Romain Gauthier Logical One Byzantine
Contributing author, Carl Eady, reviews a unique watch, the Romain Gauthier Logical One Byzantine. In 2013, the ‘standard’ Logical One was launched, attracting critical acclaim and receiving the prestigious GPHG award for Mechanical Exception. Since then, this iconic collection has broadened to include several case finishes in rose, white or yellow gold, platinum and the ultra modern bead blasted ‘Enraged’ titanium. Ancient Byzantine art has provided the inspiration for Romain Gauthier’s latest iteration of his mechanical masterpiece.
Romain Gauthier was born in 1975 in the Vallée de Joux in the Jura Mountains. This area is the birthplace and home to some of the most iconic names in the Swiss watchmaking industry. Many inhabitants, born and raised in the region are inevitably drawn into the watchmaking business.
For Romain, his path to becoming one of the most revered names in independent watchmaking was less than conventional. He studied electronics at technical school and quickly discovered it was not a path he wished to pursue. What it did give him, however, was exposure to mechanical engineering, igniting a lifelong passion. Romain graduated in Precision Engineering, went on to complete a diploma and then began a career making watch parts for supplier François Golay.
Romain’s epiphany moment came around 1999 when he decided to unite his heritage and skills to create his own high-end watch brand. To acquire the necessary business acumen, he embarked on an MBA at Lucerne Business School, completing his thesis on the business plan for ‘Manufacture Romain Gauthier’. With the support of François Golay, who granted him access to the company premises after hours, he dedicated all his spare time and energy into creating the components for his first calibre (HM2206) and, by 2005, was ready to launch his own brand. The 2007 ‘Prestige HM’ and 2010 ‘Prestige HMS’ were exceptional timepieces, critically acclaimed by collectors and journalists alike. It was, however, the 2013 release of the ‘Logical One’ which gave him a deserved seat at independent watchmaking’s top table.
At Baselworld 2019, Gauthier revealed a unique ‘Logical One’ piece named ‘Byzantine’, showcasing the artisanal possibilities available to discerning customers wishing to push the boundaries of bespoke haute horlogerie.
The beauty, mesmeric design and superior finishing confer an aesthetic allure which could easily detract from the mechanical mastery within. A modern-day interpretation of the ‘chain and fusee’ mechanism dominates the dial estate and is the primary reason for the ‘Logical One’ moniker. The holy grail of mechanical watchmaking is to achieve ‘constant force’ and the quest to achieve such a phenomenon has inspired many watchmakers since the 1500s.
Romain has utilised his considerable engineering talents to invent a new mechanism, employing a snail shaped cam connected to the mainspring via a steel chain with friction-minimising ruby rollers (one of four patents within this revolutionary movement). By utilising a cam (rather than a fusee) and linking it to the mainspring on the same plane, all the winding force is transmitted in a highly efficient straight line.
The patented winding system incorporates a push-button set into the caseband to efficiently transfer force on the same plane as the barrel. The steel mainspring is housed between two synthetic sapphire plates, chosen for their extremely low friction coefficient. This meticulous attention to detail reinforces the philosophy that every component within a Romain Gauthier movement is first and foremost engineered with pure purpose.
Whilst studying for his MBA, Gauthier sought expert counsel from the renowned Philippe Dufour. His influence flows throughout the Logical One with finishing of the highest order whether visible or not. The impeccable anglage on display is achieved using a labour intensive three stage process. Firstly, the angleur uses a steel file to create the rounded bevel. Secondly, this is softened by buffing with emery paper tipped tools. Finally, a diamond paste is applied to the bevel with sticks of gentian wood, picked locally by Romain himself. The result is a flawless curved mirror finish, which catches every available chink of light.
A signature feature of the ‘Logical One’ is the balance cock which is intricately shaped like the tip of a scimitar blade, sporting deep graining, anglage and a frosted finish. Its design affords the wearer a spectacular view of the regulating organ. The curved arms of the balance wheel, Gauthier’s proprietary triangular pallet fork and the circular inlaid escape wheel work in perfect union with the Logical One’s movement.
The brand’s movements fall into three collections, namely, ‘Heritage’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Exception’. The latter reflects Romain’s passion for art. Indeed, the Exception collection embodies freedom of expression with art sharing centre stage with haute horlogerie.
Within the Romain Gauthier Logical One Byzantine, the main plate and verso bridge are standout features and the result of painstaking micro artisanship. Both plates are gilded, frosted and meticulously hand-engraved to create a striking recurring pattern. The configuration is inspired by ancient art from the Byzantine Empire (330-1453 AD). The Empire’s exchanges with Islamic culture had a profound affect on many Byzantine artists who adopted the geometric motifs expertly crafted by their Islamic counterparts. The two unique Byzantine bridges require some 100 hours of craftsmanship to fashion and finish to Romain Gauthier’s precise specification. The outcomes proves stunning, granting a totally unique backdrop.
Turning the watch over reveals many more of the movement’s 359 components, all finished to the same exacting standards. Fully wound, the movement will run autonomously for 46 hours, tracked by a simple red tipped needle on the power reserve indicator.
The off-centre hour and minutes display, together with a conjoined small seconds dial are beautifully appointed in ‘grand-feu’ enamel, which has been satin-finished to soften the colour to a light Byzantine Blue. Silvered Arabic numerals and markings are simple yet offer a luxurious and legible contrast to the blue detail. Elongated diamond shape hour and minute hands are elegant, with fine tips reaching out to the dial perimeter. Romain has employed such a distinctive design language on the ‘Logical One’ that its appearance is hard to define. The functional beauty of the unique winding mechanism is in stark contrast to the classical styling of the dials. Every aspect of the movement is blessed with refined curving lines, even down to the ‘S’ slotted screws.
The ‘Logical One’ movement is housed within a 43mm 18k white gold case. A thick curvaceous bezel, long slim lugs and perfect polishing distinguish it as the epitome of luxury watchmaking. At 14.2mm, the case has a modest depth considering the complex architecture of its movement. It sits very comfortably on the wrist and, with a low-profile setting crown at the 2 o’clock position, it is effortlessly simple to set. The large push button winder at the 9 o’clock position communicates a satisfying click, generating some 40 minutes of reserve with each depression of the pusher. The panes of sapphire crystal to the front and rear of the watch feature anti-reflective coating, affording delightful clear views of Romain Gauthier’s artistry.
Consistent with the cognoscenti’s expectations, a hand-stitched alligator leather strap accompanies the Romain Gauthier Logical One Byzantine. Deep brown in colour, it perfectly complements the golden hues of the decorated bridges. The strap is paired with a simple pin and buckle arrangement in white gold.
The Romain Gauthier Logical One Byzantine surely warrants the additional moniker ‘The Thinking Man’s Watch’ – a worthy mantle for its creator and his patrons. The design and creation of the unique winding mechanism could only be executed by an accomplished engineer and fully enjoyed by those with an appreciation of mechanical artistry. By combining this ingenuity with the finest manifestation of haute horlogerie, Romain Gauthier has created an award-winning masterpiece.
The ‘Byzantine’ piece wasn’t commissioned, but created to showcase the possibilities of bespoke creations by the brand. Unsurprisingly, it was snapped up immediately by a discerning collector, no doubt appreciative of its symbolic artisanship and the 200 hours of craftsmanship bestowed upon it.
The beauty of buying from an independent watchmaker, such as Romain Gauthier, is that collectors can share their bespoke visions directly with Romain. This subsequently adds depth and dimension to the already impressive ‘Exception’ collection. Regardless of their choice, collectors can be assured that their investment will be rewarded with levels of beauty, ingenuity and finishing of the very highest order.
- Model: Romain Gauthier Logical One Byzantine
- Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 43 mm; height 14.2 mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres) sapphire crystals to the front and back
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; push-button winding
- Movement: Hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); contains 63 jewels (including 26 for the constant-force chain); power reserve 46 hours; 359 components; Four patents: The specific composition and construction of the chain; the constant force system; the push-button winding system; and the high-efficiency profiles of the gear teeth
- Strap: Brown alligator leather with white gold pin and buckle
- Price: CHF 180,000 excluding taxes (RRP as at 20.11.2019)