Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece
The Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece is a new watch from the newly formed Chopin brand. The company, limited to producing only 56 watches per annum, offers exclusivity and virtues aplenty.
This detailed review of the Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece includes live images, specification details and pricing.
The life of a watch journalist is wonderful, albeit a tad predictable. This comparatively niche profession necessitates attending two key exhibitions and various events throughout the year. Invariably, this leads to brief encounters with the same familiar faces, those journalists from near and far who also earn a living by putting pen to paper. The usual brands invite the world’s watch press to see their latest offerings, perhaps with a brand ambassador in attendance. I cannot deny, these media jollies are very pleasurable, albeit slightly formulaic.
However, it is very rare to be a guest at an event hosted by a hitherto unknown brand, especially in the rarefied world of high-end watches. Nevertheless, this scenario came to pass recently when I was invited to the launch of a new timepiece from the newly formed Chopin brand. This was an event that did not subscribe to convention and, for that reason alone, I felt compelled to attend.
A three year journey
Chopin is headed by Michał Dunin and Maciej Maślak. The duo are no strangers to horology, having revived Polish brand Błonie a few years ago. Under their stewardship, Błonie has been highly successful, making affordable timepieces imbued with a notable degree of style. However, the two entrepreneurs sought a fresh challenge, namely creating a new brand, positioned at a higher price point. They sought inspiration by looking at their nation’s history and elected to use the name of their compatriot, Fryderyk Chopin. A three year journey ensued, culminating in the release of the company’s inaugural watch, the Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece.
A few sentences are unable to convey the challenges Dunin and Maślak have needed to overcome in order to bring the Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece to market. Firstly, there was the not inconsequential matter of the company name. The first thing you notice when you arrive at Warsaw’s international airport is that it is named after the nation’s famous composer, Chopin. The name is revered and the legendary composer’s legacy is fiercely guarded. The ‘brand’s owners sought cooperation with the Frederyk Chopin Institute, who granted an exclusive licence to use the composer’s name’. As part of this licence, the newly formed company was granted permission to make a total of 56 luxury watches per annum. This latter figure is fixed and can only be changed with the permission of Poland’s Minister of Culture.
Selecting the perfect partners
Dunin and Maślak were keen to produce a watch that was worthy of Chopin’s name. The duo sought the services of an accomplished designer, based in Switzerland. Antoine Tschumi, the founder and artistic director of Swiss design studio NeoDesis, has an impressive résumé, having designed watches for Czapek, Greubel Forsey, Harry Winston and Urban Jürgensen, to name but a few. Clearly, as I go on to show, Tschumi employed his consummate skill to design a watch that tastefully referenced Chopin’s life.
Part of the creation process also required the skills of a capable Manufacture. Schwarz Etienne, a company which will be familiar to regular ESCAPEMENT readers, assisted the newly formed Chopin brand. The Swiss Manufacture has incredible expertise in producing movements, including the making of hairsprings. Moreover, the Swiss firm also offers a ‘private label’ service, sourcing components where necessary and producing complete watches.
It is after a three year gestation process, working with Tschumi and Schwarz Etienne, that Dunin and Maślak were in a position to unveil the first Chopin watch to an array of assembled guests, including a few well-travelled journalists.
Supremely slender Poire hands converse with blue indexes. The hands and indexes are not thermally blued but incorporate blue CVD treatment. The reason for this decision was to ensure the hand and indexes, both of different thickness, shared the same tonal shade of blue.
The hours are denoted with applied double batons, save for 10 and 12 o’clock which are proclaimed with slender Arabic numerals. Clearly, Tschumi has sought to infuse the design of the Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece with a sense of grace and neatness.
The design of the hour track is described by the brand as a multilevel staff, a reference to the five lines which play host to a composer’s ideas. This is just one reference that links the watch to the man whose legacy was a source of inspiration for the young brand.
A small seconds display is positioned in the lower portion of the dial. The subdial is stepped. The inner circlet is marked with the etude that lends its name to the watch. This particular etude, composed by Chopin, conveys his powerful emotions on hearing of the Russian attack on Warsaw in 1831. The outer circlet is marked with crisp strokes and labelled with the aforementioned year, ‘1831’. In addition, the outer circlet is snailed. Beneath the small seconds display, a slither of red stone, carnelian, can be seen. The volcanic stone is a reference to the composer’s heart which, after his untimely death aged just 39 years, was preserved in Cognac.
The hour track, between 8 and 10 o’clock, features a recess. It plays host to a stylised piano keyboard which acts as an ingenious power-reserve indicator. Tschumi’s creativity knows no bounds.
Below noon is the composer’s nomen, depicted in cursive text.
Personally, my favourite aspect of the dial relates to the free disclosure of various movement components. The hour wheel sits centre-stage, garnering glances with its brass-coloured complexion. The minute wheel and crown can also be seen. A sea of sandblasted surfaces contrasts with numerous screws, the hour track and the blue hands. Indeed, there is a plethora of details on this dial, worthy of the wearer’s attention.
The case of the Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece is formed of stainless steel 316L. It measures 43mm in diameter, proving suitable for a wide array of wrist sizes.
It was clear at the Chopin press conference, Dunin and Maślak were hard taskmasters. They sought a complex 5-part case. This necessitates machining five different components to infinitesimal tolerances, which must seamlessly unite. If the case is to be water resistant and come together as a homogenous whole, manufacturing tolerances have to be exacting. The Polish duo could have made life easier for themselves, and their suppliers, if they had elected for a 3-part case. However, while chatting to Dunin, it soon became apparent he is a perfectionist and clearly does not subscribe to expediency. The resultant case looks superb and vindicates his persistence.
The bezel is stepped and the caseband features a diamond-like knurled motif. It tempts the onlooker to probe its textured surface and devour the tactile feast on display. This design language is repeated between the lugs.
Chopin has obsessed over the smallest of details. The lugs feature an elaborate profile and combine both polished and brushed finishes. The crown is neat, sitting close to the caseband, and includes a blue CVD disc on its vertical flank.
A sumptuous black crocodile skin strap, paired with a stainless steel butterfly clasp, reinforces the perception of luxury.
The Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece is equipped with the MSE210 movement. This hand-wound movement has been produced exclusively for Chopin by the Swiss Manufacture, Schwarz Etienne.
Two barrels, coupled in parallel, dominate the dorsal view of the watch. The barrels are capable of providing 96 hours of autonomous operation. One barrel is adorned with key dates in the composer’s life, while the other features a famous quote by Chopin, ‘Time is the best censor, and patience the most perfect of teachers’.
Four sandblasted bridges span the dorsal plane of the watch. They are generously proportioned, covering virtually all of the movement components below. One reason for this profusion of bridges could be the proliferation of engraved text on their various surfaces. The cursive script is comprised of excerpts from Chopin’s manuscript where ‘he gave voice to his frustrations after learning of the Uprising’s failure.’
A further illustration of Dunin’s dogged determination relates to the balance wheel. He requested a red balance wheel as a further representation of ‘Chopin’s heart’. Moreover, Dunin wanted the red balance wheel to become synonymous with the Chopin brand.
Schwarz Etienne experimented with red CVD, applying it to the surface of the balance wheel. However, this presented huge challenges for the Swiss Manufacture as any minuscule variation in the coating thickness would cause the balance wheel to move irregularly. This would impair precision and lead the balance staff to prematurely wear.
However, despite Schwarz Etienne stating that these problems were insurmountable, Dunin would not relent. His persistence paid off in the end after the movement specialist found a means of overcoming the problem. The resultant red balance wheel delivers impressive precision and reliability, traits synonymous with Schwarz Etienne.
The balance has a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz). The movement contains 197 components, including 37 jewels.
A potential weakness of some openworked dials is that the profusion of exposed movement parts can inhibit the interpretation of time. Having placed the Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece upon my wrist, I can attest it imparts the prevailing hours and minutes with notable aplomb.
But the dial of this watch surpasses mere functionality. Antoine Tschumi has conceived a magical dial, judiciously sprinkling aesthetic fairy dust on various parts of the display. The so-called multilevel staff and the piano-inspired power-reserve are playful references to the Polish composer. A blend of different surface textures further augment the allure of the dial and shows an impressive attention to detail.
The case construction is elaborate and it would be a stony heart that did not fall for the caseband knurling and the blue CVD treatment on the crown. Tschumi repeatedly shows an obsessive attention to detail, conferring numerous opportunities for smile-inducing moments of discovery.
Dunin and Maślak were very shrewd in choosing Schwarz Etienne. There are other capable Manufactures in Switzerland able to supply excellent movements. However, as this watch demonstrates, there are few companies willing to work with private label clients and accede to their exacting requests.
The Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece is beautifully styled and is imbued with extraordinary virtue. The collaboration between Chopin, Tschumi and Schwarz Etienne has culminated in the creation of an impressive watch. Based on these results, Dunin and Maślak should continue to hold hands with Tschumi and Schwarz Etienne.
- Model: Chopin Op. 10 No. 12 timepiece
- Case: Stainless steel 316L; diameter 43mm; water resistance 5 ATM (50 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; power-reserve indicator
- Movement: MSE210 movement; automatic movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 37 jewels; power reserve = 96 hours
- Strap: Black crocodile skin strap, paired with a stainless steel butterfly clasp
- Price – CHF 14,500 (RRP as at 4.5.2019)