Angus Davies writes about Maîtres de Temps, the haute horlogerie brand, founded by Steven Holtzman. Its latest watch, the “Chapter Three Reveal”, harnesses the prodigious talents of Finnish Kari Voutilainen and Swiss Andreas Strehler.
I met Steven Holtzman on a rainy day in Basel during the annual fair when retailers, journalists and watch enthusiasts from around the globe descend on this Swiss city close to the borders of Germany and France.
Steven, an American, has a long relationship with watchmaking. He joined the family watchmaking business in 1982, Gruen Watch Company, a long established company dating back to 1894. Subsequently in 1997, he established Helvetia Time Corporation (HTC) to distribute high-end Swiss watch brands in the United States.
Steven was clearly a shrewd businessman, obtaining exclusive distribution rights for the darling of haute horology in recent years, Roger Dubuis. The Genevan brand enjoyed a meteoric rise among horological cognoscenti.
In 2005, Steven embarked on a unique vision of haute horology, Maîtres de Temps. His idea, a stroke of genius, was to bring together great watchmakers and see if synergistic seeds of innovation could be sown.
His approach was to look for innovation and unique ideas created through teamwork which might never have been realised by watchmakers working in isolation.
In some instances he met magnificent watchmakers who exhibited peerless skills and had a virtuoso ability at crafting beautiful watches, but alas they lacked the necessary character to work with others.
I immediately warmed to Steven. Like him, I have a business background and share his inherent respect for watchmakers.
We both agreed that sometimes watchmakers lack commerciality, seeking perfection without regards to financial drivers. This is where Steven offers a “unique selling proposition” to employ management speak.
Holtzman brings together creative talent which can work collaboratively. They bounce ideas off each other, play to their respective strengths and all the time they have his watchful eye to ensure that their efforts bear viable commercial fruit.
Steven’s first watch was “Chapter One”, a collaboration between Christophe Claret and Peter Speake-Marin. Launched in 2008, it was the world’s first combination of tourbillon, mono-pusher, column wheel chronograph, retrograde date, retrograde GMT, as well as moon phase and day of the week on rollers.
In 2009, “Chapter Two” was the product of two giants of watchmaking working together, Daniel Roth and again Peter Speake-Marin. This watch featured a triple calendar, yet was remarkably simple to understand. It also continued a trend started by Chapter One, using ingenious rollers to impart some of the information to the wearer.
Now there is a new model from Maîtres de Temps, “Chapter Three Reveal”. Steven has convened two watchmaking talents, Finnish Kari Voutilainen and Swiss Andreas Strehler.
Andreas Strehler (pictured left) and Kari Voutilainen (pictured right)
Both men have a proven history of creating incredible watches of the highest order in their own right. Holtzman has clearly worked his magic again as the Chapter Three Reveal is a magnificent example of haute horology.
A watch with many useful functions can often result in a busy, confusing dial. Often a complication is only required at certain moments within a wearer’s schedule. Yet to enjoy the additional facilities bestowed on its owner, he or she has to live with superfluous information not required for the majority of time.
Chapter Three Reveal offers a creative solution. An elegant watch presented in an 18-carat rose gold case, it succinctly informs the wearer of hours, minutes, seconds, date and moon phase.
The information is imparted on a beautiful blue guilloché dial. However, press a pusher set within the crown and a horological secret is shared with the wearer. Two invisible panels within the dial move to reveal a second time zone indicator (GMT) and a day / night indicator delivered on the brand’s signature rollers.
These two additional complications offer value to the global traveller when journeying abroad but do not corrupt the dial when working on terra firma in one’s homeland.
A simple solution in delivery, its fabrication is exhaustively complex to conceive and ultimately produce. However, these two watchmaking talents have delivered and the result is a timepiece which is incredibly wearable and handsome.
The dial is blue providing a calming contrast to the warm hue of the case. Roman numerals are used to express hours in a simple, clean font.
The centre of the dial features guilloché in sunray relief.
A subdial located at 2 o’clock, presents the date and is exquisitely engraved, featuring Clou de Paris guilloché. This motif is repeated on a further subdial at 8 o’clock displaying subsidiary seconds.
In between the hour markings of 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock is a small aperture showing the moon phase.
The chapter ring is detailed with small dots, each fifth dot slightly enlarged.
The wonderment is heightened by pressing the pusher on the crown. Two seamless panels open at 6 o’clock and noon. The southerly aperture exposes a roller, depicting a second time zone, whilst the aperture at the most northerly position of the dial, utilises a further roller to indicate day or night.
The case is 42 mm in diameter, presented in highly polished 18-carat rose gold.
The crown is knurled and features an octagonal shaped pusher at its centre which operates the aforementioned dial panels.
Turn over the watch and admire the work of the watchmaker through the sapphire crystal caseback. The movement is a sight to behold.
On the perimeter of the caseback are two phrases; “masters and their craft” and “a lifelong pursuit of excellence”. An axiom few could dispute.
The manual wound watch has a calibre with a frequency of 3 Hertz, 39 jewels and 319 components. However, it is the execution of the movement which leads to my excitement.
The finissage is matchless in its magnificence.
Admire the Côte de Genève motif on the bridges, the bewitching beveling and the polished screw heads. Expedience has been abandoned and patience has taken precedence when this calibre was crafted.
Beyond the bridges the perlage on the plate delivers delectation for the connoisseur. I garner pulses of pleasure with the view of the brilliantly polished screws fitted to the balance wheel.
Every detail is exemplary, eliciting my eulogy to the artisans who have crafted this horological wonder.
The Chapter Three Reveal is a feat of innovative endeavour.
Andreas Strehler and Kari Voutilainen have produced a horological legacy which will stand out as a true titan of timekeeping for generations to come.
I have incredible respect for watchmakers because their mastery of micro-mechanics is beyond my own dextrous ability.
I sometimes describe fellow marketers and entrepreneurs as a necessary evil and relegate their importance beneath the horologers and artisans I worship. However, in Steven Holtzman I saw a businessman who facilitated creativity.
His astute commercial acumen has led to the metamorphosis of a seed of an idea to a growing crop of horological thoroughbreds.
Steven Holtzman is the master of time.
Model: Maîtres du Temps Chapter Three Reveal
Case: 18-carat rose gold; diameter 42.00 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and back.
Functions: Hours; minutes; seconds; date; moon phase; hidden time zone and hidden day / night indication.
Movement: Caliber SHC03; Manual winding; Frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 39 jewels; Power reserve 36 hours.
Strap: Hand-sewn alligator strap with 18-carat rose gold pin buckle.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.