Graff MasterGraff Perpetual Calendar: Technically Fabulous Even Without The Sparkles
by Martin Green
When gemstones and haute horlogerie meet, one of two things can happen: the watch either becomes a fitting tribute to Liberace or the result is something fabulous thanks to the synergy.
One of the reasons I love visiting the Graff stand at Baselworld is because since the entering the market in 2008, this brand has managed to position its watches in the “something fabulous” category .
Is this surprising? Not really.
Since founding his company in 1960, Laurence Graff has seen it evolve into a powerhouse of knowledge and expertise when it comes to gemstones. His success enabled him to secure a steady supply of the best stones, and much like Fabergé he and his employees know what to do with them (see Fabergé & Gemfields’s Vertical Integration Results In Colorfully Synergistic Lady Libertine I).
The result is always tantalizing to the senses since the majority of Graff watches boast impressive complications – as does the latest addition, the MasterGraff Perpetual Calendar, which combines a perpetual calendar with a flying tourbillon.
Graff does not play marketing games by claiming to be a full blown manufacture when it isn’t. Graff knows its strength and it doesn’t lie in movement manufacturing. Where Fabergé utilizes the technical capabilities of Jean-Marc Wiederrecht’s Agenhor, Graff teams up with Manufacture Hautes Complications, also known as MHC.
The founder and director of MHC is Pierre Favre, a master watchmaker who spent 25 years of his career at Patek Philippe before joining BNB Concept. After the unexpected bankruptcy of BNB Concept in 2010, one might think that Favre would be cured from venturing out on his own. Yet knowing that his skills were still very much sought after by different brands and harboring a burning desire to work on highly complicated movements made in small series, he decided to found MHC the same year.
MHC’s first customer was Graff, who asked him to develop what would become the movement for the MasterGraff Tourbillon Minute Repeater.
The same sophistication that was found in that watch can be found in the MasterGraff Perpetual Calendar. It packs its punch within a relatively thin movement only 7.72 mm in height; and within that svelte space it houses all the parts needed for the perpetual calendar as well as the flying tourbillon, even leaving room for a 2.4 mm high offset micro-rotor crafted in 22-karat gold to wind the automatic movement.
People often jump to the conclusion that jewelry brands that make watches lack constraint. A true connoisseur knows that these companies actually teach constraint since nothing is easier for a designer then to pave each watch with as many gemstones as possible.
They make those watches because there is a small market for them, and the press and public alike also seem to love being spellbound by the value of such sparkling items.
Graff also offers the MasterGraff Perpetual Calendar in a version with a sunray guilloche dial rather than being gem-set. In this configuration, the watch is as understated as you can expect from a 46 mm watch featuring serious complications.
The perpetual calendar is easy to read with a window on the left side of the dial indicating the day, a large date at the center of the dial, and a window on the right displaying the month. A small subdial snugly positioned up against the flying tourbillon tells you whether or not it’s a leap year.
It gets a whole lot more interesting when you opt for a gemstone-set version with skeleton dial. Oh, sure, legibility suffers, but the fun increases! The half-translucent top part of the dial shows you the inner workings of the perpetual calendar including the disks for the large date that are crafted using a highly complex scientific electroforming process.
It really opens up the whole watch, showing off its technical prowess.
The diamond-set versions are nice, but it’s the emerald variation that I find most breathtaking. Set in platinum, the vibrant green color of this gemstone adds a color contrast to the watch that it doesn’t necessarily need, but one that makes it all the more appetizing.
The bezel and lugs of the watch seemed to have been crafted from single pieces of emerald, but this is just an optical illusion thanks to Graff’s exceptional expertise. They indeed comprise separate stones, yet a highly sophisticated setting technique almost renders the borders of the individual stones invisible.
And that shows off at least as much technical prowess as much as the movement!
For more information, please visit www.graffdiamonds.com.
Case: platinum, 46 mm, set with 73 emeralds totalling 4.65 ct.
Movement: automatic Graff Caliber 7 (MHC base) with 50-hour power reserve and one-minute flying tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; perpetual calendar with day, date, month, and leap year indicator
Price: on request
Also published on Medium.