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By Chris | July 25 2013
By Elizabeth Doerr
Rejuvenated names of British masters continue to make superb timepieces in Switzerland, the modern home of luxury watchmaking.
Arnold & Son Time Pyramid
Before haute horology was centered in Switzerland, it had other homes, including England. in 1995, clever investors revived some of the most sonorous British names in watchmaking under a group called the British Masters, which has since split apart.
Lead investor and CEO Eric Loth now heads up Graham, while Arnold & Son is completely at home under the umbrella of la Joux-Perret. Here, it is lovingly cared for by the luxury movement maker’s head of innovations, a young man with great respect for and understanding of historical horology: Sébastien Chaulmontet.
John Arnold was a contemporary of history’s most famous watchmaker, Abraham-Louis Breguet, and the two shared well-documented personal and professional experiences. Though Arnold made decorative timepieces and repeaters for King George III, he became known for his marine chronometers and technical inventions. His son, John Roger Arnold, later joined the business.
Under the refreshing leadership of La Joux-Perret, the rebooted Arnold & Son, which produces no more than 500 timepieces annually, aims to become a sort of modern British Breguet by reinterpreting Arnold’s historical designs and technology.
Beyond a passing reference to Arnold’s regulator dial, the exquisite Time Pyramid is not exactly inspired by his work; it is a wristwatch-sized reinterpretation of a British triangular skeletonized mantel clock from the 1830s.
The Time Pyramid’s manually wound movement has been arranged linearly so that the gears take on a triangular shape visible through the large sapphire crystals on both sides of the case. The gears have been skeletonized to allow the maximum amount of light through, adding to the timepiece’s airy elegance.
This unique arrangement sees the balance wheel, which continuously provides motion with its oscillations, unusually perched at the top of the pyramid, while two spring barrels supplying the movement with 80 hours of power reserve form the base of the specially shaped mechanism.
The wavy blue hands located at 2 and 10 o’clock represent power reserve indications, one for each of the spring barrels. they demonstrate how one barrel transfers energy to the other one—a function not yet found in another watch.
The Time Pyramid is housed in an 18K red gold case measuring 44.6mm in diameter. the crown is placed at 6 o’clock so as not to disturb the highly elegant design, complete with a hand-stitched alligator-skin strap ($39,995).
Ellicott Master Complication RS 38
Ellicott was resuscitated in 2008 by one of the original investors in the British Masters, Pierre-André Finazzi. Though a relative newcomer to the haute horlogerie scene, the brand is named for one of England’s most historical watchmaking families.
Its progenitor, John Ellicott Senior, entered the annals of watch history in 1687 as an apprentice to master watchmaker John Waters. However, it was his son, John Ellicott Junior, who brought fame to the name with his work on the cylinder escapement.
As a result, in 1738 John Ellicott Junior was named a member of the Royal Society of London, possibly the oldest scientific society in the world, but certainly so in the United Kingdom. Today, it functions as a scientific advisor to the British government, even funding research and scientific start-ups.
This year, the modern Ellicott brand, which makes only about 300 pieces per year, honors its namesake’s illustrious inclusion among some of the country’s most learned men with a unique piece called the master complication RS 38.
And this timepiece lives up to its name. The minute repeater is widely considered the most difficult complication for a watchmaker to master. It requires not only a great deal of skill in design and assembly, but also an expert ear to regulate the gongs flawlessly so they chime with perfect pitch and resonance. added to this sumptuous array of sounds is a perpetual calendar, which correctly shows all calendar functions (date, day, month, year, leap year indication and moon phase) until the year 2100—should the watch be kept wound for the next 87 years—even in February, which can trip up even the most accurate timepieces. The moon phase, displayed in a subdial at 6 o’clock, boasts a mother-of-pearl moon against a sparkly aventurine sky.
Housed in a 42mm 18K rose gold case, the manually wound movement powering the Master Complication RS 38 boasts 388 total components, which combine to create one of the slimmest calibers of its kind: in all probability, there is not another minute repeater perpetual calendar mechanism on the market measuring in at only 5.1mm in height.
The case is embellished with the addition of a black sapphire cabochon on the crown, while the movement can be viewed through the transparent sapphire crystal case back. This unique piece retails for $350,000.