Bovet 1822 is an exemplar of fine watchmaking, crafting classically styled timepieces harnessing much horological virtue. The Récital 18 Shooting Star blends these attributes with a breathtaking collection of indications which distinguish it as very special indeed.
Often, avant-garde watch companies proffer delight with off-piste, ingenious horological concepts. Conversely, classically designed exemplars of haute horlogerie deliver a high quotient of visual appeal, pairing optimal proportions and traditional watchmaking craft. I have always placed Bovet in the latter category, until now.
The Bovet Récital 18 Shooting Star combines a majestic case design, typical of the maison, but with a display which is very much outside my usual frame of reference. This is a surprising fact, bearing in mind that each year I see and touch literally hundreds of different watches. Quite simply, it is rare that I see a timepiece which is wholly new and resembles no other. The Bovet Récital 18 Shooting Star is such a watch.
This timepiece is suffused with a plethora of complications, including a ‘hemispheric universal worldwide time’ and a ‘hemispheric precision moon phase’. These two rotating bodies, each resembling half a sphere, dominate the dial area and deliver an intriguing horological vista.
When I placed this watch upon my wrist, I entered a beguiling three dimensional world and soon became lost in a universe of flawless finissage and matchless mechanical creativity.
The hours are presented on a disc of clear sapphire crystal, positioned below noon. The prevailing hour, depicted with narrow Arabic numerals, is shown when the disc serenely passes over an aventurine or white lacquered plate.
Nuzzling the inner flange of the dial is a minutes display. A blued hand interfaces with a curved retrograde minutes display, arcing from left to right, marked ‘0’ to ’60’. The minutes display sits at the top, a power-reserve indicator sits on the step below and, finally, the hour display occupies the bottom step. This masterful manipulation of depths heightens the visual interest of the three indications.
18-carat white gold case with white polished lacquer dial
The ‘hemispheric universal worldwide time’ rotates counterclockwise, turning with the aid of three ruby runners, arranged along its circumference, ensuring a smooth circular motion. When the pushpiece, mounted in the winding crown, is pressed and then subsequently released the city display, above the right hemisphere, advances and the time zone hand moves counter clockwise. Bovet has been very clever, ensuring that the forces applied to the mechanism when switching from city to city are modulated. Indeed, irrespective of the force applied by the wearer when pushing the crown, it is the ‘spring loaded correction’ after the pushpiece is released that propels the mechanism i.e. not the initial push.
On the opposite side of the dial, an identically sized ‘hemispheric precision moon phase’ provides a seemly sense of symmetry and balance. Again, the display is not mounted on a pivot but employs the same three ruby runners, seen on its aforementioned neighbour, to facilitate its rotational orbit. The surface of the moon phase indicator is intricately adorned with artistic depictions of the moon, as seen from the northern and southern hemispheres. The age of the moon is determined using two apertures which seemingly float above the curved depiction of the lunar landscape.
Both hemispheric displays are imbued with a notable degree of luminescence. They are adorned with various relief engravings, for example depicting terra firma on earth. The earth’s oceans are filled with blue luminescent fill, while the moon’s craters are filled with white luminous material. The resultant outcome is a shimmering vision when viewed in restricted light, conferring a delightful sense of wonderment.
The lower portion of the dial bestows a sense of visual lightness, providing a wonderful contrast to the very complex northern aspect of the display.
The tourbillon bridge is neatly affixed to the mainplate but appears to almost float on a sea of nothingness. It curves upwards, arcing gracefully and exhibiting a degree of fluidity which proves captivating. Bovet has truly manipulated depths with amazing aplomb, a skill I normally associate with the work of a great artist. Blued screws abound, engraved detail is charmingly expressed and the rim of the balance wheel features blued crescent shaped weights, first fitted to pocket watches made by the maison in the 19th century.
The 18-carat white gold case measures 46mm in diameter and has a thickness of 18.15mm. When viewed directly from the front, the profile of the case appears comparatively conventional. However, when viewed from the side, the wedge shape profile of the case is anything but conventional, evincing a high degree of originality.
Its unusual design was said to be inspired by a writing desk and, with this in mind, the near trapezoidal outline of the Récital 18 Shooting Star seems to successfully replicate an author’s favourite piece of furniture.
The intricacy of the case is breathtaking. There is no hint of expediency, just an absolute desire to achieve horological perfection. The case band is cambered, suffusing the vertical flank of the case with gleaming episodes of brilliance and sultry interludes of shade.
The crimped profile of the crown proves simple to grip and is tastefully adorned with a blue cabochon. As stated earlier, the city indicator is advanced by pressing the tip of the crown.
Located between the horns at noon, a pushpiece allows the wearer to advance the hour display in one-hour steps and, in so doing, provides a user-friendly facility to change the prevailing hour, proving ideal for the frequent traveller.
At 11 o’clock, a corrector, neatly integrated into the case band, allows the wearer to adjust the moon phase indication. This latter complication necessitates correction by one day every 122 years.
The hand-wound, Caliber 17DM01-HU is a glorious vision intended to sate the desires of the most pernickety connoisseur. It is endowed with sublime finishing, visible via the exhibition case back. Bovet 1822 and its sister company, Dimier 1738, have collaborated to create the movement powering Bovet Récital 18 Shooting Star. The degree of in-house expertise is breathtaking. Indeed, rather unusually these small ultra high-end companies even craft their own hairsprings, an ability few other brands possess.
The mainplate and two large bridges are relief engraved with an exquisite depiction of the nocturnal sky, featuring twinkling stars, a crescent-shaped moon and the occasional shooting star, adding a dose of dynamism to the artistic canvas.
Blued screws and deep-set rubies framed with specular polished circlets accord a sense of luxury, something I have grown accustomed to expect from this most impressive manufacture. Bovet is a name I hold in the highest esteem and, based on my period of association with the Récital 18 Shooting Star, I see little reason to change this opinion.
The rearmost tourbillon bridge is mirror-polished, the peerless result of many hours of deft polishing with diamantine paste. The one-minute tourbillon, featuring three arms, interfaces with a scale printed on the underside of the sapphire crystal, allowing the wearer to read off 20 second intervals via the front of the watch.
To the rear of the two hemispheric indications shown dial side, two corresponding golden hemispheres protrude above the plate and are, once again, tastefully engraved with lunar symbols and the jewel count of the movement.
Bovet 1822 and its sister company, Dimier 1738, have conceived a mind-blowing showcase of watchmaking know-how. The display of hours, minutes and seconds are simple to interpret, while the two hemispheric indications successfully blend functionality with creativity and artistic prowess. There is a sense of occasion with this watch.
The case is large but not unduly so. Its sloping profile delivers a delightful dose of quirkiness which I personally find endearing. The intelligent means of modulating the pressure applied via the crown pusher, to prevent any damage to the worldwide time mechanism, is inspired.
However, it is the movement which is arguably one of my favourite aspects of this watch. It is achingly gorgeous and deserves to be admired. While the addition of engraved detail adds little to the functionality, it undoubtedly augments the pleasure this adornment confers and I would argue that this is a perfect illustration of true luxury.
Whether you choose to live your life on terra firma or imagine yourself in a celestial world with the moon and stars as neighbours, there is no escaping that this Bovet timepiece beautifully encapsulates the majesty and wonder of the universe.
Model: Bovet Récital 18 Shooting Star
Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 46mm; height 18.15mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
Functions: Jumping hours; retrograde minutes; 5-day tourbillon; hemispheric universal worldwide time with selectable time zone; 24-city indicator; power-reserve indicator; hemispheric moon phase indication
Movement: Caliber 17DM01-HU, hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 60 jewels; power reserve 5 days.
Strap: Black alligator strap presented on a 18-carat white gold pin buckle
Price: CHF 295,000 (excluding tax – RRP as at 5.9.2016)
Limited Edition: 50 pieces (composed of both 18-carat red gold & 18-carat white gold versions)
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.