Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear CH-8753-YEBK
The Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear CH-8753-YEBK, housed in a 41mm stainless steel case, has a regulator-type display and an automatic movement. Perhaps, most surprisingly, considering its retail price of €8,900, this model is endowed with a hand-guilloché dial, an exquisite feature usually found on watches with a five-figure price tag.
A challenge most journalists and writers face is not using the same phrases or vocabulary over and over again. Personally, I always endeavour to employ alternative words and different means of expression, albeit I concede that I am not always successful. However, when writing about watches, the word ‘value’ appears in virtually every article. Indeed, I feel compelled to mention value repeatedly as it is a subject that often defines a watch as excellent, acceptable or poor.
When appraising a watch, the quality of the materials used has a significant influence on the resultant watch. However, even when fine materials are employed, the substandard execution of the dial, case or hands can blight the overall composition. The term ‘quality-price ratio’ is often used in the wine trade and seems equally fitting when discussing the merits of watches.
A watch costing £2000 may have a high quality-price ratio based on its favourable blend of attributes. Indeed, the watch may be justifiably described as exceptional or sublime. However, if this same watch retailed for £20,000 its value or quality-price ratio may well be considered below par.
The price of a watch is often determined by the case material, the execution of the movement, the presence of complications, the cachet of the brand or the addition of gems. Furthermore, artistic crafts such as grand feu enamelling, miniature painting or hand-guilloché are also likely to inflate the cost of a timepiece.
A hand-guilloché dial
Recently, I wore the Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear CH-8753-YEBK. This watch features a vibrant yellow guilloché dial and retails for €8,900. While this is not an inconsequential sum, it is unusual for a watch at this price level to feature a hand-guilloché dial. Usually with timepieces at this price point, when the dial is referred to as ‘guilloché’, it means it has been stamped with an intricate pattern.
A few years ago, I visited Chronoswiss’s atelier in Lucerne and witnessed a skilled artisan impart a variety of intricate patterns to a brass plate. This plate would ultimately be cut into a circular disc and thereafter coloured using galvanic treatment. Therefore, I was already aware of the brand’s in-house capability to make a proper hand-guilloché dial.
A hand-guilloché dial is made using a rose-engine lathe. While this may suggest the presence of electrical power or some form of automation, this is not the case. A brass plate is fixed to a rotating head in a vertical position. By pressing a cutter against the brass plate and turning the rotating head using a wheel, the cutter imparts a groove to the brass plate. The machine features an array of rosettes which the artisan selects depending on the specific pattern required.
Hand-guilloché necessitates much time and expertise. Firstly, when turning the handle to control the rotating head, the artisan must ensure it is turned at a constant speed. Secondly, the hand-pressure applied to the cutter must be uniform. It may sound simple but in reality, it requires many years to perfect.
Interestingly, rose-engine lathes are no longer made, hence those examples in circulation are lovingly cherished. It is not unusual for such lathes to be over 100 years old.
A hand-guilloché dial takes an inordinate amount of time to create, however, its richly defined texture justifies the effort. Often a watch fitted with such a dial is accompanied with a five-figure price tag, hence on the face of it, the Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear CH-8753-YEBK looks superb value. However, a period of hands-on evaluation is always prudent prior to making any judgement and to this end, I arranged for the brand to send a press loan.
The dial of the Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear CH-8753-YEBK is bold and its yellow dial grabs attention. There is nothing understated about this model, however, retiring types can rest easy, the Swiss marque does offer alternative models in less conspicuous hues.
Regulators have historically been used as a point of reference when setting clocks or watches. It is for this reason that the minute hand is always very prominent. On this model, the hours are presented on an off-centre funnel-type display. This term is used to describe the inwardly sloping profile of the hour track. The hour track is also marked with white Roman numerals.
The minute hand features a red tip which circumnavigates the whole of the dial area, interfacing with the minute track gracing the periphery. The minute track is marked with a combination of strokes, dots and Arabic numerals.
Both the hour and minute hands are Trigono-shaped, an in-house design that looks notably modern. A small seconds display is positioned at 6 o’clock. Again, it employs a funnel-type design and includes a triskele-type hand, with one leg sporting a bright red tip.
Adjacent the crown sits a cartouche which references the model’s place of origin and its unique number from the series of 35 limited-edition watches.
Where this model proves particularly interesting, aside from the aforementioned hand-guilloché surface, is that various wheels, usually hidden from view are, on this occasion, freely disclosed. For example, three gears are positioned below the hour track with all three gears in mesh. Likewise, a further opening, located adjacent to the seconds track, reveals another wheel.
Chronoswiss has also skilfully played with depths. The funnel type displays sit atop the yellow guilloché while the hour track sits above two bridges, introducing a wonderful three-dimensional aspect to the design.
When a brand imbues a dial with a myriad of details it may look superb, but it can sometimes overburden the wearer with too much detail, impairing readability. Having worn the watch for a number of days, I am pleased to attest that all the dial indications proved simple to interpret.
In 2012, Oliver Ebstein acquired Chronoswiss and became its CEO. Since Mr Ebstein’s arrival, the company has embraced some ebullient hues for dials and even cases, potentially attracting a new, younger audience.
Despite Chronoswiss employing new colours and dial designs, it continues to uphold some of the aesthetic details found on its early watches. The onion-shaped crown has always been a distinctive feature, found on many Chronoswiss models, including this particular regulator. The crown is plump and prominent, making it simple to manipulate. Furthermore, unlike some large crowns from rival brands, it does not chafe or gouge the skin.
The bezel is highly-polished and features an arc-shaped profile. Adjacent the bezel, a fluted motif encircles the caseband. This latter form of decoration is repeated at the base of the caseband, close to the caseback. Once again, the fluting is pure Chronoswiss and dates back to the brand’s early models of the 1980s.
Vertical satin-brush, comprised of incredibly fine lines, spans the caseband’s surface from the top of the case to the edge of the caseback. The vertical satin-brush treatment provides a counterbalance to the gleaming bezel, albeit the entire case sits deferentially against the aforementioned dial which is undeniably the star of the show.
The Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear CH-8753-YEBK is worn on a black, hand-sewn hornback crocodile leather strap, paired with a folding clasp. Unlike the ‘belly skin’ of a crocodile which is smooth and flat, hornback leather comes from the area behind the crocodile’s head down to its tail. The skin features four rows of raised osteoderms, bony deposits which form scales, plates or structures in the dermis, granting the strap its distinctive ridged appearance. The mere action of touching the strap discloses its luxurious quality.
The caseback features a pane of sapphire crystal allowing sight of the self-winding movement within. Interestingly, the movement sits in a hollow that resembles an amphitheatre. Sloping walls emanate from the edge of the movement, moving upwards and outwards. This aspect of the design invites the wearer’s eyes to dive into the movement and explore each aspect of its composition.
The Chronoswiss Calibre C.299 is a self-winding movement. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4Hz) and the movement contains 31 jewels. Assuming the mainspring is fully tensioned, the watch will run autonomously for approximately 42 hours.
The rate of the movement is adjusted using an Excenter regulator system. This alters the effective length of the hairspring making the watch run faster or slower.
Chronoswiss has chosen to equip the Flying Regulator Open Gear CH-8753-YEBK with a skeletonised and galvanic black rotor. The movement is decorated with Côtes de Genève motif and colimaçon. Often the Lucerne-based brand decorates the automatic device bridge on its movements with perlage, however, for some inexplicable reason Chronoswiss has chosen not to embellish this part on this occasion. It’s a slight disappointment, albeit it does little to diminish my affection for the watch and is my only criticism of this model.
Whenever a brand strays from the tried and trusted format of two co-axially positioned hands, located centre stage, there is an inherent risk. However, when a watch company is courageous and takes that risk, the results can prove stunning.
Despite making other types of watches, Chronoswiss has wholeheartedly embraced the regulator and it is probably the leading exponent of this horological genre. It has repeatedly employed three-dimensional elements such as funnel-type displays, eye-popping shades and elaborate dial motifs. Quite simply, Chronoswiss has conceived a design language that is very much its own.
Each regulator to date made by the brand has proved a resounding success. When appraising the dial of this Chronoswiss watch there is no ambiguity about the meaning of each indication and everything exudes an extraordinary degree of style.
Over the years, I have worn several Chronoswiss models and I have always been impressed by the quality of the materials used and the finish of the completed watch. Indeed, based on my previous hands-on encounters, I have always felt that Chronoswiss has consistently delivered incredible value. Close examination of the dial on this model reveals a plethora of delightful touches. The case is beautifully executed with several subtleties, including different case finishes, caseband fluting and the firm’s distinctive onion-shaped crown.
Furthermore, the addition of a hand-guilloché dial is truly remarkable for a watch costing €8,900. Indeed, this dial would befit a model costing two or three times as much. Returning to my former comments, this timepiece delivers an impressive quality-price ratio coupled with notable style.
- Model: Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear Yellow Dial
- Reference: CH-8753-YEBK
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 41mm; height 13.85mm; water resistance 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and exhibition caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds
- Movement: Caliber C.299; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); contains 31 jewels; power reserve = 42 hours (approximately)
- Strap: Black hand-sewn hornback crocodile leather strap with steel folding clasp.
- Price: €8,900 (RRP as at 22.7.2020)
- Limited Edition: 35 pieces