Back In Black: Romain Gauthier’s Logical One Black
Baselworld 2013 set the stage for Romain Gauthier’s big introduction: Logical One, the watch that propelled his brand to a new level.
And that’s not just my opinion, but also that of the jury of the 2013 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (disclosure: I was a member of that jury), which awarded Logical One a coveted prize when it took home the award for best men’s complication.
In fact, ever since Logical One first appeared in the Romain Gauthier collection, it has been rather difficult to speak to Gauthier at any exhibition or gathering due to the sheer number of admirers and connoisseurs.
It is no wonder that Gauthier is popular; you have rarely met a nicer person – or a smarter engineer.
That’s right, Gauthier is not a watchmaker. Born and bred in Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux, he first trained as an engineer after which he worked as a CNC operator at a component manufacturer in his beloved Swiss valley, which was quite a valuable experience for somebody going on to design and manufacture his own watches. And make no mistake, Romain Gauthier’s business is a true manufacture in every sense of the word.
Philippe Dufour, who is considered by many as the greatest living watchmaker, is a friend to Gauthier, and he has been a big influence on him from the early stages of his eponymous brand: firstly in Gauthier’s decision to develop his own movements, and secondly in the importance placed on an extremely high level of finishing done by hand.
Gauthier shrugs off suggestions that his level of hand-finishing approaches Dufour’s, but his level of perfectionism in terms of finish is certainly up there with the very best.
Complication made logical
Logical One is a masterpiece of complicated mechanics, boasting − as with all of the models in the collection − a level of finishing rivaled only by the likes of Dufour, Greubel Forsey, and Kari Voutlainen. That’s high praise, indeed.
Boasting four patents, Logical One delivers what it promises: a re-imagined complication laid out very logically. “Coming from an engineering background, it appeared strange to have a high-precision machine forced to run at varying power levels,” he described the standard mechanical movement’s mainspring back in 2013. “So I started with the premise that it would be better to have constant energy.”
The most visceral visual aspect of the in-house manufacture caliber that Gauthier invented for the Logical One is the chain and fusee (though without the fusee) taking up the entire left side of the case as seen from the front. This style of constant force system bases upon a vintage technology from the first pocket watches appearing in the Middle Ages.
Gauthier uses it to compensate for the diminishing torque (and thus energy) of the mainspring as it runs down, which is a normal process in a conventional mechanical watch.
However, while the chain and fusee has the advantage of delivering fairly constant force, there are three significant disadvantages to the system: the tiny chains tend to be fragile; the fusee (French for “cone”) takes up a lot of space; and the fragile chain is often under tension at high angles, placing even more stress on the fragile links.
For Logical One, Gauthier’s solution to all of these issues was to replace the fusee with a flat snail cam that takes up much less space in the movement and ensures that the chain is never pulling at an angle.
And to solve the issue of the fragile chain itself, Gauthier developed a completely new type of chain whose links are manufactured in synthetic ruby. Using synthetic ruby – the same material watchmakers used for bearing jewels – for the larger chain links makes it much stronger than traditional fusee chains, with the material additionally reducing friction and wear and tear.
This very modern-style chain and fusee – or to be more accurate, chain and snail cam – is quite different from the cone-shaped fusees of the Logical One’s medieval counterparts, and is even quite different to the modern chain-and-fusee systems that have emerged over the past 21 years in rare wristwatches, beginning in 1994 with the A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon Pour le Mérite (for a most unusual version of this very limited timepiece see The Blue Merit: Grieb & Benzinger Makes An Ultra-Rare A. Lange & Söhne Tourbillon Pour Le Mérite Rarer Still).
Another interesting technical element is the push-button winding system, which takes the place of a conventional crown. This ergonomic and pleasurable element leaves the case design very clean. Additionally, the pusher winds the mainspring on the same plane, which very efficiently transmits the energy created.
The spring barrel receiving the energy created by the button being pushed is lined with synthetic sapphire inserts, something that, like the ruby chain links, significantly reduces friction.
The Logical One’s movement contains a whole microcosm of such minute, commonsensical details aimed at improving the timepiece’s overall performance and precision.
I was quite surprised to see Gauthier introduce a more casual-looking all-black version of this masterpiece at Baselworld 2015, even though its standards fully comply with an haute horlogerie timepiece in his perfectionist vein.
“My goal was to have something contemporary,” Gauthier replied in his patient tone to the quizzical look on my face.
Though I was slightly dubious, the minute I tried it on I knew that the ADLC coating on the titanium case in combination with the blackened visible movement parts and black enamel dials were a real winner, adding just the right amount of contemporary flair without overwhelming.
Gauthier added red stitching to the black alligator nubuck strap to play on the red of the ruby jewels and chain links so prominent on the dial. Tiny red dot markers barely noticeable against the deep black diala add to the look in a subtle way.
But that is not the only place where black plays a prominent role: the darker, modern-looking movement finish is much different from that of the original Logical One; the frosted finish is matter and softer while the bridges are satin-finished, providing play with light to make for an eminently interesting surface.
It is apparent on Logical One that the romanticism of finely finished and aesthetically designed components was in no way forgotten. This all-important step satisfying the aesthetic portion of high watchmaking can only be achieved by hand: to date there is no machine capable of creating internal polished angles to such perfection.
But I suppose if anyone could invent such a gadget, it would be Gauthier.
“I made a black version of my Logical One because I really like it,” Gauthier stresses. “I like the black contrast. I like things with character, and this contemporary look has character.”
And this character is very likely to appeal to today’s “super connoisseurs” who understand how the maker puts his own soul into a product like this. A product that becomes a masterpiece wearing its soul on its sleeve.
For more on Logical One, please see Logical One Secret By Romain Gauthier: But Is It Art?, Heartbeat: Logical One By Romain Gauthier, and for something different Romain Gauthier Celebrates Ten-Year Anniversary With HMS Ten.
For more information, please visit www.romaingauthier.com/logical-one.
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; push winding
Case: ADLC-coated titanium, 43 x 14.2 mm
Movement: in-house manually wound manufacture caliber, 60-hour power reserve, push-button winding, chain-and-snail-cam (“fusee”) constant force system
Price: 98,000 Swiss francs