Louis Moinet, the Swiss watchmaking company owned by Jean-Marie Schaller, has a reputation for crafting innovative timepieces. Its watches often incorporate automata, delivering a delightful sense of theatre. The Sideralis is the latest manifestation of the brand’s mind-blowing creativity and perfectly illustrates the wisdom of looking at the stars.
This summer, thousands of adolescents are partaking in a well-earned rest, having endured weeks of examination torment. For many, the stress of numerous tests will only fully dissipate when the dreaded results are published. It does seem cruel that the ramifications of a few hours in an examination room can have such a profound impact on the lives of individuals.
I am always fascinated with the spectacle of seeing students taking exams, their body language reveals so much. Some students, lean forward, enveloping the desk with their arms, creating a human wall around their personal space and burying their heads into the examination paper, eager to focus on the task in hand. These students often churn out rehearsed answers as quickly as possible with little thought or spontaneous creativity.
Other students look around the room, hoping to make eye contact with a friendly face and glean some useful information, desperate to impart at least a smidgen of ink to paper. The prognosis for their examinational success is gloomy, reinforcing the folly of plagiarism.
And then, there are the dreamers, those students who look to the heavens for inspiration. They hope that an episode of divine intervention will provide the answers and unlock the information, long-since cast to memory. This approach can yield a variety of outcomes, including frustration and failure. Conversely, looking to the heavens can deliver a moment of inspiration and confer a wonderful episode of unsurpassed creativity.
Jean-Marie Schaller, CEO of Louis Moinet, has become incredibly adept at looking to the heavens, conceiving a breathtaking array of innovative timepieces. The Louis Moinet Sideralis draws on Schaller’s profound zeal for the stars, featuring fragments of Mars, Moon dust and the Rosetta Stone, also termed ‘Sahara 99555’. Beyond these galactic elements, the Sideralis also presents a mouthwatering horological spectacle, with its inverted double tourbillon.
The first aspect of the dial to grab the wearer’s attention are two behemoth tourbillon cages which dominate the display. The immense scale of these two tourbillons, each measuring 14.9mm in diameter, accords an amazing sight of the screwed balance wheels revolving. The profile of the balance wheels is very unusual, courtesy of the cross-like members which span their form.
Louis Moinet often sets aside convention, conceiving ingenious and highly unusual displays. The double tourbillon perfectly illustrates this. The two tourbillon cages sit high above the epidermis of the dial, granting a fabulous three dimensional allure.
Moreover, the Sideralis transcends the spectacle of a ‘normal’ tourbillon by adopting a ‘two is better than one’ strategy. Indeed, this ‘inverted double tourbillon’ consists of two tourbillon cages, each rotating in the opposite direction to its neighbour. The left hand tourbillon carriage rotates clockwise, while the right hand tourbillon carriage rotates counter clockwise. The resultant outcome is a delectable visual feast, likely to induce salivation on the part of any self-respecting watch connoisseur.
Below noon, a small dial, sharing a similar diameter to the tourbillon cages, displays the hours and minutes, employing the maison’s eloquent Gouettes de Rosée hands. These hands interact with a chemin de fer, aiding user interpretation.
The upper dial surface is made from aventurine and is hand-painted with a glorious depiction of the universe with its stars and planets beautifully expressed. This upper dial surface rotates anti-clockwise, performing one revolution per 60 seconds, delivering a sublime vitality which is delightful to behold.
Beneath the upper dial surface, there is a lower disc which rotates at the same speed but in the opposite direction. Through an opening in the upper dial, the rotating lower disc can be seen, revealing a depiction of Mars, the Moon and Mercury. Each of these celestial bodies is depicted with ‘micro-paintings’, using a ‘fragment of Mars, moon dust and extreme fragments of the Rosetta Stone’ (Sahara 99555). Every 20 seconds a different celestial body comes into view, courtesy of the circular opening in the upper dial surface.
Beyond the visual spectacle of the cosmic display, there is much watchmaking creativity. The astronomical automaton, with the two discs turning in opposing directions, is made possible by the inverted double tourbillon and the respective rotational direction of each whirlwind. Indeed, the know-how of this watch is exclusive to Louis Moinet and is patented, reaffirming the company’s reputation for creativity.
The 18-carat white gold case shares a strong resemblance to the ‘Neo’ case, found with the recently launched Black Gold Derrick.
The case measures a generous 47.4mm in diameter but, thanks to its open-worked lugs imbuing the design with a degree of visual lightness, the watch appears smaller on the wrist.
I found the Sideralis granted a magnificent degree of wearer comfort and the high quality alligator leather strap reinforced the sense of luxury.
The case of the Sideralis feels special. The caseband is engraved with the maker’s name and the crown depicts the brand’s logo in relief. Sat adjacent the sapphire crystal of the caseback, the white gold metalwork is adorned with various symbols which are specific to Louis Moinet’s timepieces, suffusing the Sideralis with its own distinct and highly likeable character.
This movement is blessed with boundless beauty.
The double inverted tourbillon delivers a magnificent sense of theatre. Indeed, the scale of the tourbillon cages and their elevated location relative to the main dial surface, indulge the eyes with a beguiling spectacle of parts in magical motion.
However, the raison d’être for selecting a tourbillon is the enhanced accuracy this complication delivers. I have been unable to evaluate the movement in a number of positions using suitable testing equipment but, based on my positive experience of Louis Moinet, I see little reason to doubt the brands claims of ‘exacting chronometric standards’.
What is clear to see is the matchless execution of the movement. Two large bridges, adorned with Côtes de Genève rayonnantes, dominate the caudal view of the watch. Each bevel gleams with a diamond-like brilliance, providing exquisite contrast with the adjacent horizontal bridge surfaces.
I personally appreciate the front-to-back view through the movement, feeling it is yet another design detail that heightens the visual allure of the Caliber LM46. Moreover, this hand-wound movement exhibits a beautiful symmetry, reinforcing the perception of balance and proportion.
Finally, the repeated disclosure of various wheels perfectly indulges my fondness for seeing the gear train and other movement components.
The significance of hours and minutes seems almost incidental with the Sideralis. The primary motivation for selecting this timepiece is the artistic depiction of the universe and the spellbinding theatrical performance of the tourbillons rotating. The glorious portrayal of Mars, the Moon and Mercury is achieved through the skilful use of an artist’s brush, making the Sideralis worthy of wall space in any prestigious gallery.
I found the 47.4mm 18-carat white gold, whilst large, proved comfortable to wear. The case provides the perfect foil for the adjacent dial canvas, similar to a picture frame deferentially encasing a priceless painting.
Once again, Jean-Marie Schaller has benefited from the favourable smile of the deities and crafted another ingenious wristwatch par excellence. The Louis Moinet Sideralis is an exquisite timepiece which delivers something new while respecting Swiss watchmaking tradition and the age-old domain of automata.
Some students will learn of their examination results very soon. Those students who regurgitated large passages from a revision book may well achieve limited success. However, those individuals who looked to the heavens and took a risk, may soon find the inspiration from above has imparted an abundance of creativity, leading to examination stardom.
A man who has clearly shown the benefit of looking to the heavens is Jean-Marie Schaller, whose numerous trophies attest to his design talent and incalculable creativity. Indeed, there is much wisdom manifest with the Sideralis, a timepiece which brims with star-like quality.
Model: Louis Moinet Sideralis
Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 47.40 mm; height 14.92mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; automaton.
Movement: Caliber LM47, hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 36 jewels; power reserve 72 hours; 237 parts.
Strap: Black alligator leather strap, presented on a 18-carat gold folding clasp.
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.