Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down
Angus Davies reviews the Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down in 18-carat red gold, a watch equipped with an unusual means of imparting the hours, demonstrating the genius of its talented inventor, who evidently looks at time from a wholly different perspective.
This detailed review of the Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down includes live images, specification details and price.
I always feel especially drawn to watches which provoke thought with unusual depictions of time. It was therefore inevitable that after meeting Ludovic Ballouard and seeing his wonderful timepieces, I would be drawn to his fascinating watch, the Upside Down.
The dial is constructed of titanium and presented in ‘dark white’. Despite its name, it evinces a clean appearance, free of impurities and brimming with goodness.
Each of the twelve hour markings are mounted on rotating discs. The prevailing hour is shown stood to attention, upright and conventionally presented. However, if you care to look more closely at the other eleven hour markers, you will note they have their heads bowed in a state of slumber. This clever depiction of hours obviates the need for a conventional hour hand, conferring a cleaner dial display as a result.
A leaf shaped minute hand points to the relevant hour marker, whether upright or upside down, communicating the minutes with clear diction.
At 6 o’clock, a small seconds display is presented on a recessed subdial, completing the inventory of functions.
Whilst at first glance the dial appears simple and notably user-friendly to interpret, the mechanical complexity to its construction is anything but.
Each hour marker rotates 180° when called upon, with a small black dot becoming visible adjacent the Arabic numerals. The hour change is instantaneous, moving without the merest hint of hesitation. At the heart of this ingenious horological theatre are the Maltese crosses, visible via the caseback, interacting with the levers, as required, to perform each seamless rotational sequence.
The Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down measures 41mm in diameter and, in this instance, is presented in a rich shade of 18-carat red gold. The warmth of this noble metal provides a lovely contradistinction with the pure white appearance of the dial surface.
This is a timepiece which, despite its high quotient of ingenuity, evinces a classical aesthetic. Its height of 11mm, whilst not ‘ultra-thin’, allows the watch to quietly reside beneath the shirt cuff, discreet and unobtrusive.
The caseband features sinuous surfaces which arc and curve to delightful effect. The undulating polished edges accord a splendid reciprocity with light.
Ludovic Ballouard clearly does not subscribe to convention, as the aforementioned specification attests. The positioning of the crown also breaks with tradition, residing adjacent 2 o’clock. Its location mitigates the risk of impinging on the arm whilst still remaing easy to grip.
The dorsal plane of the watch is equipped with a large sapphire crystal, revealing much of the incredible craftsmanship of the hand-wound movement.
It is the near-obsessive attention to detail which distinguishes Ballouard’s work as special. This is perfectly demonstrated with the the distinctive stylised B-shaped pin buckle which masterfully employs curving line to eye-catching effect. Indeed, a mediocre, commonplace pin buckle would never leave the workshop of this fastidious artisan.
The hand-wound Calibre BO1, featuring the ‘Upside Down’ complication, was developed and patented by Ludovic Ballouard.
Cradling the Upside Down watch in my left hand and inspecting the movement finish with a loupe in hand, I was profoundly impressed with the execution of each surface presented. Ballouard has eschewed Côtes de Genève motif on the upper movement surfaces in favour of colimaçon and it looks wonderful. The wheels are circular grained, whilst the pinion and ratchet wheels feature sunray brush.
Ludovic could have made life much easier for himself, placing the Maltese crosses directly below the dial surface. However, aware that many admirers of fine watchmaking enjoy the spectacle of seeing small parts at play, he has drilled 12 holes in the mainplate and fitted 12 tiny pinions which connect each Maltese cross with the relevant hour marker. The Maltese crosses are positioned just below the sapphire crystal of the caseback, allowing the wearer to observe them rotate as the changing of the hour dictates.
The problem with some watches that try to impart time in a revolutionary, avant-garde way is that in the pursuance of innovation, functionality is lost. However, no such criticisms could be directed towards the Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down; it succinctly and lucidly converses with the wearer.
I applaud Ballouard because his work successfully exhibits ingenuity whilst remaining highly practical. The display is wonderfully logical and his novel perspective on imparting the hours enriches the world of haute horlogerie.
Beyond the creative dial display, the case is magnificent with captivating curves which deservedly invite praise from my direction. Moreover, the movement demonstrates the technical prowess of this accomplished Master watchmaker.
The hours on the Upside Down may sometimes adopt a topsy-turvy stance, but there is nothing confusing about this remarkable watch. Indeed, it simply represents the work of a great individual who chooses to look at time from an alternative perspective.
- Model: Ludovic Ballouard Upside Down in 18-carat red gold
- Case: 18-carat red gold; diameter 41mm; height 11mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours with patented ‘Upside Down’ complication; minutes; small seconds.
- Movement: Calibre B01; hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz); 51 jewels; power reserve 36 hours; 228 movement parts
- Strap: Brown hand-stitched alligator leather strap presented with a patented 18-carat red gold hand engraved pin buckle
- Price: CHF 56,000 excluding taxes (RRP as at 6.1.2016)