Stunning lights and visceral sights are what await the patient traveler who ventures north in search of the Aurora Borealis. The glowing reds, greens, blues, and violets come from ionized atmospheric particles interacting with protons and electrons that come whizzing toward earth in the solar wind or from the Van Allen belts surrounding the planet.
This scientific phenomenon can occur at almost any time, and it is best viewed from the higher latitudes on the dark side of the planet.
But the travelers exploring the southern tip of our planet should not feel left out, as the phenomenon’s twin, the Aurora Australis can be seen from the lower latitudes in South America, Australia, New Zealand, and, of course, Antarctica.
These displays of the sun’s radiation and our planet interacting with it are definitely mesmerizing as our own Ian Skellern will attest to, having gotten glimpses on his trip to Jackson Hole in September 2015 (see Give Me Five Reasons To Visit Jackson Hole, Wyoming).
Having grown up in the northern latitudes of Minnesota, I have seen the spectacle on occasion myself, albeit very low on the horizon and washed out due to nearby city lights. It is a life goal of mine to see both the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis in all their glory, and I urge anyone who has not seen them in person to make the journey at some point. The effect on your emotions is striking.
But until then, I will need a portable substitute; something I can keep with me at all times to remind me of the great polar light shows. The perfect object would be strapped to me, in a place where I am used to things being attached most of the time.
Hmm, what to do?
I know! I could wear the Laurent Ferrier Galet Traveler Boréal to remind me of the spectacle of lights and provide the time as I travel the globe! The watch would be both a comfortable companion and a subtle reminder of the beauty of the northern lights, thanks to some new features never before seen in a Laurent Ferrier timepiece.
A change of classics
It all began in the fall of 2015 as the watch world began to come together in support of Duchenne muscular dystrophy research thanks to the biennial Only Watch auction. Forty-four brands participated by donating one unique piece each to be auctioned off with the proceeds going to the research (see Only Watch 2015: Full List With Photos Of The Unique Piece Watches At Auction).
Laurent Ferrier was one such participating brand, though its offering was an entirely new creation rather than a regular model made different by adding colored hands or the like.
Laurent Ferrier presented the Galet Square Only Watch with an entirely new cushion-shaped stainless steel case design harking back to the 1930s, a clean sector dial, and an onion-style crown.
Needless to say, collectors swooned.
Jump forward to SIHH 2016 and Laurent Ferrier introduces two new models based on the stainless steel Galet Square Only Watch. The two models, Galet Square Boréal and Galet Traveller Boréal, incorporate the sector dial design, but the newness didn’t stop there. Also on display were a new set of hands, inspired from the original assegai hands, and an entirely new material in use for the Genevan watchmaker: Super-LumiNova.
Now Super-LumiNova is not really a big deal because it’s everywhere. Okay, well it isn’t quite everywhere because it had never been used on a Laurent Ferrier wristwatch until now.
The brand’s watches are quite understated and classically styled, and Super-LumiNova is usually more at home on a sports watch than a Galet. But it seems that something as incongruous as lume, which shouldn’t normally make sense on a dressy Laurent Ferrier watch, now makes an incredible amount of sense as you’ll see.
I have always loved the styling of Laurent Ferrier’s pieces. The Galet and the more recently released Galet Square are just superbly made watches with class that lasts.
The hands are gorgeous, the hour indicators are extremely finely crafted, and the proportions are spot on.
Plus the movement . . . ooohh, the movement. We’ll come back to that.
So when something like the Boréal comes along, my design understanding is thrown on its head and I have to look at the brand in a whole new light.
The sector dial is fantabulous just by itself, and when it is paired with the base styling inherent in Laurent Ferrier, a new classic emerges. Borrowing a bit from the Panerai handbook and making the sector marks rounded on the ends instead of square is a very small difference that leaves a large effect.
And in case it’s not clear what a sector dial is, it is a dial with a ring (but not a chapter ring) around some, or all, of its circumference. Extending from that ring, most often on the outside and not the inside of it, are lines dividing the dial into portions, or sectors.
These lines are usually different lengths or widths for the quarter and the five-minute markers. The softly rounded sector indexes match the aesthetic of the Galet, which means “pebble” in French, keeping the style from getting disjointed.
What makes the sectors even more special is that they are not simple pad-printed indications; the entirety of the markings are filled with Super-LumiNova and glow very brightly in low lights. The contrast with the delicate styling and the very modern design orientation is the real show stopper.
Dark and grey all day
When a glowing element is added, it is very easy to get a design that is too busy. But with the Boréal, any details that are required besides the Super-LumiNova sector are added in the least disruptive way possible. The dial itself is black with fine vertical brushing. Added to the dial are the Laurent Ferrier logo, a chapter ring, and the seconds subdial details, all in a very un-contrasting dark slate grey.
Unless you are specifically looking for them, these elements generally disappear into the background and keep the dial from feeling cluttered. This allows the Super-LumiNova sectors to dominate the design and provides a basis for the name Boréal.
The Laurent Ferrier Galet Traveler Boréal glows on your wrist like the Aurora Borealis glows in the sky, only this is a glow you can take with you.
Hopping time zones
With the Galet Traveller Boréal that is exactly what Laurent Ferrier wants you to do: hop through time zones and explore the world, mostly at night so as to enjoy the Super-LumiNova across the dial and on the hands.
Oh, did I forget to mention that? The new-style hands are larger skeletonized-and-filled-with-lume versions of the original hands that are just perfect for displaying the time while watching the twilight sky.
So while you jump those time zones with the Traveller Boréal you can adjust for your local time either forward or backward using the pushers on the left side of the case. The home time window is a slowly moving 24-hour disc at 9 o’clock, which you could also choose to use as a 24-hour day/night indicator or simply a GMT indication.
Opposite the home time window over at 3 o’clock is the date window, which updates as you adjust the local time via the pushers.
Even with the dual time zone, date, and sub seconds dial, the face of the Galet Traveller Boréal continues to feel crisp and clean. The absolute best part about the new design direction is the adherence to what made Laurent Ferrier awesomazing in the first: spectacular movements.
Caliber 230.01, as seen from the flip side is, has always been absolutely jaw-dropping. The micro rotor supported by a beautiful bridge stands proud and much more stable than the usual cantilevered rotor. In an opening directly adjacent to the micro rotor is the balance, which receives a double-direct impulse on each oscillation thanks to the natural escapement.
The ability to use a natural escapement made with silicon elements is largely aided by advances in fabrication techniques of which Laurent Ferrier takes full advantage. The silicon pallet lever is self-lubricating, and the two escape wheels are made from a phosphorous-nickel alloy for increased wear resistance. Using the LIGA manufacturing process ensures for exacting precision standards in the phosphorous-nickel elements.
A new star in the sky?
The Laurent Ferrier Galet Traveller Boréal is not so much a new star, but rather the excited glow of a young brand finding its groove. The difference in this piece versus its predecessors is that it takes a risk to expand its audience and, hopefully, wider recognition.
Inside the watch community Laurent Ferrier might be a known player, but the glow from the Boréal is sure to make that glow spread across the globe. And now it does it with some new style.
Breakin’ it down since the beat came to town!
- Wowza Factor * 9.55 It made myself and many other people say the exact same thing: wowza!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 79.85 » 783.061 m/s2 This is the perfect watch for late-night lusting because you can stay up with the glow from that awesome Super-LumiNova dial detail.
- M.G.R. * 66.2 Awesome micro rotor, natural escapement, and incredible finishing . . . what more can you ask for really?
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate Whoo hoo! A watch with some complication by definition! The date function, super functional, and the second time zone all make for some standard strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the heavenly horological swelling.
- Ouch Outline * 9.85 – Hitting both funny bones at once! Yikes, that is a lot of awkward pain shooting through your extremities. But for this watch, I’d gladly feel the weird tingles!
- Mermaid Moment * One time zone change! The push buttons for changing the time zone are so lovely that putting a deposit on 40 white doves seems like a good idea
- Awesome Total * 800 Multiply the power reserve (80 hours) by the water resistance in meters (30) and divide the result by the balance frequency (3 hz) for an absolutely glowing awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.laurentferrier/galet-traveller-boreal.
Quick Facts Galet Traveller Boréal
Case: 41 x 12.64 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Caliber 230.01 with micro rotor and natural-style escapement with silicon and LIGA elements
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; date, second time zone via 24-hour disc
Price: 54,000 Swiss francs / $58,000
Also published on Medium.