Vault V1/V1+: An Intensely Personal Relationship With Time
People have a wide range of reactions to near-death experiences. Some find deeper connections with their gods, while some lose them. Some may feel they are lucky and begin to take more risks, while others suddenly become extra vigilant in an attempt to avoid risk.
Some may finally pursue passions and quit current jobs, while others simplify their lives and enjoy the little moments.
And some may simply take a moment before continuing right along the paths they were already on.
Regardless of the reaction, near-death experiences tend to mark turning points in life; they can become mile markers to check progress or make decisions.
The story of Mark Schwarz, at least the one I am telling, begins with a very close call in 2013 while Schwarz was serving as a policeman in Zurich. In a rare violent moment in Switzerland he had a close brush with death and, after throwing back a beer or two in the hours that followed, realized that his time as a police officer was over.
Between sips of the hoppy beverage, Schwarz came to some specific understandings about his views on time, the present, and purpose. And in a roundabout way, a watch brand was conceived around these ideas.
That brand has become Vault, and the first watch has taken the last four years to design and develop with the help of engineer Philippe Schmid, designer Laurent Auberson, and an extremely talented engineering partner, Andreas Strehler.
Strehler isn’t just providing choice words and some cheerleading; no, the A.H.C.I. watchmaker and his movement company, Uhrteil AG, are part owners of the new brand and as such are fully invested in the creation of something new and amazing. And since it is Strehler behind the movements, the result is nothing short of incredible.
The first watch is called the Vault V1, and it is, according to Schwarz, based on the preciousness, immutability, and individuality of time.
These were the ideas that Mark Schwarz stumbled upon in the aftermath of his brush with oblivion, and they have since gone on to become the principles behind Vault. Like many marketing strategies, the concepts might not immediately be clear in the V1, but once we break it down you will see why the eventual realization of the V1 follows these guiding principles rather well.
Time from a new perspective
The Vault V1 is a rather unique timepiece, and due to a curious feature it becomes even more unique after the wearer adjusts the time even once.
But I am getting ahead of myself: let’s start with how the time is read. The time display is based on a planetary gear system, where each hour marker is its own gear. Twelve gears with 12 idler gears in between circle around a set of seven central gears that are fixed to bridge system mounted to the case.
The central minute hand drives a sapphire crystal disk used to read the hours with a transparent gradient that slowly moves over the hour markers. The gradient is achieved with 330 micro lines that progressively get closer toward the sapphire crystal disk. The area just to the left of the darkest portion is where the hours are read, with the gradient fading out around the dial.
But this is where it goes from awesomely mechanical to just plain unique: the movement isn’t fixed in the case.
To set the minutes, you don’t turn the minute hand; you rotate the entire movement on a set of ball bearings moving the minute hand with it.
Once you set the minutes, you switch to the hour-setting position and rotate the planetary gear system around the minute pinion, which stays in place. As the minutes are set, the position of the movement (visible through the open dial) rotates to a new location; the planetary gear system rotates when the hours are set.
The sapphire crystal gradient disk and the actual minute hand are not technically moved when the watch is set; instead, everything else moves around it.
This means that you are more or less changing the perspective you view the watch from, but not changing time. This goes hand in hand with the concept that we can’t control time, only our relation to it.
Time marches steadily onward, and we can only change how we view it. And since every time you need to adjust the time on your watch you physically change the orientation of the components, every watch becomes personally attached to the owner and the owner’s choices.
After each change, the watch becomes less and less what the watchmaker created and more and more an object intrinsically tied to the wearer. This is part of Schwarz’s view on time and the intensely personal relationship we all have with it.
And, thankfully for us, he chose to make a super cool watch to share his ideas.
Design, engineering, and Strehler
Schwarz’s concept of time inspired him to make a unique watch, but he knew he needed help. Having no background in watchmaking he sought out aid in developing his vision into something tangible.
Engineer Philippe Schmid came on board to help design a mechanism that fit Schwarz’s vision, which was then shaped and formed into something interesting and beautiful by Laurent Auberson, a designer who has worked with Strehler on many amazing pieces.
And, of course, Strehler joined the mix officially in 2014 to help produce the prototypes and direct the production engineering for the finished watches.
Being part owner also means that Strehler is fully invested in turning the Vault concept into a stable brand since its success is also his success. This couldn’t be a better situation for a new brand to be in since Strehler has a 24-karat gold reputation to put behind the new watches and the stability of Uhrteil AG for after-sales support.
The Vault concept is sound, and the style is definitely strong enough to stand out from the pack.
The people behind the brand are fantastic, and the ideas surrounding our experience with time opens the door to a conversation that many may enjoy taking part in.
I know that I always enjoy some good philosophy with my watches, since they are, after all, an intellectual and emotional object in the days of smartphones and minimalism. I have a good feeling about what Vault could become.
So let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.55 The flurry of gears showing the time is enough to make you stop and stare at the V1!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 88 » 862.985 m/s2 Just a single viewing is enough to make you lust into the early hours of the morning, but adjusting the time yourself cements the desire!
- M.G.R. * 65.6 Knowing the movement was made by none other than Andreas Strehler and Uhrteil AG pushes the movement into the big leagues. Seeing how it functions is just icing on the cake!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A Is it really a surprise that I love a time-only watch? With a movement like that, it does seem surprising you won’t need any Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the horologically creative swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 10.6 Cruising into hour seven of a transatlantic flight while in the throws of a severe chest cold! Being sick on a plane just stinks because you can’t do anything but sit and wait! Combine that with having to trudge through passport control and customs and it is a pretty miserable affair. And, yet, if I was lucky enough to have the Vault V1 on my wrist, I would probably skip happily into such a misadventure!
- Mermaid Moment * One adjustment of the time! All it takes is seeing how the time is adjusted on the V1 and you will be jumping at the chance to say “I do!”
- Awesome Total * 673 Multiply the number of gears that are used to display the time (36) by the thickness of the case in mm (5), then add the total number of components in the hour gear transmission system (133) and you get an intensely unique awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.vault.swiss/v1-collection.
Quick Facts Vault V1/V1+
Case: 39 x 46.7 x 15 mm, stainless steel, titanium, gold, or platinum
Movement: automatic Caliber V01 made by Uhrteil AG
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 99 pieces in both steel and titanium, 66 in gold, 33 in platinum
Price: CHF 50,000 for steel or titanium; CHF 60,000 for gold; CHF 75,000 for platinum
Also published on Medium.