Vault V2+RCT: When An Industry Insider Orders A Custom-Made Watch
by Martin Green
As the name implies, the watch industry is an industry. This means that we all depend on it to put bread on the table. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is fueled by passion, a passion that is deeply rooted with us at Quill & Pad. And with Albert Zeller too.
That latter name might not ring a bell with many, but if you look at your own watch right now chances are that you will spy a product made by his company, RC Tritec. As the manufacturer of Super-LumiNova, this company plays a significant role within the Swiss watch industry. And as with many of us working in watches, RC Tritec is more than a nine-to-five job for Zeller. His passion for watchmaking has also led him to team up with Mark Schwarz, founder of Vault, to create a unique timepiece.
Vault: the “secret” independent
In the world of high-end watchmaking, Vault is still something of a hidden gem. The brand was founded in 2013 by Schwarz, whose unique vision of design, materials, and market positioning could count on the support of renowned independent watchmakers Andreas Strehler and Marc Jenni. Schwarz likes to push the envelope in terms of technology and materials and does so in bespoke pieces. He has no desire for volume, but rather for capturing the passing of time in a way best suited for his clients.
The majority of his clients are very experienced collectors, people who have seen it all and have clear ideas of what they like and want. Like Schwarz, Zeller also likes to push the envelope – in both a business sense with his company, but also in his personal time when he takes to the slopes with his snowboard.
These two men guarantee a watch that can only be interesting – and even more so because they wanted the Vault V2+ RCT, as the watch is named, to fulfill three clear objectives.
- It may not repeat things done in the past. They wanted to challenge the status quo, innovate, and explore new directions.
- As Zeller is the CEO of RC Tritec, the watch needed to be understated by day and a showstopper by night. As the gentlemen put it, “A watch that Bruce Wayne could wear at a business meeting in the afternoon while chasing the Joker as Batman by night.”
- They wanted to have fun in the process, valuing the journey and not only the destination.
When we think about brands that innovate in terms of materials, Hublot and Richard Mille come to mind. Despite its small size, Vault carries some weight in this arena as well.
With the V1+CTI, Vault introduced the very first watch with a case crafted in carbon titanium. For the V2+White CC, the boutique brand was the first to use carbon fibers mixed with white ceramic. Vault’s partner in this modern case manufacturing is the renowned Fatcarbon, with whom Vault also teamed up with to create the Dark-Matter carbon composite case of the V2+RCT.
A lot of tests were needed to ensure that the composite had the right properties to craft a case from. This is a tedious, time-consuming, and costly process, but innovation often is. What sets the Dark-Matter composite apart is that it is made out of recycled carbon fiber strands held together by a 35 percent plant-based organic epoxy resin that is processed using renewable energies. Cutting the block of composite into the right shape takes more than 40 hours on a five-axis CNC machine, but the challenge doesn’t end there.
Zeller and Schwarz wanted to laser engrave the composite with the brand and model name. As the composite is a mixture of different elements, and gets its strength from the layering of them, getting a clean engraving lasered without rough edges almost turned out to be mission impossible. In the end, it was Gabriel Dumitru from Boegli Gravures SA who took up the challenge and was happily able to deliver the desired result.
It is very interesting to see that within the watch industry a lot of people enjoy a good challenge. Ask them to do the impossible and you are pretty much bound to find somebody who is ready to take up the challenge and put his/her skills and expertise to the test to reach the next level.
Light up the movement
As CEO of RC Tritec, you might expect that Zeller also wanted to infuse his Vault with his passion for luminous materials. To give the watch a tremendous amount of depth, the duo laser cut the grade 5 titanium hour disk, giving it a matte, understated finish that complements the work that independent watchmaker Marc Jenni did on the rest of the movement. It also gives the V2+RCT an understated yet sophisticated look that is quite difficult to adequately describe.
The Vault V2+RCT is a very modern creation, yet grounded in old-school craftsmanship and the desire to bring it to a higher, more contemporary level. It is the latest technology combined with the oldest skills – understated by day and extroverted by night.
The latter is achieved by hand-filling the honeycomb structure with Super-LumiNova in a way that makes the coming hour the brightest one. Achieving this is quite challenging and requires expertise and a very steady hand as there is no machine able to do this. Fortunately, Zeller has this expertise present in his own company, where Marcus Schnetzer successfully took up this challenge.
Zeller and Schwarz also wanted to improve the illumination of the minute hand to make the hours light up. This turned out to be quite a challenge as the sandwich structure that Vault developed for this watch, including the movement, hour gear transmission, and hour disk, are packed into a very tight space. They needed to rethink it entirely, down to the materials used.
To achieve this, they teamed up with Stefano Nassisi from Les Cadraniers de Genève. Nassisi invented a system in which highly concentrated Super-LumiNova pigments are molded into a silicone form and then transferred onto the horological component.
And they wanted to have as much volume of luminous pigment as possible to ensure optimum performance. To achieve this, the hour disks were made of PEEK (polyetheretherketone), a high-performance thermoplastic, that they engraved with high-concentration Lumicast blocks directly mounted in them. The same technique was then used for the minute hand.
Being light where you need something heavy
With the aim of making the V2+RCT the lightest Vault to date, there was also quite a challenge in relation to the oscillating weight. They eventually opted for a “superleggera” approach by Vault’s designer Laurent Auberson.
This freshly designed rotor, which mirrors the honeycomb design of the front hour disk, was cut from brass to give it enough weight for efficient winding of the movement and comes with an exceptional finish applied by Marc Jenni of sandblasted and brushed surfaces displaying both understatement and sophistication.
Marcus Schnetzer of RC Tritec also used Super-LumiNova to fill in some segments of the honeycomb structure on the back just as he did on the front. While this doesn’t make much sense at the back of the watch, it is a lot of fun. For example, when the watch lies on a nightstand it emits a subtle glow making owning this watch just that much more special.
Zeller and Schwarz also didn’t go the obvious route for the strap, opting for salmon skin with 18-karat pink gold stitching complemented by a lining of ostrich leather from the leg. While these materials look and feel utterly exotic, they are byproducts of the meat industry and are more sustainable than many other kinds of leather.
The strap is handcrafted by master strap maker Mirea Marian as a bespoke product made to fit the wrist of Zeller perfectly. It is the finishing touch on a watch that honors craftsmanship in a wide variety of different fields by elevating them and challenging them to reach new heights.
For more information, please visit www.vault.swiss/vault-v2-rct.
Quick Facts Vault V2+RCT
Case: 39 x 46.7 x 15 mm, Dark-Matter carbon composite
Movement: automatic Caliber V01, made exclusively for Vault by Andreas Strehler’s Uhrteil AG, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency, 55-hour power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: piece unique
Price: on request