Sensuality & Bell & Ross: Vintage WWI Heure Sautante
What exactly is sensuality?
Now hold on. Before you go running away thinking this is going to be a single guy’s hormone-laced rebuttal to a certain story that has gotten some attention here at Quill & Pad recently (read Sex Sells – But What, For Whom, And To Whom?), rest assured this is not. While I thoroughly enjoyed the aforementioned article, my curiosity is more . . . analytical. In fact, it is downright academic.
Sensuality is a human condition in which a person experiences the enjoyment, expression, or pursuit of physical or emotional pleasure.
While usually relating to sexuality, sensuality is not limited to that narrow focus, instead encompassing all of the ways in which a person can have his or her senses fulfilled. That is the root of word, of course: sense, from the Latin sēnsus, meaning the faculty of feeling or thought, from the earlier sentire, to feel.
Therefore, sensuality is really when your senses are all activated, in a more or less positive way, so that you experience something as having a certain amount of sensuousness to it. In this way a delicious steak, a beautiful song, a warm bath, or an intriguing image can excite one, some, or all of your senses.
Biologists and neurologists have many theories about what and why things can become sensual, while other, very similar things do not. Popular possible causes might include symmetry, asymmetry, light and color, familiar yet slightly imperfect textures and smells, sounds that entice the limbic system, and even cultural conditioning.
It’s understood that things and experiences can be sensual (different things for different people), and yet sensuality can’t ever be wholly objective since everyone has his or her own subjective view due to their own physiological differences.
Those differences allow me to have a sensual reaction to a timepiece that, by all of my previous subjective criteria for awesomazingness, should be nothing more than a very nice watch.
And yet it’s not. Well, it is definitely a very nice watch to be certain. But what it is and isn’t I cannot fully define beyond words of emotion. This timepiece is the Bell & Ross Vintage WWI Heure Sautante.
More specifically, in pink gold
I will try to define the meaning behind the sensuousness, to the best of my ability, by teasing out clues and details that might be the reasoning behind it. But first I should address the fact that I do not find the Bell & Ross Vintage WWI Heure Sautante in platinum to be sensual, while the pink gold version makes me unwittingly lustful.
This comes back to that which I mentioned previously, my subjective criteria for awesomazingness. According to my well-documented and thoroughly scientific scale for rating timepieces, the Heure Sautante in platinum is much more interesting, unique, avant-garde, and theoretically right up my alley. The boxed-out power reserve with a second layer creates visual interest, while the single hand and floating display of information (with the large negative space surrounding the actual usable dial) is a winner.
It is even something that I would design if I wanted a cool watch that deviated from the norm. By all accounts it is an awesome watch and I love it. But since it is a sibling to the pink gold version, and given my psychologically strong attraction to the gold one, it sadly exists as “the other one.”
The chocolate cake at a pie festival
I think the first reason, though very subtle, is that the platinum version is a piece that you could predict I would like, and you would be right. And if the pink gold version didn’t exist, I would not hesitate to extol the virtues of the platinum model (which is absolutely increditastic for its own plethora of reasons). But when you see the perfect slice of chocolate cake while browsing the aisles at a pie festival (and don’t get me wrong, I love pie), you can’t help but take notice.
My initial exposure to this model came through a beautiful image of the Heure Sautante in pink gold. This one below to be exact.
Immediately, I had a visceral reaction that I couldn’t quite explain, but I knew I was hooked. Examining the image under this new context, it seems there is just the right amount of asymmetry happening with the long minute hand throwing the otherwise very balanced case and dial off-balance. The slight protruding of the softly shaped crown adds to the hint of asymmetry.
The other thing that stands out to me now is that this image did not provide a view of the watch head on, like so many other images of watches. It made me feel like I feel was sneaking up on the Heure Sautante, catching it vulnerable.
The play of light across the edge of the crystal, and the contrasted highlights and shadows spreading around the case create textures that remove the expected sterility of reflection and adds imperfection. The visual imperfection creates a discord in my expectation, which causes my thoughts to linger, creating a connection, a bond, with the watch.
Experts suggest this is why certain people can make us become intrigued and aroused in a different way than perfectly symmetrical and beautiful people. They are slightly imperfect, and as such the brain spends excess time attempting to discover the imperfection, providing more time to notice and reinforce attraction.
It is possible that for this reason it took hours of gazing at the images of the Heure Sautante for me to intellectually realize I was looking at one of my favorite complications, a jump hour.
Once that fact clicked, there could be no “other” Heure Sautante in my mind. When I finally saw it in person, it only cemented the physical and emotional sensuality that it made me feel. I was fully sensing that I enjoyed that watch.
It should be stated that this watch really does stand out on its own from the entirety of the Bell & Ross collection. No other piece (aside from the Vintage WWI Regulator) has indices as thin and delicate, and no other piece is as sparsely populated with information – creating a strong juxtaposition with the entirety of Bell & Ross’ product offerings.
On its own
If you take this watch away from its siblings and look at it on its own merits, it really is a clean and beautiful example of modern classic design. Intended to resemble early pocket watch conversions, the Heure Sautante has perfectly sized wire lugs like some vintage models and feels like a drop of liquid gold on your wrist.
The smooth curves and the delicate hands and indices make for a visual and tactile experience that, in this case, could have many sensual and sexual parallels.
I am a sucker for a good example of a jump hour (see The Jump Hour: A Love Story), and this one is exquisite. The typeface is matched to the logo typeface and feels very similar in weight and style to the ampersand directly below. If I have to be critical (which feels separate from my sensual experience), the power reserve words ‘haut’ and ‘bas’ could easily have been replaced with + and – for an even less cluttered dial. This does not seem apparent, but I could opine that the intent of sparse dial decoration could call for even less power reserve indication verbiage.
Typography nerd side note: The ampersand is actually a logogram, with “&” representing the conjunction word “and.” It originated as a ligature of the letters et, Latin for “and.”
The permanent connection
It seems that while I can try to pinpoint my reaction to this watch and understand why it is such a sensual object to me, the reasoning will only ever be conjecture. Unless I suddenly realize why I can feel so strongly for a watch (considering how much fantasticism I can feel about scores of other timepieces) I fear that I will retain an unexplained but truly visceral experience with the Bell & Ross Vintage WWI Heure Sautante is pink gold.
A good friend of mine said it best when she (who has a very strong design sense) first saw it and remarked, “That watch is like sex on the wrist.”
I guess sensuality, and watches, will always have a tendency to bring it back down to sexual energy. But for me, this watch simply excites my senses and creates a desire to observe, understand, cherish, and enjoy. Maybe other people feel the same, if not about this piece, then perhaps their own “slice of chocolate cake.”
For more information, please visit www.bellross.com.
Case: 42 mm, pink gold or platinum
Movement: automatic ETA Caliber 2897 with jump hour module
Functions: jump hours, minutes; power reserve
Limited: 50 pieces in pink gold, 25 pieces in platinum
Price: $26,000 in pink gold, $39,000 in platinum