Recently I read an article in the UK Telegraph by a very renowned journalist called Alex Proud. The editorial raises various contentious issues about watch industry and whether Swiss timepieces are really worth the money. Alex eloquently explains in depth why he feels the high prices charged by some brands cannot be justified. Although I found the narrative very entertaining and exceptionally well written I personally don’t agree with his viewpoint. Clearly there is a demand for luxurious watches and collectors will pay big money to obtain them. For example a rare Patek Philippe recently netted a whopping $2.965 million Sotheby’s auction.
Another point Alex Proud mentions is that the retail price of the watch doesn’t relate to the cost of parts but the name of the company. To a certain extent I agree and that is why independent watchmakers (with a much lower profile) intrigue me. A great example is Swiss born atelier Vincent Calabrese. In 1985 he established the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI for short). This organisation now has 33 members including Kari Voutilainen, Aaron Becsei, Aniceto Jiménez Pita, Thomas Prescher, Valerii Danevych and Vianney Halter. All of these artisans handcraft every component of their sublime timepieces.
My main contact at the AHCI is marketing consultant Daniel Rincón Hanna. He has been instrumental in improving the group’s visibility and making the necessary personal introductions. There is no doubt that Vincent Calabrese had produced many exquisite watches but my favourite is the Tourbillon Phantom. With a diameter measuring only 36mm the watch is very small by modern standards. For that reason I feel these classical proportions will appeal to gentlemen with smaller wrists or ladies. I also feel due to its modest size, the timepiece would feel lightweight and comfortable on the wrist. Ultimately this is down to the elegant case design and choice of Sapphire Crystal in production. The only other timepiece I have ever seen constructed out of this material is Richard Mille’s sensational RM 056 Filipe Massa Sapphire.
Visually the Tourbillon Phantom has a stylish and highly original appearance. What makes this watch so distinctive is the beautiful hand crafted sapphire glass case. Vincent informed that the design of this timepiece has evolved over the last 25 years. I love the way the movement appears to be magically suspended in thin air. Hours are displayed via a large central hand and minutes on a sub counter located at 3 o’clock. Other sensational features include bespoke floating lugs and crown system on the reverse. Overall the composition is amazing and the attention to detail is first class.
At the heart of the watch is a highly sophisticated manual winding movement. The caliber comprises 17-jewels and oscillates at a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour. Each of the 52 individual components including the 18-karat white gold tourbillon carriage has be delicately hand crafted by Vincent. This fantastic mechanism can be viewed in all its glory from every angle. Functionally the Tourbillon Phantom features hours, minutes and flying tourbillon. The watch also has a power reserve of 36 hours and is water resistant to a depth of 30 metres.
The Tourbillon Phantom has a hand stitched brown alligator strap with 18-karat white gold folding clasp. Priced for the serious collector at: CHF 190,000 (approximately $209,000).