Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515
Angus Davies provides an in-depth “hands-on” review of the Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515, a watch that exhibits an artistic prowess worthy of any art gallery.
This detailed review of the Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515 includes live images and specification details.
John Millington Synge (1871-1909), the Irish dramatist, once wrote “All art is collaboration”. It seems the words could be readily applied to the Competentia 1515 timepiece from Julien Coudray 1518.
Collaboration is key
Haute horlogerie often harnesses the talents of artisans who specialise in a specific competence or metier d’art. Seldom is one individual a master of every trade necessary to bring the most prestigious timepieces to fruition.
The upper-echelons of high-end watchmaking are populated with guillochers, gem-setters, enamelers, case makers, dial makers and, of course, master watchmakers. Specialisation is the key to mastering a particular trade.
Evidently, this is an opinion shared with Fabien Lamarche, the man who created the company, Julien Coudray 1518. Lamarche draws on the expertise of others to execute specific tasks. The company draws on the talents of 40 individuals to bring the Julien Coudray 1518 models to life.
Monsieur Lamarche, a talented individual, who has worked in the watch industry for more than 20 years, is passionate about watchmaking, micro mechanical engineering, robotics and information technology. He cites the restoration of antique clocks and watches as a personal interest. His prodigious talents have seen him hold senior roles at Breguet, Roger Dubuis and L. Leroy before establishing Julien Coudray 1518.
It is the willingness of Lamarche to engage the services of others that delivers the synergistically artful outcomes that bear the Julien Coudray 1518 name.
Pieces of art
Lamarche chose the particular nomen, “Julien Coudray 1518”, referencing an artisan watchmaker from the Renaissance period. Coudray attracted the patronage of the King of France, Francis 1st, a man who embraced the Renaissance movement and was behind the building of Fontainebleau and Chambord. Francis 1st ordered Coudray to make portable watch movements to be housed in a series of daggers. Coudray subsequently created these movements and delivered the daggers in December 1518. The payment receipts from this transaction are now kept in the French National Archives.
The artistic influence of Coudray can be seen today in the timepieces created by Fabien Lamarche and his team of artisans. Moreover, each model continues to favour gold and platinum components, primarily for their longevity, but also delivering abundant aesthetic appeal.
I have previously remarked on ESCAPEMENT that the finest expressions of haute horlogerie are, indeed, pieces of art. Their pulchritudinous forms, in my opinion, can equal the beauty and merit of a fine canvas or sublime sculpture. Recently, I had the pleasure of caressing a masterpiece of horological art from Julien Coudray 1518, the Competentia 1515 model.
My profound and unbridled affection for the Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515 cannot be overstated. It is breathtaking. There are few watches which can usurp its beauty or surpass its creation.
The cynical mind may question my motives for making such unrestrained statements. No pecuniary tokens have been received or offered, my editorial ethics remain, as always, perfectly in tact.
Nevertheless, as I reveal each nuance of this timepiece, I hope my seemingly ebullient prose will become evidently justified.
The dial consists of 11 parts made from enamelled gold. These parts consist of white grand-feu enamelled sections, hand painted with black Roman numerals which are then subject to further firing. The skills necessary to execute “grand-feu” enamelling cannot be underestimated. At any time during the firing process, where temperatures will reach in excess of 800° C, the surface can bubble or crack, potentially rendering the time-consuming work to the waste bin.
Another beautiful aspect of the hour markers is that each tile arcs with a delightful curving line, enhancing the visual spectacle of the enamelers work.
The centre of the dial is decorated using grand feu enamelled “plique-à-jour”. This technique involves creating an intricate pattern using 18-carat gold strips, or wire, joined together, filled with enamel and then subject to firing. This creates a pattern of panels, reminiscent of stained-glass windows. The resultant central dial area allows the wearer to see some of the perlage, rubies and gear train located beneath, through a turquoise filter-like tint. The outcome captivates eyes with an array of blue-green hues, appearing to exhibit different shades when viewed from various angles.
The lancine hour and minute hands are thermally blued. The many screws used by the maison, have also been subjected to flame, again, eliciting a deep blue shade. Julien Coudray 1518 consistently show respect for watchmaking tradition and imbue its products with a palpable longevity.
Towards the lower aspect of the dial resides the tourbillon cage. The tourbillon makes one full revolution every 60 seconds. It openly shows the gold balance and looks resplendent.
The tile, at 8 o’clock, is absent of grand-feu enamelling and displays no Roman numeral, instead displaying the unique number from the limited series of 15 pieces.
Located between 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock a power reserve indicator features, presenting the information on an arcing scale.
Below noon, a 4-year service indicator informs the wearer when the timepiece requires the attention of the company’s service department.
On the movement, visible via the exhibition caseback, a day / night indicator completes the array of functions delivered, employing a small blued hand interfacing with a corresponding sun or moon motif, as applicable.
The dial confers ease of read-off, tangible functionality, but most of all a magnificently mesmerising vista that is truly wonderful to observe. Each element of the dial’s composition is optimally placed and I cannot think of how the composition could be enhanced.
Measuring 43 mm in diameter and with a case height of 9.82 mm the watch sits perfectly on the wrist. Whilst I would not describe the watch as small, it is, nevertheless, compact considering the numerous details to its make-up.
The Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515 is available in a choice of four variants 18-carat yellow gold, red gold, white gold or platinum. It is the latter model which would be my preferred choice.
Over the years, I have spoken to many watchmakers and knowledgeable souls working within the industry. Platinum, together with palladium, are two metals which are often described as the most difficult materials to work with. Often, when I see a platinum timepiece, I feel an overwhelming sense of respect for the watchmaker’s perseverance. The case of the Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515 proves to be no exception.
Such is the distilled creation of the case, it must have necessitated much time to complete. The upper and lower edges of the caseband feature a delightful crenellated motif, subtle in character but exquisite to behold. Its creation would have necessitated much skill to realise and wonderfully exemplifies the amazing talents at the brand’s disposal.
The horns sharply taper downwards, their angled form coaxing the strap to caress the wrist with a pleasing fit.
As previously mentioned, the Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515 features an exhibition caseback. The sapphire crystal is large, affording a breathtaking view of the movement which appears optimally sized for the case.
I have come across some fine watches fitted with gold movements, eschewing the more typical rhodium treated brass. Gold has a longevity that few materials can rival. However, I can safely say, I have never seen a platinum movement before encountering this particular variant of the Competentia 1515.
In Julien Coudray’s era, movements were made in brass. The know-how did not exist at the time to make movements in gold or platinum. Fabien Lamarche chose to make his movements in precious metals, as it imbues his watches with an exceptional longevity. By using precious metals and enamel, Fabien Lamarche makes masterpieces that will last forever.
The difficulties in executing a case in platinum have already been stated. To craft small, intricate movement components in this most noble of metals cannot be underestimated. Moreover, the components of this movement are hand-decorated.
The bridges feature a decoration inspired by the “Jardin à la Française” style. The appearance of the movement is a work of art, a veritable tableau vivant, capturing the beauty of the Renaissance period with stylish aplomb.
Julien Coudray 1518 is a manufacture of the highest order. The finishing arrests discerning eyes with a spectacle that is simply magnificent. Intrinsic quality, conferring potentially several lifetimes of service is a trait evinced wherever you look. The company makes a set of spare parts for each watch it produces, which could be damaged in due course (gaskets, jewels, glasses and wheels). These are stored in each watch’s own “dedicated box” and archived at the Manufacture in case they should be required at some point in the future.
The Manufactures gives a 10 year guarantee for each watch and offers the first service after 8 to 10 years.
The Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515 was my first “hands-on” experience with a watch from this Maison. It has left a profound impression etched on my mind. The exceptional craftsmanship ubiquitously presented on every facet of this watch is manifestly palpable.
Art can take many forms and, I would suggest in this instance, this creation is worthy of space in any art gallery. However, whilst oil paintings usually bear the signature of one master, on this occasion, several artisans have united together to produce an outstanding piece of art which should potentially last for centuries to come.
It would seem that John Millington Synge’s comments are perfectly apt when describing the approach adopted by Julien Coudray 1518.
- Model: Julien Coudray 1518 Competentia 1515
- Case: Pt 950 Platinum; diameter 43.00 mm; height 9.82 mm; water resistant to 5 bar (50 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; power-reserve indicator; day / night indicator on movement; tourbillon.
- Movement: Caliber JC 1515, hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 60 jewels; power reserve more than 55 hours.
- Strap: Black alligator leather strap on both faces, hand-stiched and beaded, supplied on PT 950 Platinum pin buckle
- Limited Edition: 15 pieces