Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel
Romain Gauthier combines a meteorite dial, steel case and hand-wound movement to glorious effect. Each element of this horological composition is distilled to the highest order, upholding the Maison’s coveted reputation for making sublime timepieces.
This detailed review of the Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel includes images, specification details and pricing.
As a child, I walked along weed lined roads and played beneath grey, inclement skies. I always knew that in order to find beauty and inspiration I would have to leave the Lancashire mill town of my youth.
Romain Gauthier, the renowned watchmaker, was born in the Vallée de Joux. This isolated region of Switzerland is chocolate-box pretty with green fields, coniferous forests and cowbell chiming cattle. In the winters of bygone times, local inhabitants would seek sanctuary from harsh winters, sheltering in hillside ateliers, making peerless watch movements. As the snow thawed, these movements, some quite complicated, would be taken to établisseurs in cities such as Geneva, where, together with dials and cases, they would be used to form complete watches.
Today, the Vallée de Joux remains synonymous with high-end watchmaking. Indeed, beyond the picturesque scenery, cows and watches, there appears to be little else. However, the immense beauty of the landscape engenders creativity. This is manifest with the incredible horological masterpieces, crafted within the area.
Romain Gauthier established his eponymous brand in 2005. Choosing to base his Manufacture in Le Sentier, Romain has always remained loyal to his home region. Today, the Maison’s watches are venerated by the cognoscenti.
In his early career, Romain studied precision-mechanics at technical college. This experience would prove to be invaluable later in life when using CNC machines to make mainplates or various other components to infinitesimal tolerances. However, despite the Swiss watchmaker appreciating the benefits of modern plant, he has never abandoned traditional finishing techniques. Indeed, quite the contrary, Romain Gauthier’s watches are revered for their exalted level of finishing.
Part of the Romain Gauthier paradigm is an appreciation of craftsmanship and time-honoured techniques along with a willingness to employ cutting-edge production methods. This philosophy is born out of a desire to create the finest watches possible.
The pursuit of perfection pervades the culture of this Maison, albeit this degree of excellence comes at a price. Historically, Romain Gauthier has been known for making watches in noble metals or titanium. Furthermore, the watches have tended to be complicated e.g. the Logical One with a ‘chain-and-fusee’ constant-force mechanism. Now, the brand has unveiled its first serially-produced watch in stainless steel. The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel is a limited-edition timepiece, restricted to a mere 10 pieces.
The dial of the Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel is formed of meteorite. This iron meteorite was discovered in 1931 at the ‘Henbury crater field in the Northern Territory of Australia, one of the country’s best known meteorite impact sites. It is believed that this fragment is the result of a meteor exploding and breaking up as it hit the earth’s surface’, approximately 4700 years ago.
Apparently, the surface of the meteorite resembles a ‘fairly ordinary chunk of grey metal’, however, once subjected to a nitric acid treatment it comes alive. A tapestry of intersecting bands of nickel-iron crystal, known as Thomson structures, imbue the surface of the meteorite with a plethora of grey hues and pulchritudinous patterns.
Image – meteorite before (L) and after treatment (R) with nitric acid
The meteorite is cut to size using a combination of a 3-axis CNC machine and a spark eroding machine, culminating in the creation of a disc measuring 33mm in diameter and 0.8mm thick. Thereafter, an anti-corrosion treatment is applied to the dial surface to ensure it will not deteriorate over time.
The nomen of this watch includes three capitalised letters, ‘HMS’, a reference to the watch’s inventory of functions: hours, minutes and seconds. The hour and minutes display is positioned off-centre in the upper portion of the dial. Romain Gauthier has selected a style for the hour and minute hands which is not overtly modern nor traditional. Indeed, the timeless appearance of the hands should provide a lasting appeal. Both the hour and minute hands are formed of blackened steel and lined with Super-LumiNova, granting contrast against the meteorite backdrop.
White gold, applied indexes frame the hour and minutes display. They are triangular and lined with luminescent fill, nestling within two circlets which form the hour track. A minuterie hugs the periphery of the inner circlet, augmenting ease of read-off.
Positioned in the south-easterly region of the dial is a small seconds display. This indication overlaps the neighbouring hour and minutes display. It again employs a blackened hand, but on this occasion with a contrasting tip. Arabic numerals and crisp white strokes enunciate the running seconds.
The dial epidermis is the star of the show and, in this instance, it is allowed to shine with a becoming brilliance.
According to the brand, Romain, recognising the ferrous content of the meteorite dial, felt stainless steel, again a ferrous substance, was a logical choice for the case. Measuring 43mm in diameter, the case is generously proportioned. The absence of a conventional crown mitigates the sense of scale and confers a seemly symmetry to the case’s appearance.
The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel features a crown, positioned on the dorsal flank of the watch, sitting above the exhibition caseback. The large diameter flat crown features a scalloped edge facilitating effortless winding of the watch, ‘even while on the wrist’. The crown is pulled out for time-setting. Positioning the crown flat obviates the need for a crown wheel to transfer torque through 90° and thereby transmits energy to the ratchet wheel more efficiently.
Romain clearly has an obsessive eye for detail. The crown system features a tiny ceramic ball and rubber spring. ‘This combination handles the radial and axial forces exerted during winding and time-setting better than a conventional crown spring would, while the ceramic used for the ball is resistant to wear and reduces friction for smooth functioning’.
The case of the Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel looks resplendent, courtesy of its exquisite finishes. The bezel and caseband are highly polished while the remaining surfaces are satin finished.
The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel is equipped with the in-house Calibre 2206 HMS. This hand-wound movement was ‘developed, produced, decorated, assembled and regulated at Romain Gauthier in the Vallée de Joux, Switzerland’.
Appraising the movement, one can readily discern it is made by Romain Gauthier. One telltale sign is the company’s S-slot screw heads which punctuate various movement surfaces. Beyond their aesthetic allure, the screw heads allow greater torque to be applied.
Unlike conventional anglage, where a straight 45° bevel links the bridge’s surface and flank, Romain Gauthier enriches its bridges with a rounded bevel. They proffer no additional functionality, but confer an exquisite appearance and a point of differentiation for the brand.
The jewel sinks are hand-chamfered and hand-polished. The gears are circular grained and eschew the ubiquitous straight arms, incorporating circular spokes which are said to proffer additional strength. The brand also states the ‘patented, high-efficiency profiles of the gear teeth are designed for optimal contact’.
The ‘finger bridges’ and mainplate are black NAC-treated. The straight-graining on the bridges contrasts with the hand-frosted mainplate and the juxtaposition of both surfaces makes the bridges stand-out. An opening in the largest bridge provides partial sight of the ratchet wheel and click. The opening reveals several internal angles with beautifully defined edges. The other angles are rounded. It is clear that this movement has been subjected to a high quotient of hand finishing.
A variable-inertia balance is a further example of no-compromise watchmaking. The balance wheel employs curved arms and ‘calibrated eccentric weights’ and is to the brand’s own design.
A balance wheel, fitted with a regulator, adjusts the effective length of the hairspring. By securing the hairspring between two pins, the concentricity is impaired. With a variable-inertia balance, the hairspring length is fixed and the moment of inertia is altered using weights, making the watch run faster or slower. This latter type of balance helps the hairspring breathe more concentrically, aiding precision.
Romain Gauthier has fitted ‘calibrated eccentric weights’ or maselottes in-board to the curved arms, mitigating air turbulence and thereby augmenting precision. The brand also states that the hand-assembled pallet lever is ‘triangular for maximum rigidity’. The generous spacing between bridges confers sight of the reverse of the meteorite dial.
There is a notable rectitude that pervades the specification of this movement. The Swiss firm assert that ‘as many as 60 hours have been devoted to hand-decorating the movement, even those components that are not visible’. Based on my observations, I see little reason to disbelieve this claim.
In the esoteric sphere of haute horlogerie, complications are coveted by many would-be buyers. The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel forgoes numerous indications. However, readers should not assume that this watch abandons complexity or fastidious creation.
The in-house Calibre 2206 HMS encompasses a myriad of technical refinements from S-slot screw heads, elaborately shaped gears, a flat crown and a variable inertia-balance. Moreover, each movement surface is expertly finished to the nth degree. Every component is the consequence of protracted craftsmanship. Indeed, the Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel is a paragon of fine watchmaking and wonderfully showcases the talents of Romain and his skilled workforce.
Expert polishing is not restricted to the movement alone. The case is tastefully embellished with highly polished and satin finished surfaces. Everything is refined, sidestepping unnecessary flamboyance and exuding a becoming decorum that is highly prized by connoisseurs.
Meteorites are incredibly expensive, often costing more than gold or platinum. These high prices are a function of scarcity. The iron meteorite used for the dial of the Prestige HMS Stainless Steel incorporates coarse nickel-iron crystal bands, called lamellae, heightening its allure. This precious material seems the perfect bedfellow for this high-end timepiece.
I left the soot-clad mill town of my youth in order to discover a world beyond. Romain, however, was born and raised in beautiful surroundings, where craftsmanship prevails and pollution-free skies confer views of distant planets. Perhaps if I had spent my formative years in the Vallée de Joux, my life would have been different. Nevertheless, one thing is certain Romain Gauthier is surrounded by inspiration and this is manifest with each watch bearing his name.
- Model: Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel
- Reference: MON00027
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 43mm; height 12.1mm; water resistance 1 ATM (10 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and caseback
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds
- Movement: Calibre 2206 HMS; hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 22 jewels; power reserve = 60 hours; 128 components
- Strap: Black alligator leather with satin-finished stainless steel pin buckle
- Price – CHF 68,000 excluding taxes (RRP as at 11.2.2019)