DeWitt Academia Endless Drive
Whilst attending SIHH 2018, Angus Davies took the opportunity to talk with Count Jerôme de Witt in order to discuss his latest watch, the DeWitt Academia Endless Drive
This detailed review of the DeWitt Academia Endless Drive includes live images, specification and pricing.
Claude Arien Helvétius, a French philosopher, once remarked, ‘Education made us what we are’. Touring various watch factories in Switzerland, I am always impressed by the sight of young men and women skilfully working on complicated watches. Their education has endowed them with a thorough understanding of horology and equipped them with the skill to deftly wield tools. The watchmaking schools of Switzerland should be congratulated for the way they proficiently impart knowledge.
However, one potential problem with teaching all students in the same way is that it could impair free-thought. Without the ability to question convention, one inhibits innovation. I was mindful of this whilst chatting to Count Jerôme de Witt.
De Witt, the founder of the eponymously named watch company, DeWitt (no spacing) has not trained as a watchmaker. His skills have been acquired through working on mechanical objects. In particular, de Witt has a passion for vintage cars which has led to an empathy for the mechanical composition of engines and gearboxes. Furthermore, his prowess at reimagining components has blessed him with a capacity to conceive new ideas for watches.
The latest DeWitt model, the Academia Endless Drive, is a perfect illustration of de Witt’s ingenuity. At the centre of the dial is a helical screw ‘which is linked to the power reserve’s winding system.’ The screw rotates as the power held within the spring barrel diminishes. Once depleted of energy, a tasteful soupçon of red is displayed in the aperture below noon. When the watch is wound, the screw slides on its vertical axis resulting in the power reserve display turning green. While other watches possess power-reserve indicators, few timepieces can match the visual spectacle proffered by the Academia Endless Drive.
Beyond its innovative power-reserve indicator, the DeWitt Academia Endless Drive possesses a host of attributes which distinguish it as special and worthy of discussion.
Unusually, DeWitt, unlike most watch companies, makes its own dials. This in-house competence provides the brand with greater independence and flexibility. Its hand-crafted dials exhibit a palpable quotient of quality. Presented in a black galvanic finish, the dial eschews conventional hands and indexes.
The hours and minutes are displayed using two white rotating discs. The hours are displayed on the left disc and the minutes are proclaimed on the right disc. Each features black numerals and is accompanied by a central hub. Two static triangular indicators, positioned above each disc, collaborate to impart the time. The resultant display is clear and simple to interpret.
At the heart of the dial, running from North to South, is a channel revealing the helical screw, as well as various wheels. The showcasing of movement parts augments the visual allure of the dial, piquing the interest of the mechanically curious.
Despite the non-conformist styling of the Academia Endless Drive, the watch is a highly practical proposition. Indeed, DeWitt shows that style and readability can be compatible bedfellows.
The 42.5mm case is composed of 18-carat rose gold and black rubber.
Count Jerôme de Witt is the direct descendant of King Jerome of Westphalia, the brother of the Emperor Napoleon I. De Witt’s ancestry is acknowledged with the design of the case. Rubber and rose gold integrate, forming the famous imperial column motif synonymous with Napoleon I. It is this motif which has become part of DeWitt’s DNA and is replicated on its range of fine watches.
The modest size of the DeWitt Academia Endless Drive, together with the short, straight angled lugs, confer an agreeable fit. However, despite its moderate proportions, the watch is sufficiently large to clearly display all indications.
The case-back is retained with six screws and features a pane of sapphire crystal, allowing sight of the self-winding movement within.
DeWitt is a manufacture, or, as the brand prefers to call itself, a ‘micro Manufacture’. The movement housed within the DeWitt Academia Endless Drive is based on the maison’s standard DeWitt 5050 automatic movement. This calibre was developed, produced and assembled by hand using the Swiss company’s own skilled employees.
The resultant movement is exquisite. Circular Côtes de Genève motif adorns the bridges. The anglage is superb, gleaming beautifully adjacent bridge surfaces and flanks. The wheels are circular grained and the balance spring is secured by a sliding stud cap with round head and neck, all typical of high-end watchmaking.
An aspect of the movement architecture I particularly appreciate is the absence of oversized bridges. Much of the gear train, balance etc, is uncovered, indulging my predilection for seeing exposed components.
The balance wheel oscillates to and fro with a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz). The movement contains 30 jewels and the power reserve is 59 hours.
The dial of the DeWitt Academia Endless Drive is captivating. The trench, spanning the central area of the dial, reveals an ingenious means of indicating the stored energy within the spring barrel. The disclosure of the helical screw and various wheels should appeal to many men who enjoy looking beneath an open car bonnet. This is a watch for the mechanically inquisitive.
The hours and minutes are communicated with a stylish flourish. The white revolving discs usurp mere aesthetic charm, conferring matchless legibility and ease of interpretation.
DeWitt has conceived a magnificent case. It is not unduly large but exhibits an imposing presence. The combination of 18-carat rose gold and black rubber works well, enriching the aesthetic and conferring a unique mien. Personally, I like the inspiration for the imperial column motif and feel it imbues the watch with a distinct character all of its own.
While DeWitt is termed a ‘micro Manufacture’ it clearly does not lack capability. The movement is beautifully presented and should receive nods of approval from the horological cognoscenti.
Ultimately, I return to the founder of DeWitt, Count Jerôme de Witt, a remarkable individual who has envisaged watch designs from an alternative viewpoint. He has not adhered to horological convention, but instead chosen to take his own unique path to horological greatness. It’s his remarkable creativity and comprehensive understanding of engineering which has led to an impressive body of work. The sublime Academia Endless Drive reinforces my opinion of de Witt and his company. It is a timepiece I admire very much.
- Model: DeWitt Academia Endless Drive
- Case: 18-carat rose gold and black rubber; diameter 42.5mm; sapphire crystal to front and case-back; water resistant to 3 ATM (30 metres)
- Functions: Hours; minutes; power-reserve indicator
- Movement: Self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); 30 jewels; power reserve 59 hours
- Strap: Black satin calfskin leather
- Price: £38,520 including VAT (RRP as at 19.2.2018)