Bovet Récital 23: It’s All Coming Together
King Louis XIV to his political advisor: “I can’t believe the ladies of the court are starting to wear these high shoes as well. I must make mine higher.”
Political advisor to King Louis XIV: “The elevated king towers above his adversaries; good choice, your highness.”
King Louis XIV: “What say you to three inches, no, make it four . . . and a half. Yes, that seems enough, don’t you think?”
Political advisor: “Indeed, most impressive.”
King Louis XIV: “On second thought, let’s keep it at four inches. No need to boast, I’m already king, and as we read in scripture God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
Political advisor: “So true, your piety and humility are a shining example for all members of the court.”
I have a strange sensation that a version of this conversation happened sometime in the late 1660s between King Louis XIV of France and an unnamed advisor to his highness. You see, high-heeled shoes were originally designed for riders to better stay in the stirrups, but when introduced to royal courts in western Europe they transitioned to the elites as symbols of status and power.
The taller you were, the more presence you had, and in royal courts presence was everything.
Eventually, the entire aristocracy was wearing high-heeled shoes, including women, as a way to demonstrate status over the masses, even leading to laws restricting the height of heels based on social level. But as more and more women adopted the style, it lost favor among the men and they switched to other symbols of power, letting the style become a feminine one and cementing its place in society as a decidedly gendered object.
I find it interesting that something that now seems so obvious for women as high heels is only so because of perception and historical trends. It also makes me look around at objects and wonder if they might be better suited to a particular group that they aren’t currently associated with.
This brings me to the Bovet Récital 23, the very first watch with the writing slope-style case from Bovet designed with women in mind.
It seems so obvious now that the elegant curves and sloping case style is perfect for a more delicate sensibility. So I’m not surprised that the case style has made the jump to this Bovet watch for women as it is surprising it wasn’t debuted there first.
The Bovet Récital 23 was also chosen as the basis for Bovet’s contribution to Only Watch 2019, and I think could become a mainstay within the collection rivaling Breguet’s Reine de Naples collection.
Bovet Récital 23 is the right move
The introduction of the Récital 23 in the writing slope case combined with the brand’s oval shape used on other women’s watches in the past is the right choice for the collection. The shapes work perfectly together, allowing for a unique watch that can easily house interesting complications designed specifically for women.
The Récital 23 is a fantastic example right off the bat, integrating a large moon phase (often described as the most poetic complication) with a hemispherical dome and arched bridge holding the viewing window. The layout keeps the display of time smaller and allows for more decoration, engraving, and in this case, a view of the moon phase mechanism and corrector lever.
This keeps the piece aesthetically balanced yet also gives some of the mechanics a place to shine. The dial is made of always-stunning blue aventurine (or a choice of black guilloche mother-of-pearl), which complements the sparkly engraving on the surfaces surrounding the dial and allows the diamond hour markers to pop.
Visually, the movement seems to be a bigger part of the Récital 23: when the shape becomes an oval, it helps the design create flow, emphasized by the shooting star decoration on the left side of the dial, which follows the arched moon phase window bridge.
This might be my favorite part, simply because it makes the indicator window three dimensional in a way that I haven’t seen much before, even from Bovet. Heck, even the Récital 26 Brainstorm has a similar hemispherical moon phase yet opts for a simple cutout above the dome.
It also helps to highlight the depth of the moon phase as it has to rise up to show the position of the moon instead of sitting flatly over top. What’s more, the engraved moon features luminescent material in the recesses to create a stunning glow that makes the presentation something visceral.
Bovet Récital 23: details round it out
Since the moon phase is accurate to one day every 122 years, that feeling should last a lifetime.
But should you happen to not wear the watch long enough for the 62 hours of power reserve to slowly wind down, adjusting the moon phase dome is easy with a built-in corrector in the center of the crown. Instead of adding the tiny indent corrector on the side of the case as is so often seen, Bovet decided to retain aesthetic principles and keep it invisible on the outside of the case, even though one can see it on the dial.
This dichotomy is part of what makes a lot of the Bovet Récital models so interesting: there is a clear desire to have at least one thing be unexpected. This ideology continues through the Récital 23 to the hour and minute hands, which are spade-style hands that have an odd little squiggle in the middle of the arm.
This is no accidental squiggle but a deliberate shape to create a specific relationship between the two hands. Once an hour they meet just perfectly and form a miniature heart as the two opposing shapes come together.
Some might roll their eyes at something so clearly intended to be a “female detail,” but the truth is that the hand shape is a small, barely evident detail that most would likely miss until they accidentally see the two hands meet one day.
It is small elements like this that round out a design and provide a character to the aesthetic. That aesthetic can be customized to your preferences too with three case materials (red gold, white gold, and titanium), three stone-setting options (fully paved, brilliant-set bezel, baguette-set bezel), and the two dial options.
Overall, there are 18 unique combinations for the piece as planned – or you can bid on the unique piece for Only Watch 2019.
Publicity is good business: Bovet for Only Watch 2019
The unique piece Bovet made for Only Watch 2019 is based on the aventurine dial and titanium case options, though unlike the regular production versions, which only have diamond-set cases in gold, this will be the only titanium version of this model sporting a diamond bezel.
But the real highlight is the miniature painting on the aventurine dial of a faerie sitting on the crescent moon holding a star. The tiny detailed painting took more than 100 hours to complete, much being done with a single marten-hair brush, all underneath a microscope.
Never before have I seen a miniature painting on a dial that looks so perfectly in context as this one, it’s strange how well it works with the case shape and aesthetic details. The delicate faerie feels right at home sitting in that sloping oval, almost like that was the original version from a designer at Bovet.
Regardless which came first, the faerie or the egg (-shaped oval case), the result is a truly beautiful watch that hopefully will raise a lot of money for the good cause that is Only Watch.
I’m sure Bovet won’t mind the extra coverage that the new Récital 23 will get thanks to the beautiful Only Watch version, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some prospective buyers inquire about miniature paintings on their own pieces.
The added publicity is perfect when launching a new model, and the combination of Only Watch and the subtle-yet-beautiful details built into the Récital 23 may help cement the style into a distinct line extension for Bovet.
Funny that it all started as a men’s watch, and now seeing it in this iteration I can’t imagine that it wasn’t always a women’s watch. It makes perfect sense; the details all have combined to become a defining shape that could be a leader for Bovet.
Like I mentioned before, it rivals the Reine de Naples from Breguet, which is widely known as an iconic women’s watch from a historic brand.
Bovet has two centuries of history, yet nothing as definitively feminine. Even as the Récital 23 is an updated version of the Récital 11, it stands apart thanks to the writing slope case, like it was just waiting for that detail to push it over the top (the hemispherical moon phase helps too).
The best part is that this is just the beginning: if the response is good enough the shape and style will continue, and we will get to see more developments. Perhaps some will be distinctly feminine and unique only to women’s watches; I know there are many out there that would be massive fans of that trajectory, myself included.
I’ve built it up, now let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.1 New takes on women’s watches almost always get a strong wowza!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 91.1» 893.386m/s2 The best part about how much late-night lusting you will be doing over this watch is that it has a full moon to illuminate your desires!
- M.G.R. * 52.7 The base movement is fairly straightforward, but the hemispherical moon phase is a very nice touch!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild Moon phases are one of my favorite added functions, yet honestly provide minor functionality. I would recommend children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the lunarly swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 9.89 A tortilla chip shard to the gums! I have to admit I am surprised that we as humans don’t have dramatically more mouth injuries with all the hard, crunchy things we eat. Still, it is surely painful when we finally do get something in the gums. No matter, I’d take it again for a chance to get this watch (in a plain titanium case) on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * That moon phase though! At this point is anyone surprise when I fall in love with a dramatic moon phase indication? Me neither, that’s why I booked the plaza for Valentine’s Day!
- Awesome Total * 994 Begin with the hours of power reserve (62) and multiply by the possible number of variations (18), then subtract the number of years before correction of the moon phase mechanism is needed (122) and the result will be a glowingly awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.bovet.com/timepiece/dimier-recital-23.
Quick Facts Bovet Récital 23
Case: 43 x 28.7 x 14.4 mm in white gold, red gold, or titanium, diamond set options with gold cases
Movement: automatic Caliber 11DA17-MP, 62-hour power reserve, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; moon phase
Price: beginning at CHF 45,000