Schwarz-Etienne Ode Au Printemps: A Buzzzzy Limited Edition Done (Almost) Right
by Martin Green
Whenever a watch brand introduces a limited edition, I always hold my breath: a limited edition always needs to entice a higher my-life-is-not-complete-without-it feeling than its regular production siblings, but frequently brands miss the mark.
Sometimes the added value is simply not there because too steep a premium is demanded for simply a different color dial. In other cases, the limited edition is part of a larger collaboration that simply doesn’t seem to work.
A great example: Quill & Pad’s co-founder and editor-in-chief, Elizabeth Doerr, is known as a die-hard rock fan, but her reaction to the new Raymond Weil Freelancer AC/DC should have been recorded: it would have made a great death metal track! (See Baselworld 2018 Round Table: What We Liked And What We Didn’t Like At The World’s Largest Watch Fair)
I hold my breath twice as long when a small brand does a limited edition. With large brands like Omega, Longines, Cartier, and Breitling, making a limited edition can make more sense as there is added value already in producing a model in a limited quantity given these brands’ more substantial overall productions.
However, when a brand makes only a couple of hundred or maybe a few thousand watches a year, nearly everything it does is a limited edition simply because the production itself is so limited.
Then there are those brands that defy the odds – exhibiting that sparkle of creativity needed to make something special and, yes, it can just happen to also be a limited edition.
Three is a charm: heed the buzz
Schwarz-Etienne‘s first step was making the decision to create a limited edition dedicated to the seasons, starting with spring. The next was fortunately to forgo all the clichés about spring and focus instead on a clever sub-theme that made sense on multiple levels: bees.
The appearance of the busy, buzzing little creatures is one of the indicators that spring has indeed arrived. The bee also has a prominent presence on the coat of arms of La Chaux-de-Fonds, the hometown of Schwarz-Etienne.
While the latter already provides proper validation to use the bee as a theme for this limited edition, Schwarz-Etienne added a third, and most pressing, reason to utilize it: to raise awareness for the rapid worldwide decline of bees.
It is the widespread use of pesticides that is one of the main causes attributed to the decrease of bee populations in addition to the impact of climate change, parasites, and diseases.
If you are not too frightened about the disappearance of this “insect,” you should be. Bees are the main pollinators on the planet, and without them the effect on the production of nearly all crops will be so devastating that even Albert Einstein is supposed to have once said that, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
This is a more than significant cause to raise awareness for, and Schwarz-Etienne does not do so with just one watch, but with three that combined make a set that goes by the name of Ode au Printemps: “tribute to spring.”
But which of Schwarz-Etienne’s Odes to Spring is most charming?
A trilogy of three watches make up the Schwarz-Etienne Ode au Printemps set and there will be ten sets only. Two of the trilogy feature tourbillons, yet my favorite, the Roswell, comes without one of the whirling escapements.
Based on the Roswell model, the Ode au Printemps Roswell’s distinct case is crafted from red gold, framing a luscious dial comprising a brass rhodium-plated honeycomb grid over a honey-colored Kevlar-textured background.
This gives the watch a lot of depth – a depth that surrounds the main attraction: a hand-carved, white gold daisy topped off by a hand-painted bee that is crafted from aluminum. The flower and bee also serve as the micro rotor for the movement, so they spin around with the motion of your wrist.
All very whimsical, but it is Schwarz-Etienne’s execution that elevates it from being just that to something more. The details requiring significant effort and craftsmanship provide the watch with depth, and while this depth is fun you cannot help but realize that you are wearing a very serious piece of haute horlogerie.
The same can be said for the other two watches in the trilogy. The Ode au Printemps Tourbillon Petite Seconde Rétrograde largely follows the design style of the Roswell; only now the daisy is replaced with a poppy and the brass honeycomb grid is placed directly over the movement.
Installing a volatile mechanism such as retrograde seconds directly on the tourbillon carriage still doesn’t make any sense technically, but then again except for a rare few, tourbillons in wristwatches make no sense in general. Tourbillons are however a lot of fun, and when well executed – which this Schwarz-Etienne most certainly is – you appreciate what haute horlogerie is all about.
As a frame for the hour and minute subdial as well as the retrograde seconds scale, Schwarz-Etienne used slivers of semiprecious tiger’s eye quartz stone. This adds another interesting material to the watch – and one that is hard to work with, especially in the shapes that Schwarz-Etienne utilizes. Its use also gives the watch an even richer look, which is captured once again within a red gold case.
The third member of the trilogy is a departure from all this: rich red gold is replaced in favor of cool white gold highlighted by blue accents, among them a blue cornflower micro rotor and pieces of blue agate.
Compared to the other two models, this watch has a far more technical look to it, also because the honeycomb grid now features a grey rhodium finish. This also provides more room for the flying tourbillon to shine.
While this model seems to be the odd one out, it does have an appeal of its own. It also adds some diversity to the collection.
I have no idea how many watches I actually see during an edition of Baselworld, but I do know that there are always only a few that deeply imprint in my mind. The Ode au Printemps models did that at the 2018 edition of the fair, not only because they raise awareness for a worthy cause, but because they do so with designs that are not only fun and beautiful but also clever and flawlessly executed.
I do regret that Schwarz-Etienne made this a limited edition as I would have preferred to see these as limited production models, maybe only available for a year. I would have also liked to see each piece available separately and not only as a set.
Why? Because it would still keep these watches special but at the same time it would increase the chances of seeing one in the wild!
You might also enjoy Can We Still Take Limited Editions, Or Is That Already A Rhetorical Question?
For more information, please visit www.schwarz-etienne.ch/en/watch/ode-au-printemps.
Quick Facts Ode au Printemps Roswell
Case: 45 x 12.24 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber TSE 100.00, 3 Hz /21,600 vph frequency with an 86-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds
Quick Facts Ode au Printemps Tourbillon Petite Seconde Rétrograde
Case: 44 x 13.7 mm, red gold
Movement: automatic Caliber TSE 122.00 with one-minute tourbillon, 3 Hz /21,600 vph frequency with a 70-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, retrograde seconds
Quick Facts Ode au Printemps Flying Tourbillon
Case: 44 x 13.7 mm, white gold
Movement: automatic Caliber TSE 121.00 with one-minute flying tourbillon, 3 Hz /21,600 vph frequency with a 70-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: 275,000 Swiss francs for the set of three, limited to 10 sets
Also published on Medium.