In 1985, Svend Andersen and Vincent Calabrese founded the AHCI: Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants. The aim was to help independent watchmakers survive at a time when large brands and quartz watches were dominating the horological world. In 1985 very few people even knew that there was such a thing as independent watchmaking, as advertising and exhibitions (of which there were very few) were far too expensive for them to participate in. Today, 30 years later, the AHCI boasts 35 members and four candidates. Not bad for an organization I once described as “like herding cats.”
Extraordinary engraver Kees Engelbarts loves his skeletonized watches as they do very much showcase his art form. “I wanted to make another kind of skeleton watch,” he says about his latest creation called Tourbillon Organic Skeleton. “Most skeleton watches are, as you know, very symmetric. My plan was to make a skeleton watch without a drawing or plan before starting, by just taking away material from the base plate and bridges that is not needed.”
Emmanuel Bouchet first came to our attention with the incredibly animated Opus 12 for Harry Winston. He has now launched his own brand with Complication 1, which pays homage to the ubiquitous Swiss lever escapement with his own extremely slow-beating, giant Swiss lever escapement placed dial-side. And that’s just the beginning!
For those of you who are regular readers of my “Behind the Lens” series, it’s no secret that my watch pals and I are big fans of independent watchmaking.
Here at Quill & Pad we’re also fans of the independents, prominently including Irish watchmaking brothers John and Stephen McGonigle.
Recently, I had the opportunity to photograph an example of the Tuscar One in Ten owned by a good friend. Let’s take a look at some of the results.
In 2015, the AHCI celebrates thirty years of existence. This is a genuine milestone for any organization, and is really a grand, grand accomplishment for a loose grouping of more than 30 artisans of varying nationality, background, and level of accomplishment. Here we present five beautiful watches by AHCI members we saw at Baselworld.
Timeburner represents the first instance of two AHCI members − Miki Electa and Marc Jenni − publicly working together. Eleta (clockmaker/kinetic artist) came up with the concept and created a functioning prototype, while Jenni (watchmaker) developed and produces the production models. Miki Eleta’s name is on the dial, while the back of the nicely modified Unitas movement is engraved “Powered by Marc Jenni.”
For this edition of Behind the Lens, I’m sharing a series of photographs of one of the great watches of our time, the Philippe Dufour Duality. The Duality, with its linked twin escapements, was originally planned for production in a series of 25 watches. In a turn of events that seems almost unbelievable today, a lack of initial demand eventually led Dufour to limit production to just nine pieces, one of which is owned by a good friend of mine.
Science fiction asks that you remember those that tell you “it can’t be done” are right . . . if you believe them. Never believe them. The watch I want to focus on today is from a brand that always brings its A-game. This brand is a science-fictionalist. This brand is De Bethune. And the watch we’re talking about here is the DB28 GS.
For the past five years, I’ve had the delightful experience of traveling to Switzerland with several friends to experience SIHH week, before finishing up with a Friday night dinner at which we review our impressions of the week by answering what watch we thought was best of show at SIHH; what was the worst watch; what current-production watch that we saw at any event during the week would we buy if money were no object; and what current-production watch did we see that we would buy with our own money?
Brothers John and Stephen McGonigle from Athlone, Ireland are fine examples of the independent spirit, and this is evident in their unique Tuscar timepiece, which features a highly distinctive in-house movement with subtle details reflecting their Irish heritage.