A Brief History Of Transportation Ending With The Romain Jerome Spacecraft
Man’s journey through life has been millennia in the making, and it all started on those two little appendages at the bottom of our legs called feet. These were the only things to get us from one point to the other. Because of this, we developed foot coverings to help us walk and run, the precursors to modern footwear.
Then man tamed horses. Suddenly we could cover distances with great speed thanks to our equine companions, whose domestication allowed modern travel to really begin. We also needed horse-specific accessories such as stirrups, saddles, and bridles, which made for a much better riding experience and helped both rider and mount reduce fatigue.
Later, another invention led to the next great transportation leap, the water-going vessel. With ships, large numbers of people (and goods) could be carried at once, facilitating travel and trade.
As with the horse, this new mode of transportation spawned application-specific technologies such as paddles, sails, rudders, and various advancements in fishing implements.
Next to arrive was the now-ubiquitous wheel and axle. While the wheel had been invented a long time prior, the invention of the axel created the first carts, wagons, and chariots that, when combined with the horse, spawned caravans and very mobile armies, not to mention boosted trade.
But it wouldn’t be until the most recent 120 years that the wheel would find its ultimate use in the automobile. This changed the world for humankind, creating a truly mobile race of people.
It could be said this invention led to the next: the airplane. After that, the following century would be a blur with all manner of transportation inventions, and along with them a litany of application-specific objects.
One such object was the pilot’s watch. Not to be confused with the original “pilot–style” watches, which were large, easy to read and usually the result of adding a strap to a pocket watch, these timepieces came from the need for a pilot, driver, or operator to easily check the current time without pulling out a pocket watch or taking his or her hands off the controls.
In essence, a new form factor was created, something that could be read from a sideways position, the position your arm tended to be in while operating such newfangled machines. This “real” pilot’s watch is more commonly known today as a driver’s watch thanks to a variety of them produced in the 1970s that became synonymous with sports cars and modern design.
With the advent of quartz timekeeping technology, however, the need for these watches waned as digital clocks could be added to almost any surface, like the dashboard. But thanks to some very passionate people over at Romain Jerome, and the inspiration from the newest form of transportation – the spaceship – comes one of the newest watches of this style.
It is appropriately called the Spacecraft.
Released prior to Baselworld 2013, the Romain Jerome Spacecraft ticks every box for a WIS in search of cutting-edge design and top-notch mechanics, not to mention the desire for something more than a little different.
You love it or you hate it
Because the Spacecraft is like many other pieces by Romain Jerome (or MB&F or Urwerk), you are likely to either love it (which I do) or you hate it.
Sadly, I wish people could see the innate beauty and craftsmanship behind every watch (including some of the more questionable ones even I have seen) because happiness can be derived from many things when preconceived ideas are laid aside.
But I don’t even have to harp on about the Spacecraft because all I need do is mention two names: designer Eric Giroud and watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. Yeah, those guys. Men behind numerous iconic timepieces and movements, the duo collaborated with Romain Jerome CEO Manuel Emch to create this watch as a new departure for Romain Jerome in a way that still felt wholly familiar to the brand’s “DNA.”
So what did these men do? Well, let’s take a look at the outside first, and save the best for last.
The design of the Spacecraft is an evolved form of the vintage-style pilot’s or driver’s watch. It is made from titanium with numerous finishes creating a futuristic and interstellar feel. Polished titanium inserts sit on DLC-coated titanium, which surrounds yet another titanium case holding the movement.
The lugs attach to the bottom while trapezoidal and multi-angular sapphire crystals allow you to peer into the hour and minute indications, which sit on different planes. The hours peek out at you from the front of the case while the minutes rotate on the top.
The entire package resembles a crew transport shuttle that one might find at a distant outpost at the edge of the solar system.
Decidedly Agenhor on the inside
This shuttle happens to transport a wonderful Agenhor movement inside as well. It all begins with the idea of a linear jump hour mechanism with retrograde function The jump occurs thanks to two snail cams, an activation lever, a set of wheels, a pair of rails, and two more arms that allow the whole mechanism to dance together as the time passes by.
The first step is the connection to the gear train via the center wheel and canon pinion. A snail cam and the minute disc are mounted to this, which will run the rest of the time display.
Riding on the minute snail cam is the activation lever that holds a small hook (and is shaped to look like the letters RJ), which advance the next snail cam. As the minute snail cam and disc approach the top of the hour, the activation lever is charged against a small spring. Once it slips off the highest point of the snail cam at 60 minutes, it falls to its lowest position and as it does, the hook on the top of the lever catches a “tooth” on the underside of the hour snail cam.
The hour snail cam also has a star wheel underneath and a detent spring it rides against to hold it in position, twelve positions for twelve hours. As each hour passes, the hour snail cam slowly rotates, thereby raising the primary hour arm. This hour arm is attached to a wheel that meshes with a second wheel, upon which is mounted the retrograde hour arm. The retrograde hour arm has a slotted end that rides over a screw attached to a carriage slider.
The carriage slider is mounted on two precision rails and guides the carriage across the movement. As each hour passes, and the arm jumps positions, the slider (along with its mounted indicator shield) passes behind a sapphire crystal that has been back-printed with cutouts of numbers one through twelve.
Once the arms, and preceding cams and wheels, reach the final position at 12:00, both arms and activation levers slip off the snail cams to the lowest position, resetting the mechanism for the next half day.
While it may sound complicated, it is actually a very elegant solution for a difficult-to-engineer jumping linear hour indicator with retrograde action. I, for one, absolutely loved to see inside this piece and behold this incredible mechanism.
And that is all thanks to Agenhor and the men behind it, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his son Laurent. They and their team delivered another truly great mechanism. Naturally, it would be less than stellar in the eyes of the public without the imaginative and cohesive case design of Eric Giroud, the architect behind the visuals of a great many pieces you see today.
As a transportation accessory for the next century, I absolutely lust for the Spacecraft and hope to be able to have the pleasure to work on one someday simply to examine more closely the construction and the mechanism that has pleased me so.
But until then, a breakdown!
• Wowza Factor * 9.53 Its name implies it all, yet the mechanism is what really wows.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 101.3 gn » 993.413m/s2 More than a hundred Gs of force, thanks to the warp-ten that this Spacecraft is going, should keep you lusting all night long.
• M.G.R. * 66.22 Highly modified base movement with an incredible Agenhor construction; it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this.
• Added-Functionitis * N/A Again and again my favorite pieces tell me nothing other than the time. And do I care? Nope. You can skip the Gotta-HAVE-That cream, but we all know you still do…
• Ouch Outline * 10.97 – Frostbite On Your Tongue From Licking An Ice Pole. Many people around the world will have no clue what I am talking about, but those from the frostier climates will understand. Pain. But it might just be worth it for this piece!
• Mermaid Moment * That Case…No Wait, That Jump Hour! Jump hour mechanisms hold a special place in my heart, and I need to call a priest for this one.
• Awesome Total * 744 Add the number of pieces for the Spacecraft and Spacecraft Black (99+25) and multiply by the three brains behind the piece (Giroud, Emch, and Wiederrecht) and then double the result since there are two editions and you get one hefty awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.romainjerome.ch.
Case: 50 x 44.5 x 18.5 mm, DLC-coated titanium or natural titanium
Movement: automatic RJ2000-A (base ETA 2892) with module by Agenhor
Functions: linear jumping retrograde hour, minutes
Limitation: Limited to 99 in natural titanium and 25 in black DLC-coated titanium (sold out)
Price: 21,900 Swiss francs