Why I Bought It: Carpe Diem “Only Watch” By Agenhor And HEAD Genève
“To the donors-bidders, good luck, and make your decisions with your heart!” – H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, Only Watch 2017 catalog
November 2017 made the third consecutive year that I traveled to Geneva to partake of the excitement that is the autumn auction weekend. And it was also here that for the second time I also had the opportunity to attend the biennial Only Watch auction for the benefit of the Monaco Association against Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (see You Are There: Attending The Only Watch Auction 2015 With Patek Philippe for my first visit to this auction).
This time around, I had the good fortune to win the very first lot offered in that day’s auction: the Carpe Diem clock developed by Agenhor in collaboration with design school HEAD Genève.
How Carpe Diem fits my collection
In my pal Terry’s collecting taxonomy, this one is very definitely a patronage piece. Typically when it comes to watches, the idea of patronage is oriented toward supporting the work of independent watchmakers, and that’s definitely the case here. But with the Carpe Diem the concept goes much further.
First, there’s the cause: the Association Monégasque contre les Myopathies (AMM).
Since its foundation in 2001, AMM has contributed more than €25 million to fund research for a cure to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), the fatal muscle disease that in 2016 took the life of Paul Pettavino, son of AMM president and Only Watch organizer Luc Pettavino.
Next, there are the students: the seven teams from HEAD Genève, each of which submitted thoughtful and creative design concepts incorporating the AgenGraphe chronograph movement into an embodiment representing the world of a child suffering from DMD.
I had the privilege of meeting the students and their teachers at the Only Watch auction, and it was a thrill to see their eyes light up as I gave them a few words of heartfelt praise and encouraged them to continue their wonderful work throughout their careers.
Finally, there are the talented watchmakers of Agenhor, the Agenhor design team led by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, and the entire Wiederrecht family, who devoted the time and resources both to work with the HEAD students and to develop and make a timepiece that they then donated for charity.
Why I bought it
“For me, Only Watch represents the celebration of all things that are good in the watch industry today,” – John Reardon, International Head, Christie’s Watch Department, Only Watch 2017 catalog
Certainly, the opportunity to support all of the worthy groups mentioned above was a major motivation behind my purchase of the Carpe Diem, but there were several other factors that influenced my decision to bid and are making my ownership experience a rewarding one.
The event: Watch auctions are exciting events, and this year’s Only Watch auction seemed especially electric to me with an energized crowd, enthusiastic and humor-accented auctioneering by Christie’s veteran Rahul Kadakia, and a large number of splendid watches donated by makers large and small.
I had the benefit of being seated front and center with the group hosted by Patek Philippe. And with the Carpe Diem as the leadoff lot in the auction, I was resolved to bid as vigorously as possible and perhaps contribute a bit to setting a positive tone for the remainder of the lots.
And, at an event this big and with lots of my friends in attendance or watching online, I was particularly determined to win on this lot, especially as I’d actively telegraphed my interest in it before the auction!
The designs and the process behind them: The winning design was the unanimous choice of the selection jury; at the same time, I found each and every one of the student entries compelling in its own way.
I showed one of the competing designs above; here’s another that I particularly liked, with its twin pillars representing the “indispensable and reassuring” presence of family that supports and protects the fragile child.
One of the hallmarks of the competition and realization process was an element that is central to the success of Agenhor: collaboration. The Agenhor team approached HEAD regarding the initial collaboration, and by the time the project was completed a significant number of HEAD faculty and lecturers had contributed their time. The team was also supported by an assortment of outside participants including packaging firm Technew, dial maker Clamax, and movement component manufacturer Mecawatch among others.
One of the nicest bits of the book that accompanied the completed Carpe Diem clock was a signed photo of “The Team” behind this splendid collaboration that included everyone from students and teachers to watchmakers and even Luc Pettavino himself.
The book: Speaking of the book, how about it! The book that I received with the completed clock contains the complete story of the Agenhor-HEAD Only Watch project, with acknowledgements of all of the participants and drawings and explanations of each of the seven entries.
I’ve been fascinated to read and see the different directions that the student teams took based on the same design brief, and for me the book is a wonderful opportunity to peek behind the curtain at a process in which many design directions were proposed but, in the end, only one could be taken.
The presentation: One of the top highlights of SIHH week this year for me was our Wednesday afternoon visit to Agenhor to take delivery of the Carpe Diem, which (like many of the other Only Watches) had been returned to its maker following the November auction for some final finishing touches.
The Wiederrecht family welcomed our small group and then presented the finished clock. Jean-Marc was also kind enough to point out some of the design and operating features of the AgenGraphe movement and page through the clock’s book with me.
While we were talking, my pal Allen noticed an unexpected feature of the Carpe Diem design: the ability to see one’s friends across the table!
The timepiece itself
While the people and experiences involved are clearly a very substantial part of why I bought and love the Carpe Diem, the timepiece itself has tremendous merit as well.
First, it absolutely fulfills its design brief by reminding us of the beauty and zest for life trapped within the fragile bodies of the children who suffer from DMD. The monolithic aluminum case encloses the clock, but at the same time protects it. And through its circular apertures allows us to see what lies within.
As we look at the dial, while we get a blurry sense of times past as well as future through the frosted Plexiglas shield, all that we can see clearly is the present time as shown by the outer hour and minute rings and the inner hour, minute, and second rings of the chronograph; both remind us to “seize the moment.”
Second, there’s the uniqueness factor. While all of the pieces contributed to Only Watch are technically unique in one way or another, the Carpe Diem stands out for me because:
- It contains the very first production example of the revolutionary – and absolutely gorgeous – AgenGraphe central chronograph movement (see The AgenGraphe By Agenhor: The Most Significant Chronograph Since . . . Since The Invention Of The Chronograph).
- It is the one and only timepiece that is branded with the name of movement developer Agenhor rather than with the name of one of Agenhor’s brand clients; and, furthermore, Wiederrecht assures me that this will always remain the case.
- The display of time is unique for an AgenGraphe timepiece with all of the indications shown on a series of concentric rings that pass under the bright yellow demarcation line rather than with hands.
- Agenhor is known for including secret signatures and other identifying touches within its timepieces, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find one on this piece as well.
- I’d be very surprised if there is ever another desk clock made that contains the AgenGraphe movement!
- The technical excellence and inventiveness that one expects from an Agenhor-developed timepiece is very much in evidence here.
- Everything about the watch is not only visible, but magnified, as the design of the surrounding sphere makes the details of the dial and the movement’s back and edges sharply evident to the viewer.
- The pusher feel on the chronograph is positive, and the chronograph’s seconds disk moves off with no apparent hesitation or jitter; and while the return to zero requires the user to hold in the return pusher long enough for the heavy disks to spin back to their resting spots, the return itself is smooth and fun to watch.
- The instantaneous minute and hour indications of the chronograph snap over briskly, and it’s also fun to turn the sphere over and watch the central snail cam and lever that control the instant minute change do their job.
- The winding feel (more about that in a moment) is light yet positive
I’m not sure it’s really a complaint, but an inherent limitation of the Carpe Diem design is that the automatic winding aspect of the AgenGraphe movement is very difficult to bring into play given that we’re talking about a desk clock here.
I feel a bit guilty every time I use the crown to wind it up, and I’ve actually taken to picking it up and turning it with a gloved hand during phone conversations – a bit of a horological fidget spinner, if you will.
And I’d classify the movement finishing as solid but not sensational; then again, that’s not really the point of this timepiece.
The bottom line
Great people, great cause, great design, great timekeeper! I feel really fortunate to own this one and to play my own very small part in supporting the search for a cure to DMD.
“May hope continue to prevail.” – Luc Pettavino
Quick Facts Carpe Diem Only Watch by Agenhor and HEAD Genève
Case: 120 mm aluminum cube case that converts to a display stand; movement encased in 84 mm transparent sphere with magnifying elements
Dial: hours, minutes; chronograph hours, minutes, seconds on five coaxial discs
Movement: automatic AgenGraphe Caliber AGH-6361-OW with Agenhor, HEAD Genève, and Only Watch markings
Functions: hours, minutes; 60-minute and 60-hour instantaneously jumping chronograph
Price: CHF 30,000 bid at Only Watch 2017, Geneva
Production: unique piece, delivered January 2018
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