Vault V1-X: Art From Technical Artistry
by Martin Green
The Vault V1 is one of the newly introduced watches this year that made a profound impression on me.
I still remember the first time I saw it, pressured by vintage watch dealer Boris Pjanic, who convinced me that it was worth my time. It was good that he did because I was not a happy camper: the appointment was at the end of a long, long fair day in a Swiss restaurant I had never been to, so I got lost getting there.
And on top of this, it was cold, miserable, it rained, and because I was traveling lightly I hadn’t brought an umbrella. I was a long way from being in a receptive mood to appreciate a new watch.
All this became forgotten when I entered the restaurant and sat down with my esteemed colleague Joshua Munchow (who subsequently wrote the excellent Vault V1/V1+: An Intensely Personal Relationship With Time) and Mark Schwarz, the passionate founder and modest mastermind behind the brand.
He showed us the prototype of what would become the Vault V1. It wasn’t finished, but the concept proved to be very exciting: it tells the time, but even two identical watches of this brand would never do so in the same way.
That each piece displays time uniquely is thanks to an ingenious array of gears and one unique sapphire crystal disk with gradient shading. This was not the only element to excite us: even better, the concept had already caught the attention of Andreas Strehler, who participated in the development of the complication.
Equally impressive, just a few months later Schwarz went from prototype to production model, overcoming some very complicated technical challenges in what seemed nearly no time at all.
Vault V1: not your average art canvas
The Vault V1 is not a watch for the average collector. While it is a mechanical masterpiece, you have first to understand it and then also like it.
Where Vault operates that is a good thing: this is not a watch for the masses and was therefore never meant to appeal to everyone. The beauty of operating in such a niche is that you can do things that not many others will do – such as turning the watch into a canvas.
With V1-X, Mark Schwarz has created a sub-label set to house a number of unique collaborations in which the V1 serves as a canvas for artists to be inspired by – and to influence in their own special ways.
The first such artist could be none other than Laurent Auberson, the designer of the “regular” Vault V1. Yet working with even fewer restraints, he chose to apply a paint splatter on the dial of the watch.
While it seems random, this paint splatter was very deliberately chosen. Just like time, you can’t control it.
And there is also a contradiction hidden in this piece of art: a paint splatter seems to serve no purpose, but on this Vault it all of a sudden does as it plays a vital part in telling the time.
V1-X: making a point
We can clearly read the name of its creator inside the paint splatter. With this Schwarz wants to address another issue within the industry: that designers are rarely allowed to openly identify the watches they create.
Even the great Gérald Genta was often faced with this dilemma. With this point of view, Vault joins the likes of MB&F, who also openly identifies the designers and suppliers that help create their watches.
Andreas Strehler is, by the way, not the only heavyweight insider who has taken a liking to the Vault project and opted to participate. Albert Zeller, CEO of RC Tritec, has also done so.
Zeller’s company makes Super-LumiNova, an element that has added an interesting edge to the V1-X. The orange paint splatter is made from Super-LumiNova, which also gives it an incredible appearance in the dark, almost like molten lava.
Because that splatter is on a sapphire crystal disk, light refraction also creates a halo framing the creation. Adding to this frame, RC Tritec also created illuminating cylinders in the same color, which Vault has placed at five-minute intervals.
Vault V1-X: love it, hate it, talk about it
Personally, I think that the V1-X is even better than the original version of the Vault. Others might disagree with that statement, and that is okay.
It is not a watch anymore; it is now even more art that tells time. That also makes your opinion the truth, as this is the way you perceive it.
One thing that it is for sure: it is a conversation starter because on the wrist it is rather provocative. The regular Vault already pushes the boundaries of how a watch should be, but the V1-X does it even more so.
That will make it a watch to talk about, and with that Vault strikes the nerve with which the obsolete technology that is mechanical watchmaking needs to survive: to share passion with fellow enthusiasts or find a way to have sudden animated conversation with the person who just entered the elevator or sat down next to you on the plane.
It is one of the ingredients that keep this industry going, and maybe in a small way contributes to making the world a better place, as I have often seen that a passion for watches can transcend race, sex, or social background and bring people together.
Another thing that I have noticed that can do that is art, and I guess that closes the circle!
For more information, please visit www.vault.swiss/vault-v1-x-artpiece-n1.
Quick Facts Vault V1-X
Case: stainless steel, 39 x 46.7 x 15 mm
Movement: V01 automatic, made exclusively for Vault by Andreas Strehler’s Uhrteil AG
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: piece unique
Price: on request
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Also published on Medium.