Logical One Secret By Romain Gauthier: But Is It Art?
by Ian Skellern
“Art.” What is it?
Well, one thing it is is the latest buzzword in watchmaking right now, with many high-end brands either labeling watches “horological art” or using watches as literal canvases for art.
Most would consider miniature painting or hand-engraving as arts, but what about the art of guilloche, the art of enameling or the art of gem setting?
When (if ever) does great skill transcend craft and become art?
Can horology really be considered art?
And what exactly is art?
The older Latin meaning of art roughly translates to “skill” or “craft.” That is an easy and uncontroversial definition, but unfortunately we have many more.
At its roots, art is a form of communication. The message is whatever the artist intended to express, and the meaning is shaped by the materials and techniques employed. However, like all communication between people not speaking the same language − and often even when they do − messages are often misunderstood.
Marcel Duchamp’s urinal and Andy Warhol’s Heinz Tomato Ketchup Box generated powerful messages (and considerable controversy); however, they showed comparatively little craft. But both are widely considered art.
The Oxford dictionary defines art as the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
The Oxford dictionary’s definition certainly implies that a watch created with great skill and imagination in the expectation that others would appreciate said skill and imagination is art.
Art for art’s sake
It’s fairly obvious that art can be whatever an individual wants it to be and anyone can consider himself or herself an artist (though that doesn’t mean others will consider them as artists).
Romain Gauthier’s Logical One
If we allow that horology at its finest can indeed be art, then I have no problem accepting Romain Gauthier’s Logical One as art. While beauty may be in the eye of the beholder (and mine sees beauty in Logical One), there is no denying Gauthier’s fertile imagination in reinventing the chain and fusee, eliminating the ubiquitous winding crown, and even improving the mainspring barrel.
Standing on the shoulders of giants
Message: don’t just repeat past masters, but strive to build on their legacy to do better.
With Logical One, the message is understood loud and clear. So clear, in fact, that Logical one was awarded the prize for Best Men’s Complication by the jury of the 2013 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, a jury comprising a number of artists and art historians (as well as Quill & Pad co-founder, Elizabeth Doerr).
So what do you do when you have an award-winning watch considered by many as a piece of horological art?
Well in regards to Logical One, Gauthier decided to add more art.
Anybody else is unlikely to have even considered adding more art as an option because, without a dial or even a large movement plate or bridge on the front or back, where on earth might additional art go?
That didn’t faze Gauthier: the offset time indication offered the possibility of a half-hunter cover, enabling a large “canvas” for artwork, easy reading of the time and, at the push of a button discreetly set into the case band at 4 o’clock, full appreciation of the top of the stunning movement.
Introducing Logical One Secret
The beautifully crafted cover appears to be − and in fact is − fully integral to the case. The cut-out for the time indications is very elegantly done and the cover curves slightly, following the lines of the sapphire crystal underneath.
The fact that the cover is designed and engineered to fit so neatly and closely over the crystal enables it to be thicker than it otherwise might be, without adding significant height to the case: Logical One Secret measures just 1.7 mm more than Logical One.
The art of gem setting
The first Logical One Secret pays homage to the art of gem setting with an incredible 181 invisibly set baguette-cut diamonds totaling 6.9 carats on the cover and lugs.
Invisibly set diamonds have to be carefully grooved, with each cut running the very real risk of breaking the stone. However, while invisibly set diamonds are very difficult to cut and set, the effect is simply spectacular as, without the encumbrance of a visible frame, the gems look larger and light reflects and refracts unimpeded in a scintillating explosion of brilliance.
Naturally the type of artwork able to be displayed on the “canvas” that is the cover of the Logical One Secret is limited only by the client’s and artist’s imaginations: gem setting, miniature painting, engraving, enamel and guilloche are just a few possibilities.
Logical One Secret is absolutely stunning, but is it art? Well, I for one would be happy to see it on exhibition in the MOMA. What about you?
For more information, please visit www.romaingauthier.com/logical-one.
Functions and indications: hours, minutes, small seconds; push button opening half hunter cover
Case: red gold (case material at client’s request), 43 x 15.9 mm
Cover and lugs: 181 invisibly set baguette diamonds, 6.9 carats total
Movement: in-house manufacture caliber, 60 hours power reserve, push-button winding, chain-and-fusee (without fusee) style constant force system
Price: CHF 365,000 excluding tax for the red gold diamond version pictured in this article
Also published on Medium.