Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297

The Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 successfully blends traditional hand craftsmanship with state of the art silicium technology. Featuring a sapphire crystal tourbillon bridge, its brilliance is simple to see.

This detailed review of the Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297

Many of my compatriots are drawn to the bright lights of London, however, I prefer to venture northwards. Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, is without doubt one of the prettiest cities in the United Kingdom. Its narrow, cobbled streets ooze character. In contrast, the world-famous Princes Street is broad and spacious. It is positioned at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, overlooking a beautifully manicured park.

Walking along ‘The Royal Mile’ towards the Castle, discreetly located on the left, is an inconspicuous restaurant, ‘The Witchery’. Comprised of several historical buildings all joined together in tasteful union, The Witchery is one of Scotland’s finest restaurants. Sublime gastronomic delights, an incredible wine list and a charming ambience provide the perfect haven for those individuals seeking respite from the hubbub of everyday life.

The Witchery is an exemplar of haute cuisine, known only to the cognoscenti. It does not fanfare its excellence like some establishments or employ pretentious gimmicks to portray a luxury image. Indeed, this establishment appears self-effacing, elegant and relaxed. It is intended for individuals with a discerning palate and an appreciation for the finer things in life. Diners can look forward to incredible hospitality and magnificent culinary delights. Some generous souls may choose to share the secret of this extraordinary place with a few likeminded friends, however, others may choose to ration their recommendations, eager to preserve the charm and exclusivity for which The Witchery is known.

I am reminded of The Witchery when I write about high-end watches. Some brands purport to be ‘exclusive’, but are available on virtually every high street. Sometimes, it seems so-called ‘prestige’ is in direct proportion to a brand’s marketing spend rather than any inherent virtue.

Ateliers de Monaco is known to a well-informed few. It does not produce vast numbers of watches. The brand has comparatively few points of sale, conferring a welcome degree of exclusivity. This Swiss company does not spend vast sums on newspaper advertising or brand ambassadors, most of its financial resources are devoted to making fine watches. All of these attributes make me ponder, ‘have I found the horological equivalent to The Witchery?’

Recently, I spent some time at the Ateliers de Monaco workshop, located on the outskirts of Geneva. My hosts kindly presented a series of trays, each laden with high-end creations. I have always had a penchant for complicated watches, so it was inevitable that I would plump for a timepiece featuring a ‘whirlwind’. The Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 is offered in four variants, two in titanium, an 18-carat rose gold option and, my personal favourite, an 18-carat white gold model.

The dial

As the name implies, Ateliers de Monaco has close ties with the famous sun-kissed principality. In the early days of the brand, the watches were made made in Monaco. Subsequently, the company transferred its operations to Geneva, although it hasn’t severed its ties to the French Riviera. The dial is dark grey PVD and incorporates a ‘lozenge’ motif in relief. The pattern mimics the diamond-shaped motif found on the Monegasque coat of arms and provides a wonderful interplay between light and dark grey tones.

Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297

The hours and minutes are presented on an openworked, offset dial. Dauphine shaped hands collaborate with Roman numerals to indicate the prevailing time. Despite the modest scale of the dial, the indications prove very readable. Two blued screws hold the dial in position. The multi-dimensional construction of the dial augments its allure. Close examination of the dial reveals a plethora of smile inducing details e.g. the faceted and gleaming outer edge of the dial.

A tourbillon cage sits in the southern portion of the dial. The tourbillon bridge is made of sapphire crystal, setting aside watchmaking convention. An obvious benefit of using sapphire crystal is that it reveals more of the cage beneath. Personally, I love the approach taken by Ateliers de Monaco as the balance spring can be seen pulsing with life and the escape wheel can be seen in motion. The escape wheel and pallet lever exhibit a purplish hue, a telltale sign they are formed of silicium. Despite incorporating some contemporary elements, the Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 does not eschew fine watchmaking practise. For example, the sapphire crystal bridge is retained with two blued screws.

A partial view of the hour wheel, just above the opening for the tourbillon, indulges my predilection for exposed movement parts. This dial repeatedly sates the desires of horological voyeurs, revealing many parts normally hidden from view. The running seconds are displayed above the 1-minute tourbillon, the hand circumscribing the aperture every 60 seconds.

The design language of the Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 is interesting. On one hand it showcases many surfaces and components and yet, conversely, it also shows a modest side to its persona. The branding of the watch is discreet, positioned unobtrusively on the dial flange. It is this skilful blend of overt and inconspicuous elements which sets it apart from many designs and distinguishes it as special.

The case

The 44mm case of the Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 is incredibly complex, comprising of 31 parts. While the outer surfaces are formed of 18-carat white gold, the inner core is made of titanium. The bezel is concave, delightfully toying with the light.

Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297

The crown nestles within a crown protector, while opposite at 9 o’clock, a trim confers visual balance. The lugs are bevelled between the surface and the flank, delivering an exquisite play with light.

Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297

On the reverse of the watch, the caseback is flat adjacent the sapphire crystal, but then it swoops downwards towards the crown and lugs. This concave profile mirrors the contour of the bezel. A notable aspect of the Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 is that there is a visual balance between many of the design elements with everything coexisting in harmony.

While most surfaces are brushed, there are smatterings of highly polished metal, according an eye-catching, yet tasteful mien.

The movement

The automatic dMc-980 caliber is sublime. Close examination reveals a high quotient of hand-craftsmanship. The bridges are hand chamfered with vibrant bevels that gleam resplendently. The mainplate is adorned with hand-applied perlage and blued screws abound. A delightful hand engraved bridge hugs the internal walls of the case. Everything is the product of deft hands skilfully manipulating tools to a glorious conclusion.

Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297

The 22-carat gold oscillating weight is enriched with hand engraving. The Monegasque coat of arms is beautifully replicated on the rotor. The so-called ‘lozenges’ are presented in a golden hue. In addition, the crown atop the coat of arms is presented in a shade of rose gold and is openworked. The rotor is also openworked affording beauteous views of the bridges below. The edge of the rotor is filigreed, engraved and hand chamfered. Everything is distilled to perfection. 

Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297

Despite employing traditional craftsmanship, Atelier deMonaco has also embraced cutting-edge know-how. The escape wheel and pallet lever are made of silicium. This glass-like material is incredibly light, can be made to small tolerances, exhibits low-frictional properties, is not subject to corrosion and is not affected by magnetism. Clearly, these benefits are relevant to all watch buyers and provide a strong argument in favour of selecting this watch.

Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297

The Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 is endowed with a patented system, the ‘eXtreme Precision 1 minute’ Tourbillon. Although Ateliers de Monaco is a comparatively small Maison, it clearly has the capacity to innovate.

The balance wheel oscillates with a frequency of 28,800 VpH (4Hz). The movement contains 29 jewels and the power reserve is sufficient to deliver 42 hours of autonomy.

Closing remarks

The patterned surface of the dial provides a sumptuous, artistic canvas. Each element of its composition enriches the vista presented. Ateliers de Monaco has masterfully played with differing dial depths, augmenting the allure of this watch. I adore the openworked hour track of the off-set hour and minute display and the dauphine shaped hands. Despite the comparatively modest scale of the dial, the indications prove simple to read.

The pièce de résistance is the tourbillon. It would be a stony-hearted individual who did not succumb to the charms of the sapphire crystal tourbillon bridge and the freely disclosed balance oscillating to a fro. The silicium components add a soupçon of colour to the spectacle presented as well as delivering notable benefits.

Ateliers de Monaco has set aside the customary 3-part case construction and chosen to unite 31 different parts. The resultant aesthetic is wonderful, with numerous contours successfully fusing together.

The movement harnesses a high quotient of hand craftsmanship which distinguishes this watch as special. The hand engraving is fantastic, imbuing each timepiece with a welcome degree of uniqueness that is sadly absent from mass produced offerings.

I cannot hide my admiration for the Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297, it supplants many mass produced watches, showcasing traditional artisanal crafts. This timepiece sidesteps the outré and conspicuous proclamations of wealth. Indeed, it is a watch for connoisseurs who choose to ignore marketing hype. Ateliers de Monaco may lack the brand awareness of some watch companies but in some respects that is part of its charm. This is a timepiece for those in the know, the horological equivalent of The Witchery, where character, quality and virtue prevail. Just don’t tell everyone!

Further reading

Technical specifications

  • Model: Ateliers de Monaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297
  • Reference: DMC-TB-OCG-RL-WG
  • Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 44mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback; water resistant to 3ATM (30 metres).
  • Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
  • Movement: dMc-980 caliber; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 29 jewels; power reserve=42 hours
  • Strap: Hand-stitched alligator leather paired with a 18-carat gold and titanium folding buckle
  • Price: £55,700 (RRP as at 26.11.2018)