October 7, 2016
As a watch enthusiast, most of my social media feeds are peppered with wrist-shots, brand pages, and various industry insiders that I follow, and their posts glide across my screen over and over in an endless array of press images and product releases. Usually, it’s your typical wrist-shots that get the most attention – your #speedytuesdays and various dive watches. Needless to say, when something unique comes along, I try to take note. Before I even think about movement, origin, company story, and all of that, I am most often just drawn in by the design. If a design can stand out from the crowd, then, at least for me, it is worth digging a little deeper. This was the case with Sartory-Billard and the RPM 01 Classic and RPM 01 RS watches. The unique curved design spoke to me, and along the way, I learned a lot about a brand that’s recently been busy creating some really interesting pieces in Paris.
I will give a little background here first, as this was a company I wasn’t familiar with and found myself wanting to know more about them once I really got to spend some time with their watches. Founded in 2015 by its namesakes Ludovic Sartory and Armand Billard, the French brand is based out of Paris and started with a few specific goals in mind. They wanted to have strong French offering, a design that could be instantly recognized, and a product that did not cut corners to give the consumer the best watch possible for the money. This piece draws from the design aspirations of fine motorbikes and cars, but the brand strays from making this on the nose. It can be a hackneyed move to connect watch design with automobiles, but it’s not over the top in this instance, and I can appreciate the design notes.
The Sartory-Billard RPM 01 watches are sized at 45mm at the crown, and the hyperbolic bezel is 316L polished stainless steel. The middle and lower casing is bead-blasted for a different appearance and texture than the top. As I mentioned, Sartory-Billard intend for this design element to be reminiscent of a classic car layout. It’s polished to the max on the top with a little bit of a rougher contrast once you take a peek at the undercarriage. It is the bezel, by the way, that I first noticed and the real reason I decided to check it out to begin with.
The bezel takes over 12 hours to create and slopes around and dips at the top and base of the dial in a swirl that I found myself running my finger along throughout the day. The “gear-influenced” dial brings in more automotive aesthetics, and the minute and hour hands are rhodium faceted. The dial reads “Paraboloid APEX RPM” at 6 o’clock, and below that is the proudly displayed “Designed in Paris.” In addition to the red outlay along the inner-ring, the “12” atop the dial is replaced with a “0” to further emphasize the racing themes that Sartory-Billard have worked to represent. I love that they showed restraint on the dial without compromising any of the fun, since the case design does such a great job at that.
I spent time with two models of the watch – the Sartory-Billard RPM 01 Classic which frames the dial with more red, and the RPM 01 RS replaces some of those red elements on the dial with a more subdued gray tone. You will also notice that in this model the hour and minute hands have been thickened a bit and treated with lume to increase legibility. The crown features their logo and the sapphire crystals on the front and back have been treated with an anti-reflective coating. While most of the attention this watch will get will likely be associated with the case design, the dial looks great as well. I do want to add that some people might find the hour and minute hands to be short.
On the wrist, the Sartory-Billard RPM 01 Classic has some heft to it but not so much that it’s annoying. It is solidly built. I did find that the thicker hands on the 01 RS were slightly easier to read but this really isn’t an issue and will probably come down to personal taste for you. I do want to say that both Sartory-Billard RPM 01 models wear a little large at 45mm, and I was a little worried the concave case might end up feeling too much like a bowl. The actual wearing experience, though, ended up feeling not kitschy or trite, but rather genuinely unique and memorable. The brand wants you to be able to close your eyes and know their watch simply by touching and feeling, and I think they succeeded in that regard. You might feel self-conscious about banging it around, but I got used to it pretty quickly (no learning curve joke, I swear).
The Sartory-Billard RPM 01 Classic and RPM 01 RS are each powered by the ETA 2824-2 automatic movement and this is visible through the crystal on the caseback. Offering a standard power reserve of around 40 hours, the 2824-2 is a workhorse movement, and though it isn’t anything flashy, Sartory-Billard expanded the size of the crystal to display more of the movement than some other manufacturers do. It’s a nice classic case back, and up top you’ll see its individual number. Sartory-Billard right now can produce only 10 watches per month, and they make a note of saying that every model is a limited edition.