Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar Montre École: Back To School
Do you remember sitting in the library with a handful of classmates that you didn’t know too well trying to decide which person would handle a specific part of a massive group project you all had just been assigned? I do.
Group projects are a teacher’s way of making sure students learn skills about project management, assigning tasks, sharing responsibility, and time management.
While stressful, group projects are a very real parallel to work in many professional environments, as most often a person is never responsible for an entire project but only a portion of it. I personally remember always wanting to just do the whole thing myself since I knew I could trust myself more than Jason, the guy that always had an excuse why he didn’t get his part done.
Solo projects teach you just as much as group projects, though in very different ways. An individual project automatically makes you learn new skills or knowledge instead of relying on someone else with perhaps more expertise. It also makes it much more obvious if you lack project or time management skills that were previously accommodated for by spreading the workload across multiple group members.
Watchmaking has its own versions of this, and today I want to talk about one manifestation in independent watchmaking: the “school watch.”
Laurent Ferrier won an award at the 2018 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for the Galet Annual Calendar Montre École in the Men’s Complication category, an awesome imagining of an annual calendar based on Monsieur Ferrier’s original montre école.
The Annual Calendar Montre École, which is powered by a new in-house movement, features an annual calendar complication, marking the first calendar of this kind by the brand.
Much rarer than a perpetual calendar, the annual calendar variation displays at the very least the month and day, tracking the correct number of days in each month throughout the year, though requiring a manual reset at the end of February. It obviously doesn’t take leap years into account – and cannot automatically process any months with less than 30 days.
The annual may not be as popular as a perpetual (yet), but it provides a reliable calendar that automatically adjusts the end of each month (except February) throughout the year and will cost considerably less. Learn much more about this type of calendar – including its origins as recently as 1996 – in Annual Calendars Are Goldilocks Complications: Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold, Just Right.
What certainly helped Laurent Ferrier’s Annual Calendar Montre École to this prize was its undeniable simplicity and legibility, a perfect example of what an annual calendar can be.
What is a “school watch”?
Watchmaking students are tasked with a final project called the school watch (montre école in French). Depending on the school and the program, it can be either a group project leading to a single piece being created by all the students or each student working to create their own unique timepieces.
The group projects tend to be used more by smaller programs, especially some of the programs in the U.S.
Generally, a school watch is the culmination of the study years for students – a final exam or dissertation, if you will – proof that they have learned all the skills required to be a watchmaker. This tradition results in a unique, handmade watch being fully created by each student: the epitome of a solo project.
As such, a school watch is often a celebration of learned skill, marking the beginning of a career.
And so, the school watch has a mystique, an aura about it that independent watchmakers, and fans of the indies, tend to celebrate – for good reason too: many collectors prefer simpler pieces that are clean and minimal, providing a solid showcase of watchmaking craft.
That is almost exactly what school watches turn out to be since the complicated machining or design found on more professionally produced pieces is outside of the scope and talent of many young watchmaking students.
Most large brands won’t ever create anything of this sort, but independent watchmakers understand the appeal as a pure showcase intended to remind the collector just how handmade and unique the pieces by this watchmaker are. School watches have less flourish but more soul, they feel less design-by-committee and more like a cohesive vision from the maker.
The Laurent Ferrier Annual Calendar Montre École is a perfect example of this.
Professionalism applied to simplicity
When one looks at a typical Laurent Ferrier piece, it is obvious that Ferrier and his brand have spent years honing and mastering the designs of the watches they produce. The details are subtle and polished, not just in the physical finish, but in terms of the design and cohesiveness with the rest of the watch.
Laurent Ferrier calibers demonstrate this with clean and impressive construction and finishing, and the overall watches exemplify refined classic design, a shining example of the quintessential dress watch. While many independents go for styles that are decidedly avant-garde, Laurent Ferrier always produces watches that would never look out of place with a tuxedo.
The Annual Calendar Montre École doesn’t stray from this, but instead reads like an early draft of the brand’s overall design; it looks like what a student destined to create the Laurent Ferrier brand would make while in school. Amazingly clean and modern yet not an ounce of superfluous in the whole watch. The details are all there from the rest of the collections but in a less curated form.
The numerals around the edge of the dial and the minute and hour markers aren’t dramatically different than what is found in other collection pieces, but they are simpler. Years of slowly adjusting marker lengths, widths, and combinations with applied markers isn’t present yet; instead clean lines rule the day.
The window openings for the day and month are kept completely square and beveled, without any highlighting trim or shape to them. Small and minimal. A look at the Galet Traveller Dual Time shows how even small changes like a larger numeral display, curved window, wider view to the disk underneath, or contrasting color of the disk completely change the vibe of the windows and the dial.
Some additional design flair is added to the Annual Calendar Montre École with the addition of two lines bisecting the dial, turning it into quadrants. But even that is fairly subdued.
The hands make up the most design-heavy feature, one common to all Laurent Ferrier pieces save one. The Assegai-shaped hands are part and parcel of the brand identity, and it is no surprise they are included in the Annual Calendar Montre École.
Perusing Instagram, I’ve found it is common for young watchmakers to focus on hands to design a shape that they prefer for their school watches, which may possibly define the direction of watches they want to make during their career, kind of like a signature.
So it follows that the school watch-inspired piece by Laurent Ferrier could demonstrate that likelihood.
Inside is what counts
But the design would be only a minor topic if it didn’t act as a face for a brand-new in-house movement, something not regularly released from many brands. Caliber LF126.01 is the fifth movement from the brand. It is an annual calendar, which, in my opinion, is one of the two “it movements” of the last few years, the other being the chronograph.
The annual calendar is often overshadowed by its slightly bigger brother, the perpetual calendar. But the annual calendar is making a bit of a resurgence – and for good reason.
It is a complicated movement for sure, but it takes a bit of the complication out when you don’t need to account for four years’ worth of date perfection and can eliminate some components.
The slight reduction in complexity can make the annual calendar a bit more accessible, at least relatively. Caliber LF126.01 is simple to read and operate LF126.01.
The movement appears to be a basic time-only gear train from the rear with the addition of a power reserve, but that is simplifying things a lot.
This movement features two main bridge plates: one contains the barrel, center wheel, and power reserve, while the other takes care of the third and fourth wheels. The escape wheel gets its own bridge as well as the double-spring balance wheel.
With such a simple layout, extra care could be put into individual details like the côtes de Genève and the ratchet click.
As a matter of fact, the LF126.01 features one of my top five ratchet click designs, the blade-style click – or what Ryan Schmidt calls a “crossbar click” – which is a long bar that almost spans the entire diameter of the mainspring barrel to gently lock it in place during and after winding. It is visually understated design-wise but shows a clear intentionality that is seen throughout all the movements from Laurent Ferrier.
The operation of the annual calendar mechanism is another great example of this. Instead of adding multiple pushers to the case or multiple setting points to the crown for each display or requiring the crown to be rotated in one direction for the date and the other for months, it is all taken care of smoothly from one position.
The date is indicated with a hand pointing to the periphery of the dial, while the month is viewed through a window. Both indications change simultaneously with each other, forward or backward, with a simple twist of the crown.
The third indication – the day of the week – is set and adjusted via a pusher at 10 o’clock, making setting the full annual calendar a very easy and quick affair.
It all comes together to make a supremely wearable watch with a fabulous design and impeccable finishing. The design feels decidedly modern and vintage at the same time while maintaining a timelessness for decades to come.
It comes in yellow gold (as well as red gold and stainless steel) to help with the vintage feel, and combined with the numeral typography and general design cues the Annual Calendar Montre École has a subtle beauty that is hard to deny.
In that way, the school watch is kind of a shining example of an idea, a formula for making something great without pretending it is more than it is.
A student sets out to make a great watch; only brands are in the business of selling a story to go along with that watch. This is why the school watch holds such a special place: it feels sort of like the last truly pure watchmaking a watchmaker will do in his or her career before joining the business side of the industry.
The Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar Montre École is a stunning piece, but it is also a piece of memory for watchmakers that have graduated from a serious watchmaking program, a snapshot of an individual’s hard work. Creating a piece that celebrates that is always a good decision.
So how about we break that good decision down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.25 The simple design matched with the impeccable craft made me say wow when I first saw it!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 91.9» 901.231m/s2 The power of this piece comes from memory stored in the metal, and it locks you in your seat with tremendous power!
- M.G.R. * 64.5 An in-house annual calendar by Laurent Ferrier? Of course that is a geeky movement!
- Added-Functionitis * Serious An annual calendar and a power reserve display is a pretty serious event. I would urge the use of prescription strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for a very developed case of added-functionitis!
- Ouch Outline * 10.7 Sleeping on your arm and waking up to it numb! The numb period isn’t too bad, though you can feel all your bones and joints in a very weird way. No, the real pain comes when the feeling starts coming back to the arm and the stabbing burning tingles begin! But I would do it all over again for a chance to get the Annual Calendar Montre École on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Time it takes to set the calendar! A quick-setting annual calendar is enough to make you book the Plaza in June!
- Awesome Total * 875 Multiply the number of variations (8) with the power reserve in hours (80) and add the number of components in the movement (235) for a simply awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.laurentferrier.ch/collection/annual-calendar/galet-annual-calendar-montre-ecole.
Quick Facts Laurent Ferrier Galet Annual Calendar Montre École
Case: 40 x 12.64 mm, red gold, “desert sand” yellow gold, stainless steel
Movement: manual winding Caliber LF126.01, 80-hour power reserve, 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; annual calendar with weekday, date, month; power reserve indication
Price: CHF 50,000 in steel, CHF 55,000 in gold