The famous watchmaker, Peter Roberts has revealed this fascinating timepiece, the Grand Complication 5, featuring five hands and an exceptional finish.
There are many watches which make me consider selling some of my vital organs to facilitate purchase. I have a profound addiction to haute horology.
Some will suggest I should seek counselling. Indeed, I am no stranger to a leather clad couch and answering probing questions about my upbringing. However, no amount of cognitive behaviour therapy will stop me thumbing watch magazines and pressing my inquisitive nose against the toughened glass of a jeweller’s window.
The thing about being an addict of any description is to admit you have a problem and then seek help. I do have a problem, I fall helplessly in love with timepieces on frequent occasions. The issue is, I am not sure I want to change.
Most addictions are potentially injurious to your health. Furthermore, after the said “high”, you are left feeling vacuous, needy and guilty. This is where my addiction is very different. I never feel guilty at frittering away the housekeeping money on a new watch, providing there is a little left over for a bar of chocolate.
My addiction took on a new dimension when I began writing about wristwatches professionally. Every day I would have temptation placed in my sweaty, covetous palms and have to resist the urge to purchase yet another watch.
Each day is a challenge, but one I relish. I don’t avoid watches, but immerse myself in a world of complications, finishing and adroit craftsmanship.
Recently, I met the famous watchmaker, Peter Roberts. I cannot deny I am in awe of his skill and knowledge and fell under his spell at the excellent SalonQP last year, where he gave a fascinating insight into his life.
He regaled the assembled guests with his professional history interwoven with snippets of his personal life. He touched on his time at Rolex, being the first Englishman to attend the Watches Of Switzerland Technical and Educational Program (WOSTEP), in Neuchâtel, and working as a lecturer at Hackney Technical College.
Listening to Peter talk about how he met his wife, Marie-Louise, whilst working for Garrard Crown Jewellers and punctuating his presentation with family snapshots of the Lancia cars he had owned over the years, was endearing. Heidi, my wife, who also attended the presentation, talked about Peter for several days later.
Peter revealed his latest project, the Peter Roberts Grand Complication 5 at SalonQP. It is a chronograph featuring a remarkable five hands running co-axially from the centre of the dial. Whilst studying in Neuchâtel he saw a similar watch in a book, but was informed by his lecturer it had never actually been made and was, at that point, a figment of horological fiction. Peter then set about making the five handed watch and actually brought the watch to life in the early 1970s.
My interest was piqued. Heidi knew I was tempted and saw the yearning building within my eyes. My addictive personality was rearing its head again. Furthermore, with Independent watchmakers if you like the individual, purchasing their timepieces becomes simpler. I do like Peter.
Now the watch is near fruition and first deliveries will soon commence. I have seen the near final version of the Peter Roberts Grand Complication 5 and it is stunning. However, some will question what makes this watch special enough to tempt me in to parting with my own money.
The main dial is black, offering a peerless canvas to express flourishes of colour. It strikes you that it is produced to an extraordinarily high standard.
Peter has chosen to use various coloured hands to create differentiation between the functions. Moreover, each hand features some luminescence, save for the date indication which chooses to be discreet in nocturnal light.
Hours and minutes are presented in red, lined with green Superluminova. The central chronograph seconds hand is white, while yellow is used for the 24-hour GMT hand and orange is employed for the date indication.
The various hands feature a tapestry of styles and colours to impart information, yet nothing seems in discord with the hands appearing to live in harmony with each other. Furthermore, they impart their information with pleasing discourse.
Two apertures, beneath noon, display the day and month.
At 3 o’clock a 30-second chronograph counter resides and a subsidiary seconds display is presented on the subdial opposite, at 9 o’clock.
A 12-hour chronograph counter is located at 6 o’clock with a moon-phase indicator at its centre.
All three subdials are presented in silver with snailed centres.
Hours are marked with green luminous batons. They proffer matchless lume and converse with the wearer with clarity and brevity.
The chapter ring is marked with a combination of Arabic numerals and simple white strokes. The resultant outcome ensures ease of read-off.
There is much information presented on this dial, however, the wearer never feels over-burdened with data. The functions conveyed are readily understood thanks to Peters judicious use of shape and colour. This thoughtful approach confers a user-friendly dial which is clearly simple to interpret and avoids outré exhibitionism.
Measuring 42 mm in diameter, the case is not unduly large. Roberts clearly does not subscribe to the trend exampled in recent years of behemoth watches that resemble ice hockey pucks.
Personally, I do like some over-sized watches but the decision to bestow this watch with masculine, yet not unduly large proportions provides two key benefits. Firstly, it will suit many different sized wearers. Secondly, the scale of the watch should help it retain relevance for future generations, whereas some modern oversized watches may fall out of favour, as tastes inevitably change.
I have lovingly fondled the case of this watch and the quality is exceptional. Put simply, I cannot think of a better stainless steel case I have ever handled. It is remarkable. I quizzed Peter about the source of the case and he revealed the name of his supplier, a company which is regarded as the finest within the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Running my inquisitive index-finger over its numerous facetted lines, I could readily perceive the quality. There are no rough edges. Everything is polished to perfection. The highly polished bevelled edges of the caseband ooze luxury from every angle.
The bezel features a bronze inlay and is marked with a 24-hour scale.
The bezel and the caseback feature a crenellated edge. In the case of the bezel, this aids ease of adjustment.
The exhibition caseback affords a view of the manual-wind movement within. Adjacent the sapphire glass the watches nomen is proudly proclaimed with the word “Concentrique” expressed in red text.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the crown and the pushers. They are delightfully executed and proffer tactile titillation to make any watch lover smile.
Peter made his own original “Concentrique” back in 1971/1972. It featured a Valjoux movement to power the five hands and numerous functions presented.
Several people over the years commented on Peter’s watch and tried to entice him to sell it.
When a small batch of rare unused Valjoux 88 movements became available, he vowed he would realise a long-held dream and make a watch to bear his own name. It was the availability of 44 movements which is at the epicentre of Peter’s dream coming to fruition.
Peter has exhibited notable bravery embarking on this venture at this stage of his life, when some may dream of retirement and taking life easier. However, nobody could ever accuse Peter Roberts of being pusillanimous.
Relentless toil has ensued and Peter has made it his mission to create a watch which will provide a lasting legacy for generations to come.
The Valjoux base 88 has been hand finished. Close examination of the brass components reveals bridges which are gold plated with polished, brushed surfaces with hand bevelled edges. Steel surfaces feature graining on their upper surfaces, “with edges broken and hand burnished”.
Purists will be pleased to hear that this watch features a column-wheel chronograph. I would expect nothing less from the English perfectionist.
Some movements are best hidden from view, like an ugly sister at the family gathering. However, the beautiful base 88 has been enhanced into the proverbial swan. It is a bewitching beauty and I fell very much under its alluring spell as I admiringly gazed at it via the aforementioned exhibition back.
As I sat listening to Peter, modestly talk of his history and realising his desire to make his own watch, I cannot deny I was distracted by the tempting ticking piece of art that was being passed around the table.
A fellow fan of horology, who had already placed his order, was hogging the “Concentrique” for two nano-seconds too long. I wanted to hold it. I needed to caress its chiseled features and allow my probing pupils to explore each surface again and again.
The problem with this watch is that there will only be 40 made in steel and a further four constructed in gold. I can sense a feeling of urgency required to secure it within a limited period before all watches are sold to those in the know. The cognoscenti will snap these watches up very soon.
If I am honest, no picture can ever convey the spell-binding beauty of this handsome timepiece with its august appearance. Once placed on the wrist you cannot fail to be impressed. It is truly one of the most beautiful watches I have ever seen.
Sadly, some will want to procure this watch merely as an investment vehicle. However, my motives are pure and less mercenary. I would purchase this watch because of its virtuous construction and the meritorious fruition of a man’s long-held dream to create a watch bearing his own name.
Peter has worked in both England and Switzerland and is clearly proud of his professional achievements in both countries and has utilised components from both countries.
I am tormented by this watch. I know I can’t really afford it, but somehow feel a compulsion to secure it. I am strategising how to procure the necessary funds. Indeed, the perils of being a watch lover are you consider some very machiavellian routes to ownership. Perhaps I do need to see someone.
Model: Peter Roberts Grand Complication 5
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42.00 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
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.