Arnold & Son Golden Wheel

Angus Davies reflects on 2015 and reviews a sublime watch, the Arnold & Son Golden Wheel, a timepiece which successfully references the past, embraces the new and harnesses much Swiss craftsmanship in its creation.

This detailed review of the Arnold & Son Golden Wheel includes live images and specification details.

Arnold & Son Golden Wheel - watch review by Angus Davies, ESCAPEMENT MAGAZINE

As the sun sets on 2015, I have been looking through my notes and reviewing the numerous photographs I have taken over the year. There are several magnificent watches that I have failed to comment upon but, no doubt, during 2016 I will critique these horological delicacies and redress this professional oversight.

However, one watch which stands out, representing a huge, glaring omission on my part, is the fascinating Golden Wheel by Arnold & Son.

This maison, named after legendary English watchmaker, John Arnold, reinterprets horological works of yesteryear and distills them into new, highly innovative, functional works of art. Moreover, this ingenious brand does not merely repackage horological concepts of old, but imbues its designs with an additional twist, a further complication perhaps, differentiating its models still further from those of its competitors.

The Arnold & Son Golden Wheel is a fitting example of this refreshing approach to watch design. This timepiece is described by the brand as the ‘World’s first wandering hours and true beat seconds watch’. Certainly, on an aesthetic level, I cannot think of many timepieces which resemble its unusual mien. It is deserving of comment and I feel honour-bound to make amends with this in-depth review.

The dial

Three rotating discs collaborate together to impart the hours. These discs are mounted on an 18-carat red gold wheel, positioned centre stage. Indeed, it is this red gold wheel which provides the nomenclature for the watch.

Arnold & Son Golden Wheel - watch review by Angus Davies, ESCAPEMENT MAGAZINE

The rotating discs are constructed of sapphire crystal, marked with four different hour markings, each of which pivots on a star shaped wheel. As the uppermost rotating disc approaches 10 minutes to the hour, it assumes authority and proclaims the relevant value against an arc-like section of mother-of-pearl.

Arnold & Son Golden Wheel - watch review by Angus Davies, ESCAPEMENT MAGAZINE

I confess that on seeing the Golden Wheel for the first time at Baselworld 2015, I found this aspect of the display a tad confusing. Early pre-production examples depicted the hours in golden text and lacked definition against the mother-of-pearl plinth below. However, clearly Arnold & Son, no stranger to the concept of ‘continuous improvement’, listened to feedback and changed the colour of the text to black. This subtle change of hue has conferred a huge difference in legibility, making it much easier to interpret the display.

The minutes are indicated by the position of the hour marker adjacent the mother-of-pearl dial section, marked with Arabic numerals. The scale is marked with a combination of Arabic numerals for every 10 minute integer and a line in between indicating each 5 minute integer. For those would-be wearers wishing to read-off intervals in between the minute markings shown, they may find the scale does not readily facilitate this. However, in my opinion, this is a small price to pay given the majestic display conferred and the smile-inducing design language employed.

Again, Arnold & Son has clearly listened to feedback post Baselworld regarding another element of the display, the seconds track encircling the dial. Initial pre-production models featured a railroad track style display, combining Arabic numerals and dots located in between. The final production version of the watch forgoes the Arabic numerals and railroad track, eschewing excess detail and simply retaining the circular second markings alone. As a result, the seconds track appears cleaner and easier on the eye.

The central true beat seconds hand advacnes with discrete steps every second. Its deliberate, andante motion is beguiling to behold and likely to engender adoration in the hearts of the cognoscenti.

Arnold & Son Golden Wheel - watch review by Angus Davies, ESCAPEMENT MAGAZINE

I often make reference to dial depths when reviewing watches. It is my firm belief that the finest examples of watchmaking exploit the differing heights of a dial’s composition. Indeed, this aspect is brilliantly shown with this dial, pleasingly playing with light and, as a result, delivering an abundance of eye-appeal. The Arnold & Son Golden Wheel takes this notion to a high plane, frequented by few.

Firstly, several of the movement parts are visible dial-side, allowing the wearer to observe the thought processes of the watch in real-time. These freely disclosed components have been executed to a sublime standard, typical of the finest exemplars of haute horlogerie.

Secondly, each element of the dial floats above a dark, black sea of vertical stripes. This canvas, adorned with Côtes de Genève motif gracing the underside of the mainplate, again provides a visual connection with the heart of the watch. The dark tone of the mainplate is achieved using ADLC treatment and delivers superb contrast with the other elements of the dial composition.

The case

Measuring 44mm in diameter, the 18-carat red gold case is no shrinking violet. Conversely, it does not unduly shout or invite excessive attention. Arnold & Son has expertly navigated a potentially hazardous course, delivering a stylish timepiece which exudes good taste.

The case employs highly polished surfaces which beautifully dance with light. The bezel sits below the adjacent sapphire crystal and tapers downwards towards the caseband. I suspect this aspect of the design language helps mitigate the sense of scale, as the watch does not appear 44mm in diameter when worn.

The caseband is angled inwards, hence the caseback is narrower than the upper surface of the watch. The lugs sharply taper downwards and the strap sits close to the case in between the horns, according a welcome sense of neatness. Also, there is a slight step, where the bezel and the caseband meet, heightening visual interest.

Arnold & Son Golden Wheel - watch review by Angus Davies, ESCAPEMENT MAGAZINE

Six screws hold the caseback in position and a large sapphire crystal provides an unhindered view of the self winding Arnold & Son movement beating within this timepiece.

The movement

Arnold & Son is highly unusual in the sphere of high-end watchmaking. It designs watches with aesthetically optimised, original dial layouts and thereafter conceives tailor-made movements to suit. The Calibre A&S6018 proves to be no exception. Its architecture is designed solely for this model. Perhaps what makes this even more remarkable is that Arnold & Son has limited the production of this 18-carat red gold watch to only 125 examples.

Arnold & Son Golden Wheel - watch review by Angus Davies, ESCAPEMENT MAGAZINE

However, part of its ability to make unusual, highly innovative movements lies in its technical virtuosity and production prowess. Arnold & Son has extensive production facilities at its disposal and its sister company, La Joux-Perret SA, produces movements for a plethora of brands.

The capacity of this company to conceive cannot be overstated.

Arnold & Son’s movements should not be confused with some of La Joux-Perret’s capable calibres, produced for some of the more mainstream brands. The movements of Arnold & Son are suffused with supreme finishing and no-compromise execution, denoting them as particularly high-end.

The self-winding Calibre A&S6018 is palladium treated. The bridges are chamfered with gleaming edges. The screws are bevelled and thermally blued.

The oscillating mass is open-worked and features palladium treatment and brushed surfaces, while the mainplate sports pristine perlage.

I especially like the contradistinction of the sunray-motif gracing the transmission wheel, sitting adjacent the ratchet wheel adorned with a spiral-shaped motif. The exacting attention to detail demonstrated with this movement proves superb.

Closing remarks

In a few weeks time, I will join many of my esteemed colleagues from the world of watch journalism at Baselworld 2016. I always enjoy attending the world’s most important watch and jewellery fair. Often those who work within the online field of journalism will endeavour to be first to report on a watch. Indeed, I am no stranger to this notion myself.

However, sometimes there is benefit in pausing, reflecting and waiting to see if pre-production prototypes subsequently change prior to being released for general sale.

Indeed, in this instance, my tardiness in reporting on the Arnold & Son Golden Wheel during Baselworld 2015 has proved opportune. The final production model exhibits an improved dial display and features the final, refined movement execution, an aspect I have grown accustomed to expect from this impressive watch company.

The Arnold & Son Golden Wheel is a fascinating timepiece because it successfully fuses a classical aesthetic with a novel means of imparting time. Moreover, the watch does not forgo haute horlogerie finishing and champions fine watchmaking craft with its splendiferous creation.

I may have been remiss in failing to report on this timepiece sooner, but rest assured I will be closely watching Arnold & Son in 2016.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Arnold & Son Golden Wheel
  • Reference: 1HVAR.M01A.C120A
  • Case: 18-carat red gold; diameter 44.00mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Jumping digital hours; minutes; true-beat seconds
  • Movement: Calibre A&S6018, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 29 jewels; power reserve 45 hours.
  • Strap: Hand-stitched brown alligator leather with 18-cart red gold pin buckle
  • Limited Edition: 125 pieces

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