Roma Phoenix collaboration between Schwarz Etienne & Les Ateliers Blandenier

The Roma Phoenix collaboration is a joint effort between Schwarz Etienne and Les Ateliers Blandenier. Moreover, it is the brainchild of Peter Speake AKA The Naked Watchmaker and is showcased on his highly informative website.

Roma Phoenix collaboration

In the last few years, a number of independent brands have collaborated together. Sometimes these pairings proved unexpected, but I cannot think of any collaborations that were anything less than brilliant. These collaborations have included Laurent Ferrier and Urwerk, MB&F and H. Moser, Louis Erard and Vianney Halter, as well as Schwarz Etienne and Kari Voutilainen.

The objective of two firms collaborating is they each bring something new to the project. Indeed, the word ‘synergy’ is used to describe two firms collaborating together, creating a product that delivers a combined effect greater than the sum of its parts. Last year, when Schwarz Etienne worked with Kari Voutilainen, the Manufacture selected a very apt moniker, the ‘Roma Synergy by Kari Voutilainen’.

Now, the Manufacture from La Chaux-de-Fonds has chosen to team up with Les Ateliers Blandenier, a company specialising in artistic crafts. Both parties have played to their respective strengths. Schwarz Etienne has supplied the case and one of its self-winding movements, while the experts at Les Ateliers Blandenier has produced a dial infused with a high-quotient of artisanal know-how.

Interestingly, the Roma Phoenix collaboration is a concept from Peter Speake AKA The Naked Watchmaker showcased on his website.

The base plate is formed of gold and presented in rich blue enamel, created using the age-old grand feu technique. The eponymous phoenix was initially cut from a gold plate using a wire erosion machine. Thereafter, the master engraver skilfully used a series of hand tools, imbuing the mythical bird with infinitesimal incisions, imbuing its torso with incredible detail.

A supremely fine brush was then used to enrich the surface with subtle shades that replicate the appearance of patina. The phoenix ultimately exhibits a becoming three-dimensional. It is secured to the main dial with feet, affixed from the rear.

The small seconds is presented on a subdial formed of pyrite, sometimes called ‘fools gold’. This material has a slightly distressed appearance and resembles an antique silvered mirror with clear signs of ageing. Similar to the aforementioned phoenix the small seconds dial is affixed to the base plate with feet. All hands are blued upholding fine watchmaking practise. A description encircles the dial, imparting words from Confucius, expressing fitting sentiments in this Pandemic-blighted era.

Schwarz Etienne has supplied the case for this watch. It is formed of 18-carat red gold and measures 42mm in diameter. When viewed next to the dial, the case may seem comparatively understated, however, its design proves a perfect foil for the phoenix-themed scene.

This unique piece is fitted with the Manufacture’s Calibre ASE 100.00. It features a micro-rotor, has a prodigious power reserve and is expertly finished by hand.

The Roma Phoenix Collaboration proves sublime and showcases the remarkable talents of all contributing parties.

Schwarz Etienne has now shown on two successive occasions, the wisdom of collaborating with others. I hope to see the brand engage in more synergistic relationships with other firms as the benefits are clear to see.

The brand’s press release

The Phoenix Collaboration between Schwarz Etienne & Les Ateliers Blandenier

The Phoenix collaboration is a concept from The Naked Watchmaker platform. Developing a synergy between Schwarz Etienne and Les Ateliers Blandenier, to make a unique timepiece that would showcase the watchmaking process of Schwarz Etienne and artisanal skills of Les Ateliers Blandenier.

The goal of the project is to integrate multiple skills into the making of a unique ‘Art-piece’ and to present them on The Naked Watchmaker in order to both share the complexity of the project and the time and people involved within such an undertaking.

Roma Phoenix collaboration

The watch can be split into two parts, each containing multiple steps. The watch itself and the process of decoration of components and their assembly, the second part,  the dial making section.

Multiple artisanal techniques that individually carry historical value combined can result in unusual effects. The depth of the blue enamel sky was selected to generate a contrasting back-drop for the applied Phoenix positioned above the pyrite seconds disc, making it appear to be suspended in the sky.

The theme and explanation of the dial.

The base of the dial is made in 18ct gold and filled with enamel, the smokey blue and white effect of the enamelling is to generate the impression of a blue sky. The gold Phoenix is hand engraved and then lacquered, The Phoenix then links to the quote around the dial, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” –– Confucius. (A statement in an ever-changing and challenging world). The small seconds subsidiary dial is set with pyrite stone, the name of the stone originates from the Greek “pyr” meaning fire.

Making the dial

Step one was to define the design upon which the dial would be made. The base plate was made in 18k gold. To be enamelled it required having sufficient space on both sides to have enamel added to assure equivalent tensions within the dial.

Once the base-plate is finished the enamelling can be added. The sky effect for the dial was married in colour to the hands, but to ensure the association in shades was correct the enameller made multiple trials with enamel powders that were heated in an oven (600 degrees Celsius) to ensure the final choice was correct.

Making the Phoenix.

Once the design has been chosen and traced, the plate of red gold used to make the Phoenix could be precisely cut out by wire erosion prior to being hand-engraved. This engraving work took about 3 weeks to complete.

After the engraving was complete, an acrylic painting was made on the surface to add a patina of age and increase the three-dimensional effect. Without this final step, much of the detail of the engraving can, in essence, be lost, washed out by uniformity of the material colour. Only the beak and claws have been polished.

The off-set small seconds disc was made from pyrite. Cubes of pyrite were machined to identify the one that most resembled the original design.

Finishing the movement

Schwarz Etienne supplied the watch for the dial, a 42 mm Roma case in 18k red gold, and integrated a hand-finished ASE 100.00 in-house automatic calibre with micro-rotor.

The selection of the Schwarz Etienne ‘Roma’ case was made in order to have a classic understated design that would highlight the aesthetics of the dial and movement.

The ASE 100.00 automatic movement features 230 components, including 38 jewels. The balance has a frequency of 21,600 VpH (3Hz) and, assuming the watch is fully wound, the movement will run autonomously for up to 86 hours.

Unlike a movement fitted with a conventional oscillating weight, there is nothing to obstruct the view of the beautifully decorated bridges and various other components.

Further reading

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