Schwarz-Etienne Roswell 08: Extraterrestrial Inspiration
Creating a new and unique product or design can be difficult, especially if the inspiration is something from a different area of industry. Imagine a car designed to resemble some iconic architecture or an electronic gadget created to emulate something from nature.
The juxtaposition of purpose and function can make creating something with outside influences a tricky process. In brainstorming for a new product or design, inspiration boards are often used that show references to shapes and features the designers like, which can be a helpful tool to communicate feelings and ideas to others.
However, the features of the product being designed often struggle to conform to those found on unrelated products, creating translation issues – like a designer trying to match the curve of a car’s hood and the roof line of a concert hall. Shapes could just be copied to the new object, but the purpose of a feature on one item can often prove meaningless in a new context.
Context is the struggle of good design: if it gets watered down, the inspiration is hard to see present in the final object. In the worst instances, the object loses direction as shapes are forced into an incorrect context and the result is messy.
Good designers avoid the latter by leaning toward a simplified design that may only hint at the inspiration to prevent confusion. Many good designs have been born this way, though they sometimes lack an extremely strong direction.
Such simplified ideals can be seen in some products’ first iterations: a simple design that doesn’t push too hard to be distinctive. Playing it safe allows the designers to tweak, twist, push, and modify the features until something more unique emerges and the product finds its direction.
This happens everywhere. Even in the watch industry, where some first versions of timepieces are less extreme than later versions simply because the designers slowly began to stretch their designs over further iterations.
A great example of this is the Schwarz-Etienne Roswell, which sees its newest iteration, the Roswell 08, take the original direction and really make it its own.
The Roswell collection already had a great set of bones, albeit a bit safe, but the newest versions have honed in on the extraterrestrial inspiration and really found their stride.
Building on solid design
Schwarz-Etienne released the Roswell collection in 2015 to promote a new micro rotor movement and highlight a little break from tradition within the company.
The movement was awesome, but the case was the driver of the name as it resembled a flying saucer and shared design cues with science fiction creations. The case design was the most avant-garde aspect to the first Roswell, and the press release emphasized this in graphics and presentation – though it’s hard to know whether the flying saucer inspiration came first or the connection was drawn after the case shape was realized.
Sometimes design contains a bit of the chicken-and-the-egg problem, but once a connection was made here it drove the ideation.
Since Schwarz-Etienne’s Roswell was also a showcase for the new movement, the dial design and layout couldn’t be too wild to distract from the mechanism on display. The inspiration, while clear in some of the case shapes, was lost on the rest of the timepiece: it was a fairly safe, middle-of-the-road, nice, respectable first iteration.
And while the watch didn’t fully capitalize on its inspiration, the designers had room to grow and explore for future designs. The Roswell 08 is proof that the original inspiration has definitely been the driver for the newest model.
The case shape resembling a UFO isn’t the only design cue from science fiction this time: colors, finishes, components, and material choices all come together to create the illusion of a more out-of-this-world wristwatch. They also help show off another new mechanism unique to the Roswell 08 featuring a peripheral date display with a column wheel adjusting mechanism taking center stage, contrasting with the dial and plates to stand out just a little bit more.
Schwarz-Etienne’s new take on a simple date mechanism
The date mechanism is clearly not your average quick-change date: based off a chronograph column wheel, it incorporates a safety mechanism from a perpetual calendar. It starts with a driving wheel attached to the hour hand, which rotates twice a day. The driving wheel has two teeth extending from the otherwise blank wheel, which mesh with a six-tooth pinion between the center shaft and the 3 o’clock position. This pinion is attached to a tiny activation lever that interacts with a larger lever that doubles as the corrector lever.
This lever pushes the column wheel, and in less than 20 minutes moves the column wheel enough that the jumper spring snaps it into place, changing the date. Once the driving lever rotates far enough, the larger corrector lever snaps back to its base position as well.
If the date needs correcting, the lower crown guard is actually a pusher that moves a pin, which interacts with the corrector lever like a chronograph, though pushing (instead of pulling) the column wheel until it snaps to the next position.
The column wheel, which is outfitted with gear teeth instead of ratchet teeth, drives the date ring around the outside of the dial. The opening for the date is at 1:30, in line with the balance wheel and part of the same window. The top surface of the ring is angled toward the center by ten degrees in an attempt to make readability slightly better.
It also gives more visual depth, though that is in no way lacking on the Roswell 08.
Details make the difference
The dial was fairly traditional on the original Roswell pieces even as it showcased the dial/side balance wheel and micro rotor. It had a modern feel, but it definitely did not scream “I’m from outer space!” On the wrist, it just looked like a very nice mechanical watch.
The flying saucer inspiration was visible mainly upon closer examination of the case, but didn’t stand out plainly like something from MB&F. This made that watch very wearable every day.
But the dial details have changed dramatically on the Roswell 08 and not just from the addition of the unique date mechanism. The multi-level dial now adds texture and contrast, not to mention bright colors that grab the eye from across the room.
The movement plates, micro rotor disk, and dial ring all match in color – a muted brown – but vary in surface finish with brushed and satin textures across the many parts. The hands, date mechanism, and balance wheel assembly are all brushed, satin, or polished steel, while the balance is gold. The numerals and markers are lume-filled, polished steel to match the style of the hands.
The date ring and the seconds disk are the accent pieces, coated in a bright green or orange depending on the version. These small pops of bright color (especially the green) help all the other details stand out as the contrast across the dial becomes even more accentuated with them.
The visual complexity of the dial is much greater than the original Roswell versions, providing a different look that helps sell the Roswell inspiration. It is easy to imagine these as otherworldly now with the variations across the dial.
But if that didn’t seal the deal, the rear sapphire crystal does. Instead of a plain, clear sapphire crystal, or even a colored one, the rear of the Roswell 08 features a Matrix-inspired code pattern that is meant to invoke an advanced (perhaps robot-controlled) civilization.
Combined with the bright green color on the strap underside, this side of the Roswell 08 provides a sharp jolt of avant-garde that the original Roswell versions lacked. They were nice watches (if that wasn’t already clear), but the sci-fi inspiration is finally in-your-face apparent with the newest models, giving Schwarz-Etienne a watch that should make people take notice.
Schwarz-Etienne: manufacture, supplier, and brand
Of course, Schwarz-Etienne already has great timepieces that should make people take notice, such as a tourbillon and a small seconds retrograde, all made in-house down to the hairsprings and balance wheels (yeah, no kidding).
Schwarz-Etienne is a fully integrated manufacture with a long history of making watches under its own name and as a contract manufacturer for other brands.
The brand is currently focusing on something of a return to producing its own watches again, and I have to say that the results are pretty dang amazing. And considering the models all include movements that can be purchased or customized separately for any brand wishing to develop their own watches, Schwarz-Etienne goes against the stream from other movement manufacturers like ETA, who have been clamping down on supply.
Schwarz-Etienne is positioning itself as a fantastic supplier while focusing at the same time on building a brand, whose collection contains highlights that at times rival the best in the industry. The Roswell 08 is a clear example, with the refinement also illustrating that the brand understands model evolution and the need for coherence of design direction.
I personally love the Roswell 08 (I’m partial to the green) as well as the entire line of movements and watches from Schwarz-Etienne that showcase the brand’s abilities.
I am very excited to see what comes next and look forward to possibly getting my hands on a movement to use in my very own future project. And, of course, I can’t wait to get the Roswell 08 on my wrist again simply to admire the clever mechanisms and unique direction in which the brand is taking the collection.
As I wait for the Roswell 08 to float away, how about a breakdown!
- Wowza Factor * 8.75 The date mechanism is a wow to me (of course), but the whole package definitely shines on the wrist!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 85 » 833.565 m/s2 The lusting is strong with this one, largely because it feels so fresh from a brand that is doing a fantastic job rebranding itself to the public!
- M.G.R. * 64.4 The date mechanism pushes this one pretty high, and the micro rotor and entirely in-house movement just makes me salivate!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild Pieces like these never look mild even though they only feature a single added function. Still, with the date mechanism you might require children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the unique swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 11.1 Realizing you have dozens of micro cuts when cleaning a part with solvents! It does happen to be the best way to find any tiny cuts you have, but the stinging that attacks your hands from every angle isn’t the most fun. Yet I would gladly do it again if it meant finding the Roswell 08 hovering in my vicinity!
- Mermaid Moment * A day at most! When you have a visible date mechanism that features a column wheel, watching the date change (or just changing it yourself) is about as long as it takes to know you better line up a caterer and book a priest!
- Awesome Total * 800 Multiply the number of days in the power reserve (4) by the water resistance in meters (50), then multiply by the model number (08) and finally divide by the number of color options (two: green or orange) and you get an out-of this-world awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.schwarz-etienne.ch/en/roswell.
Quick Facts Schwarz-Etienne Roswell 08
Case: 45 x 12.24 mm, stainless steel
Movement: automatic Schwarz-Etienne Caliber ISE-100.11 with micro rotor
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; date
Price: 15,400 Swiss francs
Also published on Medium.