Hervé Schlüchter L’Essentiel Regulator: Loss Inspiring Creation
When we are young children, our experience of loss is typically losing our favorite toy, possibly a pet, and as we get older perhaps a grandparent or great-grandparent we spend a lot of time with. The impact is often visceral but short-lived, crying for a day or three when you want to play with your bear that can’t be found, but the impact can increase as we age and become more attached in complex ways to objects, people, or even ideas.
Even before adolescence, children will begin to understand the profound emotions that create both physical and mental pain and distress surrounding loss. The experience transforms from being temporarily sad to having to adjust our sense of self and concepts of the world. Once young people start having relationships and experiencing first loves, the true hardships of loss and grief become apparent and typically leads to many forms of self-expression simply in search of meaning.
This could be changing the way one dresses or behaves, or beginning to create art, music, poetry, or as simple as finding ways to appreciate the life they have and enjoy as much of it as possible. It’s rare to become a fully-fledged adult without having grappled with loss in some form or another, and it often leads to major life decisions or some of the most poignant pieces of art created by young people.
As we age and experience the loss of those close to us (an experience sadly not foreign to some very young people) it can be the spark that creates a fire inside of us to quit wasting time and pursue our dreams. Loss can often be the tipping point in a person’s life when they finally decide to quit their job and strike out on their own, as it was for watchmaker Hervé Schlüchter.
After the loss of his father, combined with the realization that he wasn’t able to create the watch his father had hoped for from his son, a watch like his own grandfather had worn, Schlüchter decided that now was the time for independence. He got to work and L’Essentiel was born from what he is naming the “Tree of Life” project, a philosophical collection of watches with a message.
Hervé Schlüchter L’Essentiel Regulator
Appropriately, the “Tree of Life” project was born in parallel to Schlüchter’s first child who was bittersweetly born two months after his father’s passing. It’s obvious that this loss and subsequent birth was extremely meaningful to Schlüchter and he needed a way to share what he was experiencing. Very early in the development, he formed a question, “What if my great-grandfather’s pocket watch also harbored a message for me, and for my children in the future?”
This led to the concept of the “Tree of Life” project, imbuing its watches with specific ideas relevant to the different stages of life and the L’Essentiel was the first creation of this endeavor. Built around a regulator layout, L’Essentiel separates the dial into a few sections and channels very classic and modern aesthetic cues.
The seconds are encapsulated in a sub-dial ring at six o’clock, reminiscent of F.P. Journe and historical pieces with a screwed bezel surrounding the small dial. The minutes are at the center of the dial, anchoring the face and pointing to a slightly domed track of Grande Feu enamel around the edge of the dial.
Hours are on display via a cutout of the guilloche dial plate spanning from 9 to three, once again edged by a screwed bezel with appropriate flourishing. The hour disk is made from aventurine and sports decorations in gold and silver metallization, a 24-hour scale, and some choice philosophical touches that support the purpose of the collection. As time-only dials go this one does not come quietly, emphasizing a plethora of hand skills, materials, and contrasting aesthetic choices that coalesce into a unique whole. Unsurprisingly given Schlüchter’s background, the eye-catching dial pales in comparison to what has been done with the movement.
Having worked with both Bovet and Philippe Dufour, Schlüchter was able to become a master at the more traditional horology aesthetic since neither could be confused with a brand focusing on modern design. The caliber HS-01 is a smorgasbord of classical elements all finished to perfection to highlight the skills of the watchmaker. It was as if Schlüchter used the opportunity to create a movement as proof to himself and his father that he was, in fact, a master of his craft.
Highlights include 8 internal angles on the bridges, three perfectly mirror polished barrel shaped bridges, hand polished wolf’s teeth on the ratchet and crown wheel, mirror polished guillotine-style click, eccentric fine beat adjustment, free-sprung variable inertia balance, “moustache”-style escape lever, angel wing stop lever, prodigious use of black polishing, straight and satin graining, and all bridges finished with polished, domed bevels. The details are packed in there for you to discover, and each element was finished to a level worthy of the highest levels of horology.
From a technical standpoint the HS-01 is a quality movement, exceeding almost every metric one would want for a freshman effort from a new-to-the-scene brand, matching the quality seen in pieces from the industry’s biggest names.
The aesthetic cohesiveness of the movement does suffer a bit from the exuberance of Schlüchter, but not every timepiece is intended to be the quintessential example of horology. Both the effort and variety found in the caliber HS-01 reminds me of how I tackle new passion projects, giving it 150% effort to make sure every idea is expressed in some way or another.
Giving it your all
This leads to a movement that channels all the inspiration inside Schlüchter and manifests it in something intricate and detailed. The dial reflects this reality as well, with so many different inspirations combining to make a watch that obviously pulls from every corner of the watchmaker’s passion. Schlüchter says it himself that before beginning fabricating L’Essentiel he spent countless hours designing the caliber digitally, starting over and over searching for a way to incorporate “several foundational watchmaking specialties” in a harmonious way.
Even before the caliber, Schlüchter started by settling on the dial (inspired by a Antide Janvier regulator clock from the year 1800) and most of its details, as well as setting the diameter and approximate thickness to focus his efforts.
Once he finally made the leap from designing to fabrication, he had almost the entire history of watchmaking to realize piece by piece. From choosing materials (nickel silver, steel, aventurine, Grand Feu enamel) to the various finishes, the HS-01 and L’Essentiel became a conglomeration of horology that Schlüchter took very seriously. Remember, the impetus to finally build this watch and start his own brand came from a life-changing series of events for him.
Philosophy was not just a mere hobby that Schlüchter incorporated into his piece but was what helped him understand what he even hoped to accomplish. He wanted his watch to truly remind people of their existence in some kind of meditative way so, keeping it simple and straight forward, he looked to the 24-hour disk as a messenger. A 24-hour disk captures an entire day from start to finish and Schlüchter realized this could be an allegory for life in general.
Meaning to one expressed for many
Taking the day/night indication ability he added messages to both the golden sun and the silvery moon, using each to portray different parts of life. On the sun he wrote Hodie & Nunc, Latin for “Today” and “Now,” both an allegory to the past using a dead language and an allusion to childhood when people are mentally present in life. Most children do not worry about the future when they are playing and making decisions, they are purely living in the “now,” soaking in life in its ever-changing glory.
In the midnight position within the silver moon, Schlüchter wrote “Amor & Gratia” which simply means love and gratitude. These were chosen to both represent the wisdom of age, since the elders among us are often the best at remembering to focus on being grateful for what we have, and as a reminder that ending the day with love and gratitude is the easiest way to live a meaningful life.
I don’t think you could argue that Schlüchter hasn’t poured his emotions into this watch, both in terms of horological effort and philosophical ponderings. Underneath the balance he goes another step further to engrave the name of the watch, L’Essentiel, the name of the collection, Tree of Life, and his personal motto, “Creare Durare,” create to endure. No matter the face you are looking at it is there for you to consider, time, purpose, love, and gratitude. The loss of a loved one combined with the birth of a child clearly created a nexus point in Schlüchter’s life and the L’Essentiel is the physical manifestation of who he is.
Upcoming pieces in the collection may not try to touch on every aspect in such a clear and obvious way, but you can’t deny that Schlüchter made his emotions in metal with this piece. The love and attention paid to creating such a detailed movement is unmistakable, and the variety seen in the dial of the watch demonstrates all the directions he is being pulled in as his life progresses. It wouldn’t surprise me if he focuses that creative energy in follow-up pieces, but for now it is all on display.
I’m super excited to see this piece in person while discussing his philosophy a bit more and see what he has in store for us next. Clearly, we can expect more meditations on life and examples of amazing horological craftsmanship, and it will be worth the wait.
So to honor the passing of Schlüchter’s father and the birth of his child, I will very gently try to break this one down.
- Wowza Factor * 9.6 Visually this piece is designed to make you stop and have a deeper look, and the movement can only make you want to dive even deeper!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 96 » 941.438m/s2 Variety is the spice of life and also the reason to lust after this piece till the wee hours of the morning, there is so much to look at!
- M.G.R. * 68.8 It’s undeniable that the horology in the HS-01 borders on masterful, so it’s a joy to examine all its intricacies!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild Technically a time only watch, the 24-hour disk does double as a day/night indicator which gives just the slightest push beyond having no extra indications. But this is a mild infection so you can opt for the children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream to keep the horological swelling down!
- Ouch Outline * 10.6 Dropping a heavy car part on your face! Working under a car that is only up on jack stands brings all sorts of challenges, including unbolting a part only to have it slip from your hands and fall directly on your face. It doesn’t need to weigh a lot to hurt, yet I’d happily drop a pulley on my face every day if it meant getting my hands on the L’Essentiel!
- Mermaid Moment * The movement stuns! Even if the dial is not your aesthetic cup of tea the caliber inside is a watch enthusiasts dream, enough to make you want to set a date for the ceremony!
- Awesome Total * 734 Start with the hours of power reserve (60) and multiply by the number of pieces in the limited edition (25), then divide by the water resistance in atmospheres (3), then add back in the number of components in the case and the movement (189 + 45) and the result will be a pretty philosophical awesome total!
For more information, please www.herve-schluchter.ch/en/.
Quick Facts Hervé Schlüchter L’Essentiel Regulator
Case: 39 x 10.37 mm, stainless steel
Movement: manually wound HS-01, 60-hour power reserve, 18,000 vph/2.5Hz
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds in regulator layout, 24-hour indication
Limitation: 25 pieces
Price: CHF 78,000
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