At Baselworld 2018, nature lovers were indulged with the release of the Schwarz Etienne Ode au Printemps. Consisting of three watches, this limited edition gift-box celebrates bees, an insect ‘closely associated to literature and philosophy’. Each model showcases its manufacture movement dial-side and employs Métiers d’Art to seduce onlookers.
Angus Davies looks closely at the Schwarz Etienne Ode au Printemps gift-box and scrutinises each model which forms this impressive collection.
In my native England, spring is upon us. The mournful skies of winter have ebbed away and a new-found optimism has arrived. Spring represents youth and innocence. It proffers optimism with flowers everywhere starting to bloom. Schwarz Etienne has imaginatively captured the beauty of spring with a three-part gift-box entitled ‘Ode au Printemps’ or ‘Ode to Spring’.
The Schwarz Etienne Ode au Printemps box-set includes three timepieces, each featuring a different manufacture movement and delivered with its own distinctive colour scheme. All models celebrate bees. These striped, furry insects are ‘closely associated to literature and philosophy’. Furthermore, bees feature within the coat of arms for La Chaux-de-Fonds, the Swiss city that Schwarz Etienne calls home.
Regrettably, the world’s bee population is in decline. This problem has huge ramifications for life itself. Indeed, Albert Einstein once said ‘If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, man would only have four years left to live’.
Beyond the artistic depiction of bees found on this horological trio, Schwarz Etienne has sought to play its part in the conservation of bees. The Swiss brand ‘has agreed to donate a percentage of the price of each gift-box sold to a beekeeper based in La Chaux-de-Fonds.’ This charitable effort will fund the evolution of a hive assigned to Schwarz Etienne. The initiative will last five years with all gift-box owners receiving a kilogramme jar of honey each year, produced by the bees of the Schwarz Etienne hive.
Schwarz Etienne Ode au Printemps Tourbillon Petite Seconde Rétrograde (PSR)
It is not the first time I have seen the Tourbillon Petite Seconde Rétrograde (PSR). I reviewed this watch last year, shortly after it was launched. However, while this spring-inspired version shares the same movement as its non-limited sibling, it is visibly different.
Schwarz Etienne has employed artisanal crafts to imbue the dial with a picturesque vista. Each application of colour and texture is the pleasing consequence of protracted consideration. Gilded brass is used to form a honeycomb structure gracing the dial.
At 9 o’clock, the micro-rotor is adorned with fine strips of coral in order to replicate the appearance of a poppy. Sat atop the poppy is a hand-painted bee with its wings extended. The attention to detail is incredible.
Both the hour track and seconds counter are made of tiger’s eye. This translucent gemstone evinces a rich honey hue. Indeed, it is the repeated use of honey, browns, brass and gold which results in a cohesive whole.
The watch is equipped with the in-house ‘Irreversible’ TSE 122.00 movement. The tourbillon is visible at 1 o’clock.
The small seconds retrograde display is positioned at 11 o’clock. Its red hand arcs from left to right and then jumps left, returning to zero. The sense of theatre is wonderful.
Despite being equipped with an energy-sapping tourbillon and small seconds retrograde, the power reserve delivers an impressive 72 hours of autonomy.
Schwarz Etienne has housed the Tourbillon Petite Seconde Rétrograde (PSR) in a mellow rose gold case. Measuring 44mm in diameter, the case provides sufficient scale for each dial component to be readily visible. The sapphire crystal is domed, accentuating the differing dial depths.
The movement is inverted, hence there was little reason to equip the case with a large exhibition case-back. Instead, Schwarz Etienne has decorated the case-back with a bee-inspired scene and fitted a small pane of sapphire crystal to allow sight of the tourbillon.
Schwarz Etienne Ode au Printemps Flying Tourbillon
The white gold case and limited use of colour immediately differentiate the Schwarz Etienne Ode au Printemps Flying Tourbillon from its siblings. The white gold has a neutral quality, deferentially allowing the blue tones on the dial to sing.
Once again, the dial features a honeycomb motif. On the hour track, the honeycomb texture sits above a blue circlet. At 5 o’clock, the ratchet wheel is adorned with blue agate.
The micro-rotor, located at 9 o’clock, is formed of white gold and features a hand painted cornflower. The flying tourbillon is positioned at 1 o’clock and affords spectacular views of the tourbillon cage in motion. The power reserve of the TSE 121.00 movement confers 72 hours of autonomy.
Similar to the Ode au Printemps Tourbillon Petite Seconde Rétrograde (PSR), the case-back is endowed with a small pane of sapphire crystal and adorned with an artistic depiction of bees.
Schwarz Etienne Ode au Printemps Roswell
Another passion of Schwarz Etienne is the mysterious alien phenomenon, ‘The Roswell Mystery’. The Swiss watch company recently launched the Schwarz Etienne Roswell 08, a timepiece sporting a very distinctive case. Indeed, the case is shaped like a flying saucer and encompasses curves and straight edges to glorious effect.
In this instance, Schwarz Etienne has utilised its distinctive Roswell case for the final instalment of its horological trilogy. Housed in an 18-carat red gold case, the Ode au Printemps Roswell employs darker shades and, as such, evinces a different character to its stablemates.
The dial features an anthracite honeycomb, the product of black rhodium treatment. Residing behind the honeycomb, honey-coloured kevlar, featuring a lattice-like structure, grants a fascinating texture. This surface is repeated on the ratchet wheel.
Positioned on top of the white gold micro-rotor is a beautifully formed daisy. Its exquisite surface is the artistic conclusion of hand-chiselling, cutting, engraving and miniature painting. A bee rests on some of the daisy’s petals with its wings outstretched. Again this floral scene is superbly executed.
At the heart of the Ode au Printemps Roswell is the maison’s ‘Irreversible movement’ (ISE) 100.00. This was ‘the first automatic movement created, and fully manufactured, by Schwarz Etienne’. The anatomy of the calibre is clear to see and simple to understand. The balance wheel is positioned at 1 o’clock, the ratchet wheel is located at 5 o’clock and the micro-rotor resides at 9 o’clock.
The hours and minutes are succinctly imparted with open-worked hands. A small seconds display features at 11 o’clock.
Gracing the rear of the case, Schwarz Etienne has featured the previously mentioned quote by Albert Einstein. Surrounding Einstein’s wise words is a depiction of a hive and bees industriously at work.
An Illuminating Watch Box
Often a fine timepiece is accompanied by a fabulous watch box. Although some boxes are works of art, they are often resigned to the back of a cupboard. Schwarz Etienne has clearly thought about this.
Continuing the theme of nature, the company from La Chaux-de-Fonds has created a highly innovative means of storage. An unusual lamp unit resembles a tree composed of numerous illuminated branches. At the base of the tree, a discreet drawer provides a haven for the three-piece collection of watches.
A watch company needs a unique selling proposition, an attribute which differentiates it from the majority of other brands. Schwarz Etienne is unusual in that it manufactures its own movements. Furthermore, this Swiss company even possesses the know-how to make its own hairsprings, a rare ability indeed.
This impressive technical capability has led the company to make several movements, including inverted calibres and tourbillons. Its expertise has also been called upon by other watch brands, leading to Schwarz Etienne supplying its movements to third parties.
For many watch companies, having one point of differentiation is sufficient, however, Schwarz Etienne has now shown another weapon in its arsenal.
The three-piece collection of watches harness incredible artisanal craftsmanship. The skilful application of hand tools confers each watch with a high degree of individuality. Similar to a fine painting, the masterful play with colour, depths and texture imbues the dial of each timepiece with a notable realism.
Schwarz Etienne has chosen to create a highly original triumvirate with each watch faithfully capturing the character of spring and, in so doing, delivering a cheerful depiction of nature.
Based on this impressive performance, I eagerly await the Schwarz Etienne Ode to Summer and a further instalment of Métiers d’Art.