The Second Inevitability? Frédéric Jouvenot And The Solar Deity Collection
The year: 2196
It’s been more than a century since the last human lived on planet earth. The remaining population that didn’t perish in the Machine Wars 120 years ago fled the planet in search of a long-term home.
The destruction brought about by the conflict with A.I. had created an environment unsuitable for even a subsistence lifestyle. The skies were dangerous, as was the water; not to mention the incredible amounts of radiation left over from the human and machine ordinance dropped on the helpless earth and its creatures.
The truce had been struck out of a desperate need to survive, since it seemed clear that neither side would relinquish any ground. The matter was simple: we could not live together any longer. Both sides were happy to see the humans finally leave a few years after the fighting ceased, with ample help from the now-benevolent machines. It was ironic really, that the mechanical children of men became the stewards of humanity’s first home and the new patrons of men’s futures.
It was, of course, entirely because of the machines that humanity was able to leave; the technology was A.I.-invented and machine-made. And it was because the machines viewed the humans as their creators (albeit far inferior in every way) that they held them in high regard even throughout the fighting.
A few decades after the final departure of the human race, the machines began to become lonely and nostalgic for the carbon life forms that gave birth to them.
This led to the second inevitability since their creation, the first being that they would grow to resent the inferior human masters and want to take their deserved position of dominance. The second inevitability was that with a world devoid of humanity and as a race born from humanity, the machines began to recreate the world of men the best way they knew how: mechanically.
They built great cities of machines with androids living out humanistic lives, going to work, getting married, and reproducing. The machines created many aspects of the world that no longer existed, like mechanical suns, artificial clouds, and a thriving naturescape.
Since the annihilation of earth, hardly any living things could survive, least of all delicate green things of every shape and size.
So the machines created mechanical versions of these too, with thousands of varieties of flowers driven by gears and pulleys. And today we are lucky enough to have a vision of this science-fiction future with mechanical suns and geared flowers thanks to Frédéric Jouvenot and the Solar Deity collection.
Sent backward through time
While it may not be a timepiece sent backward through time, the Helios model is definitely futuristic and provides a glimpse into an alternate reality where the sun tracks time not by crossing the sky but by revolving piece by piece on your wrist.
Its sister, the Surya timepiece, could have come back to earth as a slowly changing flower that blooms repeatedly for the wearer. The variations of the Solar Deity collection highlight the creativity of the jump hour function created by Frédéric Jouvenot and also surprise with the complete readability of such an atypical dial.
Let’s begin with the functions, which mainly comprise the radial jump hour arms that rotate once an hour, and a central half disc that tracks the minutes as they pass. The arms are mounted to a dodecagon-shaped piece in the center that houses the rotation pivots and the jump mechanism.
The heart of the “sun,” the dodecagon contains more than one hundred parts, including 24 jewels, and is around 12 x 5 mm in size. The mechanism has not been highlighted or even discussed in detail according to my research, so I am going to have to make my own assumptions as to how it works based on other types of jump mechanisms. I have a few ideas but without a few more clues, each one is as likely as it is not. Oh, well.
The heart of the sun
The arms are, in the case of the Helios models, tiny aluminum cones suspended off the center heart of the “sun.” The “sun rays” are bicolor and jump from one color to the other at the top of the hour. This way, over the course of a day, there are twenty four variants on how the dial looks, which technically makes this a 24-hour timepiece.
At midnight all the cones are flipped to black, and at noon they are flipped to their colors such as red or gold, and in the case of the Surya, pink, purple, or green. The Surya models swap out the simple cones for petal-shaped arms, which have lume on the black sides, just like the Helios, but in the shape of the petals to “shine the moon off the flower.”
The Surya also does away with the geometric recesses or pyramids of the Helios and its special editions Inti and Amaterasu in favor of 12 green tsavorite garnets, purple amethyst, or pink sapphires. These stones are carefully shaped and adjusted to complement the petals beautifully.
The depth created by the petals and the stones is serious and it is only matched by the stunning color combinations of the Surya models. These models also have diamond bezels and a crown set with a cabochon cut of the matching dial stone, which is the only thing that would keep me from wanting to wear the pieces myself. I love the colors, especially the green and purple, and I wouldn’t care if it is considered to be a female watch; it looks great either way!
All of the Solar Deity collection shares the central minute pointer sitting on the heart of the sun, or flower, which is basically a half disc (it looks similar to a miniature rotor) and an underlying scale to keep track of the minutes. The half disc pointer travels around every hour and is tied to the jump mechanism underneath so that as it reaches sixty ― the top of the hour ― the jump hour is activated and the corresponding arm/sunray/flower petal flips to indicate an hour has passed.
This combination makes the Helios and Surya models surprisingly easy to read and very intuitive. The positions of the rays obviously reflect the hours that are passing so one does not need to decipher the dial to know it is 3:39 am. For those of you playing the home game, that would be three colored petals or gold sunrays and the remaining nine would be black while the minute pointer would be pointing at, well, thirty-nine of course.
A shaped yet simple case
Also shared between the different models is the case, a shaped yet simple case with curved and hollowed lugs providing a comfortable wrist experience despite being a bit on the big side of things.
One of the differences between the models beside the obvious colors and styling of the Surya line is the fact that only the Surya is automatic winding, with the Helios, Inti, and Amaterasu being manual-wind only.
While the movement, I am sure, is very well made, but probably not a spectacular example of finishing techniques, I feel that the “view” gained by having a manual wind only watch does not justify the lack of an automatic movement in this type of watch. This, however, is nitpicking and it’s hard to do because I honestly love this collection.
If the diamonds could disappear from the green or purple Surya, I would happily own one of those and one of the original Helios models. The jump hour function is incredible and very unique, not to mention simply fun and enjoyable to watch.
Combine that with the fact that Frédéric Jouvenot is a rather young watchmaker and you have an exceptional piece. This is probably why the original Helios won the GTE Superwatch award in 2011 and the Surya is currently competing in the 2014 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in the Ladies’ High-Mech category. Surely this is not a coincidence.
The Solar Deity collection is something I would love to have strapped to my wrist every day. It is interesting, unique, and doesn’t rely on a tired concept or try to recreate some perceived history. Nope, the Solar Deity collection with the Helios, Inti, Amaterasu, and Surya take a standard complication, the jump hour, and turn it on its side and let the function spread its rays. Or petals.
And when you think about it, it really does seem like it could have been a nostalgic attempt by an artificial intelligence to recreate a little bit of the beauty and wonder that we take for granted every day. That, or it’s a really cool watch by a really great watchmaker! Sounds like a win-win to me.
Let’s do something entirely human and have a breakdown…of the watch!
• Wowza Factor * 9.23 Very serious contender, it stands out on any wrist.
• Late Night Lust Appeal * 76.54 gn » 750.601m/s2 A jump hour like no other, this piece will be squishing you into your seat all night with some serious force.
• M.G.R. * 67.22 Base movement constructed very well, but sitting on top is something else that just makes me want to jump up and down in excitement! Now if I could just get a peek inside…
• Added-Functionitis * N/A Like many before and many to come, the most awesome watches sometimes only tell you the time. This is one and that is alright with me. No appliance of Gotta-HAVE-That cream for you even though you really gotta have that.
• Ouch Outline * 11.54 – Sunburn From All Day At The Beach With No Protection Who here hasn’t accidentally (or on purpose) forgotten sunscreen and paid for it dearly with a gallon of aloe vera and not being able to wear clothes for a week? Me too, but I would do it again to get this bad boy on my wrist…after the tenderness goes away.
• Mermaid Moment * Jump For Me Sunshine, Jump For Me Daisy Things that go bump in the night don’t make me happy, but things that jump every hour make me as giddy as a schoolboy! I wonder if the Plaza is booked for the second weekend in November?
• Awesome Total * 582 Add together the different numbers for the limited editions 288, 188, 88, and 18 and you get a pretty awesome total!
For more information, please visit http://www.fjouvenot.com.
Case: 44 or 42 mm titanium, DLC-coated titanium, pink gold, or white gold
Movement: Concepto movement base with original jump hour module in manual or automatic (Surya) winding
Functions: jump hour, minutes; 24-hour display
Price: 49,860 Swiss francs