Bovet Récital 21: Exploring Dandyish Perfection
by Martin Green
Sometimes everything falls into place. And most of the time that is either through hard work or a totally unexpected circumstance. In this case, it is a mixture of both.
When I tried on the Bovet Récital 21 in titanium at the 2019 SIHH, I got that lightning-flash feeling that it was made for my wrist, which was for me rather unexpected.
Each and every detail, and there are many of them, is both unusual and magnificent, especially in combination. In the world of haute horlogerie, the Récital 21 is a dandy.
Bovet Récital 21: a rare breed
With its small time display dial in the middle, the Récital 21 might have been weird looking and not at all pretty, but the execution of its design is so perfect that what seems to be a weakness becomes a strength. In fact, it allows Bovet to create a watch where form and function come together in a perfect marriage.
All the space is utilized, and every detail has a role to play either to indulge your senses or provide you with information. I shouldn’t like this watch either because at 44.4 mm it is a much larger size than I normally wear, the type of watch that I often refer to as a “behemoth.”
Surprisingly, though, the Récital 21 does not wear that large at all. As it is part of Bovet’s Dimier family of watches, it is fitted with regular lugs (as opposed to the unique pocket watch-style lugs of the Fleurier family), but they are perfectly curved, ensuring that the watch hugs the wrist in just the right way.
Bovet Récital 21: a “driver’s watch” without the drive
One of the most striking features of the Récital 21 is that its case is slanted in the same way that all the recent Récital pieces are – like an old-fashioned writing desk.
This makes all the functions much easier to read, even if only by a fraction, but the perception that you have of the watch changes completely. You interact with it differently, setting it apart from the other watches, and that makes the Bovet even more exceptional.
This is also something of a private pleasure as the case is not so extremely slanted that other people will notice at a glance. This is quite important, as a dandy does what he does for himself, and not so much to impress others.
Because of this case, the Récital 21 also reminds me of a driver’s watches. Per se, this Bovet is not a driver’s watch, nor does the brand make any claims toward this, but when it was on my wrist I felt like it was the perfect companion with which to don my driving gloves and have fun with a minimum of six cylinders.
A dandy rarely drives a grey Audi A6 or Volvo station wagon. Not that there is anything wrong with either of those, but for a dandy they lack something in personal style (see more about dandies in An Introduction: Dandy Watches).
There was a time when brands like Bentley, Rolls-Royce, and Aston Martin could provide a dandy with a personalized form of transportation that fit his lifestyle. Unfortunately, these brands have been hijacked by the thick wallets of the nouveau riche, who deploy the personalization options so valued by the dandy to have the yellow leather seats of their purple convertibles embroidered with an image of their chihuahua wearing a Louis Vuitton coat and diamond-encrusted collar.
That makes it sadly difficult to match the Récital 21 with a modern car, so let’s put it into a vintage perspective as dandies are very comfortable with that option as well. Then I can just imagine driving a Bitter CD, Monteverdi High Speed 375/4, or ATS 2500 GT through the Swiss Alps with the Récital 21 on my wrist. And all would be well in the world!
Bovet Récital 21: technical prowess
Of course, the Récital 21 is also technically a very accomplished watch with its perpetual calendar – it is a Bovet after all. The perpetual calendar’s primary job, aside from displaying the time, is to show the correct date regardless of length of month, including the mercurial February.
The manual-wind movement offering a power reserve of five days coming from a single mainspring barrel is crafted in Bovet’s Fleurier manufacture with a particular eye for detail and a focus on refined finishing.
Bovet further amplifies its quest for quality by fitting this watch with a balance spring of its own design and manufacture: a rarity, even in the world of haute horlogerie. The day, month, and leap year are indicated through windows on the front of the watch, but the date is shown by means of a retrograde hand that comes from underneath the dial, adding a delightful amount of depth.
A retrograde hand is a beautiful yet very volatile complication. In most cases, it builds up torque along its path until it reaches the end of its scale at which point it releases it in a fraction of a second, zipping back to its starting position with lightning speed.
This makes the retrograde hand prone to misalignment and increased wear and tear. With a date function that only comes back to its starting position once a month, this is already less of an issue, but Bovet went a step further, creating a device that allows the hand to return to zero at a far more modest pace.
Thus, the Récital 21 provides the dandy with the start of a new tradition. At the end of each month, you light up the fireplace, open a bottle of the finest champagne, and pour yourself a generous glass. Then you install yourself in your most comfortable chair, of course wearing a robe and velvet slippers, and just before midnight, you begin staring at your Récital 21.
When the retrograde date flies back to the start and the perpetual calendar jumps into the next month, you raise your glass in a smiling, silent toast to the magic of haute horlogerie, the skills of the craftspeople, and the joy that watches like the Bovet Récital 21 offer.
For more information, please visit www.bovet.com/timepiece/dimier-recital-21.
Quick Facts Bovet Récital 21
Case: 44.4 x 15.5 mm, titanium or 18-karat red gold
Movement: manually wound Caliber 13DM05-QPR with patented coaxial seconds and a five-day power reserve; 3 Hz/21,600 vph frequency, five-day power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; perpetual calendar with day, retrograde date, month, leap year; power reserve indication
Price: 72,000 Swiss francs in titanium
Remark: 5-year warranty
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Oh dear, I have no velvet slippers; I guess I will have to give this a miss. Beautiful watch, but perhaps better in white (or even yellow) gold.
Forgo the velvet slippers, go for the titanium version and you have a horological delight on your wrist that can easily go as casual as a white t-shirts and some jeans.