‘Ataelier Haute Complication’ Dual Time by Vladimir Négault: A François-Paul Journe Disciple Making Sensational Watches With A Polarizing Design And Inventive Complications
by Ian Skellern
I recently spent a full week in Switzerland visiting nearly 20 independent watchmakers and boutique brands. And I was blown away by how incredibly dynamic the independent watchmaking world has developed. One new independent watchmaker that hasn’t even launched his brand yet (scheduled for April 2022) already has orders to 2027!
It was a week of meeting old friends and new, and seeing a plethora of incredible watches, but one of the highlights for me was meeting Vladimir Négault, founder of Ataelier Haute Complication, a relatively new independent watchmaker based in Geneva who is making some of the most interesting and inventive watches I’ve ever seen.
Vladimir Negault: Background
Négault was working as an architect in Paris and has had a passion for watchmaking since he was 12 years old and used to work on old alarm clocks, pocket watches and wristwatches. But he didn’t know much about more complex watchmaking until he discovered high-end complicated watches through a friend, François-Paul Journe, who he had known since 1994. From his architectural work, Négault was familiar with 3D CAD programs and making digital films, and in 2004 Journe asked him to make digital watch films for F.P. Journe.
Over the next four years, Négault produced films of all the watches in the F.P. Journe collection and when done told Journe that he’d finished. Journe replied, as you now know my watches inside and out as well as anyone, why not come to Geneva and work for me as a constructor? Negault accepted and in 2008 he moved to Geneva and started work designing movements for F.P. Journe.
After eight years of developing complicated movements at F.P. Journe, Négault began dreaming of making his own watches, and he sensibly started with coming up with a strong visual identity. One of the first things I tell any budding independent watchmaker is that if someone can’t recognize your watch on a wrist from three meters away, don’t bother: the world has enough traditional-looking watches – you must stand out from the crowd.
Négault certainly knew that because his watches have one of the strongest visual identities I’ve ever seen. People are likely to either love or hate the look, it’s that polarizing, but as Max Büsser told me when he first launched MB&F, “I expect that more than 90% of collectors will hate my watches, but I only need a small percentage to love them to succeed.”
In 2018 he left F.P. Journe to start working full-time developing watches for his own brand, Ataelier Haute Complication.
From the images I’d seen of Négault’s watches before handling them, I didn’t like them so much that I nearly canceled my visit! I thought I’d be better spending my time on watches I liked. I’m glad I didn’t because I ended up liking Negault’s watches very much!
Ataelier Haute Complication: Collection (Dual Time, Tourbillon à Sonnerie, and Perpetual Calendar with Perpetual Week Calendar)
Négault developed five complications in his spare time while working at F.P. Journe, all sharing the same distinctive visual aesthetics. All of Negault’s watches feature a large indication displaying the complication/s and a smaller subdial displaying the time with hands.
Négault launch his brand, Atelier Haute Complication, with his first model, the Dual Time, and both the subscription edition of 19 pieces and the production edition of 99 pieces in steel have already sold out! These will be the only steel-cased watches Négault makes. All future watches by Atelier Haute Complication will be exclusively in platinum.
All of Négault’s complications feature innovative and useful complications that haven’t previously existed. All movements are 100% developed by Negault in-house.
And while he can’t have much of it these days, Négault composes jazz in his spare time.
Ataelier Haute Complication: Dual Time/GMT
Negault’s take on the traditional dual time complication features a 12-hour indication for the second time zone instead of the usual 24-hour display. His twist is that there’s also a day/night indicator arc running under the 12-hour home time zone display at the top of the dial.
A pointer for the home time tracks across the 12-hour daylight arc with a sun symbol from 6 am to 6 pm, which is then replaced by a nighttime dial with a moon and the pointer then tracks across the 12 hours of night – so you immediately know at a glance on the same indication if the displayed time is during the day or night.
Négault launched the Dual Time with a 19-piece subscription edition in steel (sold out) and is now making the 99-piece limited edition production series in steel (also sold out). There will be no more steel-cased models.
But if you are interested – and quick) – at the time of publishing there are still a few pieces of a 29-piece limited edition in platinum left (cost CHF 29,000).
Then the Dual Time model will be retired, that’s all folks, so he can focus on his next complications.
For more information, please visit https://ataelier.ch/en/models/dual-time
Technical details: Ataelier Haute Complication Dual Time
Indications: dual time zones with day/night indicator
Case dimensions: 41 mm diameter x 9 mm high, 20 mm between lugs
Case materials: steel (subscription edition)
Movement: Caliber Architecture Mécanique N°1, manual winding, in-house in German silver, 42-hour power reserve, 3 Hz balance frequency, hand finished hammering, circular graining and anglage
Price: 99-piece limited edition in steel CHF 8,000 (sold out), 29-piece limited edition in platinum CHF 29,000 (a few still available at time of publication)
Atelier Haute Complication: Tourbillon à Sonnerie (striking tourbillon)
Négault’s second model, the Tourbillon à Sonnerie, is more complicated: it features a 60-second tourbillon and chimes every half hour (with a mute switch). As Einstein plainly stated in his Special Theory of Relativity, time is relative to the observer, as anyone who experiences time flying by either too quickly while having fun (or busy) or crawling by slowly when doing something less enjoyable is well aware.
A simple (though not simple to execute) chime every 30 minutes helps the wearer to keep track of time no matter how fast or slow it seems to be passing by. And naturally, it does a bit more than that: Negault’s Tourbillon à Sonnerie strikes once on the half hour and twice (with two distinctive notes) on the hour. An inertial (silent) governor visible dial side ensures that the chimes are nicely spaced out.
The 9-piece pieces subscription edition of the Tourbillon à Sonnerie in platinum has already sold out, but Negault is still taking pre-orders for the 69-piece limited edition production model in platinum (CHF 80,000).
Négault expects to present his first Tourbillon à Sonnerie towards the end of 2023 with delivery scheduled for 2024.
For (a little) more information, please visit https://ataelier.ch/en/models/tourbillon-a-sonnerie
Ataelier Haute Complication: Perpetual Calendar with Perpetual Week Calendar
Négault’s third model, scheduled to launch towards the end of 2024 or early 2025 will be a full perpetual calendar indicating day, date, month, and leap year, plus a perpetual 52/53 business week calendar.
All 7-day business week calendars start on Monday. A year has 53 weeks if the 1st of January is on a Thursday on a non-leap year, or on a Wednesday or a Thursday on a leap year, with the first week of the next year ending in the last week of December (not necessarily the 31st) in a 52-week year, and if the previous year had 53 weeks, the first week of the new year (not necessarily the 1st of January).
Confused? You are not the only one as until now, there has been no perpetual 52/53 week calendar watch automatically correcting every seemingly random five or six years for a 53-week year.
The extremely few weekly calendars that have existed to date have had a corrector to bypass the 53rd week in 52-week years (the majority of cases), just as with an annual calendar watch, you have to manually correct to bypass the 29th of February in non-leap years. Négault’s QP is the first perpetual calendar watch to offer a fully perpetual week calendar.
For more information, please visit https://ataelier.ch/en/