twin barrels. I’m actually curious to learn more about how the movement is built into the watch. Considering how complex the case architecture is, I doubt it’s just a simple insertion process. Besides that, the movement operates at 28,800bph (4Hz) and features different finishing techniques like hand bevelling, polishing, and more.
After making rounds at places like Christophe Claret, La Joux-Perret, and Arnold & Son, I’m actually quite intrigued to discover how Nourisson’s movement construction know-how paired with the rest of the team’s design background can work in favor of the Axiom’s success. This should be an intriguing watch to see in person and I can appreciate that the approach is far from lazy. Pricing, however, has not been revealed and this makes it difficult to get a feel for the competition. When I first glanced at the images, I felt like the Axiom looked like a strange cross between something from MB&F and maybe an Urwerk UR-210. Maybe that’s the crowd they’re going after but only time will tell how the watch performs as a new player in the independent market. Pricing for the Phenomen Axiom hasn’t been announced yet, but we’ll be sure to update you once we learn more. phenomen.fr