Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Fume

Zeitwinkel is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The watch company recently launched two timepieces which are designed to tempt purists. The Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Fumé and the Zeitwinkel 082° émail grand feu offer much to entice admirers of fine watchmaking.

These reviews of the Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Fumé and the Zeitwinkel 082° émail grand feu include live images and pricing.

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Introduction

Zeitwinkel is an independent watch manufacture based in Saint-Imier, Switzerland. At Baselworld 2013, I happened upon the brand and fell under the spell of its gorgeous 273° timepiece. A summer romance ensued and I revisited the watch company’s collection several times over subsequent months, falling for its endearing mix of clean aesthetics, excellent construction and manufacture movements.

Sadly, I have not seen much of Zeitwinkel recently. However, a few weeks ago I met Peter Nikolaus, co-founder of the maison and my horological proclivity for Zeitwinkel’s products has, once again, come to the fore.

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The nomen of the Swiss watch company literally means ‘time angle’, referring to the relationship between the sun’s position and the time expressed on a sundial. The naming of each model employs a three digit angle with each timepiece taking its own course to woo potential buyers. However, the maison’s name also provides a clue to this company’s unusual business approach, especially when it comes to its perspective on marketing.

Marketing – a different philosophy

While a high percentage of the retail price demanded for most watches relates to marketing expenditure, Zeitwinkel has always chosen to allocate most of its resources to product development and improving its manufacturing capability. Moreover, by eschewing advertising and public relations activity, the small company from Saint-Imier has imparted palpable value to its products and notably avoids sales-led hype.

The downside of this approach is that few magazines or websites engage with brands which have little or no budget and this can sadly result in relative obscurity. Moreover, a lack of brand awareness may dissuade some would-be purchasers from selecting a comparatively unknown brand, preferring to flaunt their success with a conspicuous watch from one of the ‘usual suspects’.

As many regular readers of ESCAPEMENT will know, the website often features brands which neither have the means or compunction to advertise but, nevertheless, craft beautiful watches or technically meritorious timepieces deserving of comment.

By redirecting its finite funds into its products, Zeitwinkel delivers sublime, virtuous watches featuring excellent craftsmanship and specification details. It is a strategy the company has adhered to since it was founded in 2006 and it will certainly resonate with those purists seeking a fine watch free of marketing hyperbole.

The marketing philosophy of Zeitwinkel may be different to the practises adopted by other brands. However, with this Swiss watch company celebrating its 10 year anniversary, it would appear to be a prudent approach that has yielded many rewards for Peter Nikolaus and his team, as well as those fortunate owners of the company’s agreeable watches.

Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Fumé

In 2013, the first Zeitwinkel watch to grab my attention was a blue dial version of its 273°, a model which remains in the brand’s collection, along with two elegant siblings, sporting black and silver faces. The dial of the 273° includes, hours, minutes, small seconds, a power reserve indicator and a large date display. The galvanic coating of the dial canvas, gleaming applied indexes and snailed small seconds subdial, tastefully fuse together, delivering a sumptuous aesthetic.

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Last year, the Swiss brand unveiled a new version of the 273°, the Zeitwinkel 273° saphir fumé. The topography of the dial is identical to the inaugural Zeitwinkel 273°, but the galvanic coated dial has been supplanted by a disc of sapphire crystal. As the fumé name attests, the dial is ‘smoked’, however, Zeitwinkel also offers a fully transparent dial option.

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The thought processes of the two date discs can be observed via the transparent dial. The date is presented via a twin aperture display which succinctly conveys information. Interestingly, the simple tone employed by the date display is in stark contrast to the mechanical complexity necessary for its presentation.

The silver-hued lancine hour and minute hands evince a seemly mien, tastefully imparting the prevailing time with perfect diction. The elongated profile of the minute hand stretches to the minuterie, interfacing with silver strokes and triangular hour markers. Despite the dial revealing some watch components normally hidden from view, nothing impairs the capacity of this watch to lucidly communicate with its wearer.

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Gracing the lower area of the dial, beneath the small seconds display, is a splendiferous presentation of perlage adorning the mainplate. Each pearl is beautifully defined and overlaps its neighbour perfectly.

The power reserve indicator, residing adjacent 2 o’clock, remains clear to read; with its needle-like hand sweeping gracefully, courtesy of its arcing gait.

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Powering the Zeitwinkel 273° saphir fumé is the familiar caliber ZW0103 manufacture movement first seen on the original 273° model. The self-winding movement includes a three-quarter plate, peerless finissage and exquisitely adorned German silver plates. I have discussed much about this movement previously when I reviewed the first examples of the 273°. Furthermore, I have witnessed first-hand the exalted craftsmanship practised in Saint-Imier and freely attest that Zeitwinkel delivers a level of finishing and overall quality seldom found at this price point.

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Zeitwinkel 082° émail grand feu

The Zeitwinkel 273° saphir fumé is probably the most flamboyant timepiece the brand offers, albeit this is relative and the model still shares the same self-effacing temperament as other timepieces within the brand’s collection. However, the new 082° émail grand feu exhibits a particularly demure demeanour. This watch is the very antithesis of conspicuous consumption and, in my opinion, all the better for it.

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Blue lancine hour and minute hands float above a sea of pure white enamel. A blue central sweep seconds hand completes the inventory of indications, conferring an uncluttered, clean and simple dial vista.

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The hours are denoted with crisp, blue numerals which have been imparted to the pure enamel surface with skilfully applied heat treatment. While the enamelling process is fraught with risk, sometimes resulting in dials cracking, even in the hands of a time-served artisan, the delightful outcome bestows a brilliance and purity which justifies the effort. Moreover, the text applied to the dial accords an unassailable permanence which will never fade with the onset of years. Indeed, it is this latter trait which is at the heart of the Zeitwinkel paradigm; evinced with its mantra ‘a watch for life’.

The minuterie on the 082° émail grand feu I handled, shared the same blue hue as the hour markers, hands and dial text. However, the brand does offer an alternative version which features the same blue monochrome palette but with a contrasting red minuterie. I would be interested in seeing this latter version prior to swearing undying love for the ‘monochrome blue’ variant.

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Zeitwinkel has packaged this elegant exemplar of haute horlogerie in a 39mm stainless steel case. Polished and matte surfaces are juxtaposed, bestowing a tasteful grandeur. I must admit, I would prefer this watch to share the same 42.5mm diameter as the Zeitwinkel 273° saphir fumé, but only because it would suit my own leviathan-like arms better. Indeed, I hope the brand chooses to uphold its tradition of tendering watches in two case sizes and, in due course, offer the 082° émail grand feu in 42.5mm.

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Once again, Zeitwinkel has equipped another timepiece with a splendiferous self-winding movement, the Zeitwinkel ZW0102 caliber. This manufacture movement is capable of autonomous operation for 72 hours. The oscillating mass is open-worked, according sight of the German silver bridges and three-quarter plate, exquisitely adorned with Côtes de Genève motif. In addition, perlage, blued screws and comely chamfering conspire to seduce the souls of connoisseurs. The elevated craftsmanship employed by Zeitwinkel would humble watches costing significantly more.

Closing remarks

Zeitwinkel has reached a milestone in 2016, celebrating 10 years of fine watchmaking. During its relatively short life, it has created an impressive body of work. The galvanic blue 273° remains a watch I continue to admire from afar and, courtesy of its accomplished design, wearer comfort and quality construction, I would dearly love take delivery of this Swiss horological gem at some future point.

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The Zeitwinkel 273° saphir fumé and the Zeitwinkel 082° émail grand feu exhibit their own distinct characters. However, they also share much in common. The displays of both models are incredibly legible, imparting information with perspicuous explanation. The case construction of each watch is notably refined, pairing different case treatments to eye-catching affect. Finally, the movements reveal a no-compromise execution and specification.

In the long term, only time will tell whether Zeitwinkel is correct in turning its back on marketing and the usual tactics of signing up celebrity ambassadors, sponsoring sporting events and blanket advertising in magazines or online. Based on its history to date, its strategy seems to be vindicated. Certainly, the economies enjoyed by Zeitwinkel has allowed the Swiss watch company to deliver a masterly suite of timepieces at very agreeable prices, deserving of close inspection by free-thinking purists.

Prices

  • Zeitwinkel 273° Saphir Fumé – 13,500.00 CHF (RRP as at 17.7.2016)
  • Zeitwinkel 082° émail grand feu – 9,490.00

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