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By Chris | January 1 2014
A Swiss watchmaker based in the remote Vallée de Joux is the link between two ultra-rare brands.
From 1655 onward, the name Badollet intertwined itself with the history of Genevan watchmaking—from the clock all the way to the wristwatch—as father passed knowledge to son.
Jean Badollet (1635-1718) began practicing the art of watchmaking at the age of 20. One of his direct descendants, Jean-Jacques Badollet (1756- 1843), regularly supplied components and even whole watches to Abraham-Louis Breguet in Paris. Jean-Jacques’s son, Jean-Moïse (1811-1862), established the company that would preserve this name for generations to come, and Jean-Moïse’s sons Gustave and Jean-Jacques continued the family’s success and brought fame to the name. When Gustave, the final representative of the dynasty, passed away in 1924, the name was laid to rest—until 2006.
Badollet reentered the luxury watchmaking scene with a concept of customization realized with the help of luxury watchmakers— which was revamped last year under CEO Philippe Dubois, when the understated Ivresse came out at Baselworld 2012.
At first glance, Ivresse’s solid, elegant 53.8mm by 30mm outer shell comprising understated platinum and satin-brushed dial reveals absolutely nothing of the ensconced internal workings. These remain a mystery until one turns the watch over and peers through the sapphire crystal. In fact, it is at this point that this watch’s name, Ivresse, explains itself: “Intoxicating.”
What one feels but does not necessarily tangibly perceive is a movement the likes of which has not yet been seen. This German silver movement was designed and executed by David Candaux, the watchmaker behind Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Hybris Mechanica, who has gone solo. Candaux, who now works together with his father from a lonely farmhouse workshop in the Swiss village of Le Sentier in La Vallée de Joux, created the movement of the Ivresse from scratch. Manually wound and boasting a power reserve of 120 hours, its languidly beating flying tourbillon is not visible from the time-only dial; it is only revealed when the wearer turns the watch over.
In 2013, Badollet released the Ivresse model in an array of interesting dial colors with matching straps, adding a joyful splash to the original sober blue tone. Badollet only produces 10 of the Ivresse per year at $220,000.
“A mechanical Swiss watch was the first thing on the drawing board for Fonderie 47,” said CEO Peter Thum.
“Work on this project had begun even before I filed the papers to set up the company. I knew that it would take us a long time to do this, and it would be pivotal for us to make this watch.” Thum’s reason for focusing on elite watchmaking has stemmed from the roots of his original motivation for starting Fonderie 47: The issue of assault rifles in Africa. “The assault rifle problem in Africa is complex and thorny,” he says. “To most people this is an ‘impossible’ problem.’ ” For the founder and former CEO of Ethos Water, his idea encompassed physically turning the problem into the solution. To him, the AK47 was the most obvious global symbol of this problem, and by making something thought impossible from material from this assault rifle would pierce the veil of impossibility.
The object of this watch was to inspire the most influential people in the world to become interested in an issue in which they had no involvement and probably knew little about; in short, transforming the AK47 into something beautiful: To achieve an inversion. “This thing could be art, but to have meaning it would need to be tangible and have purpose that was connected to human activity in a real way,” Thum explains.
The AK47 is a mass-produced, industrial object. This weapon has spread around the world as a tool for state strategy and political ideology, and because it was created by a communist country with no patent protections, it is available as an open-source platform that thus far has allowed more than 20 countries to produce their own versions of the weapon. Since 1947, some 100 million AK47-type weapons and variants have been produced. “Swiss watches and watchmaking seemed like a clear opposite object and process respectively to the AK47 and to the desperate conflicts that they fuel,” Thum adds.
The Inversion Principle’s striking movement was also designed and produced by David Candaux, who shows off his technical prowess within the 42mm white or red gold case. While the jumping hour and retrograde minutes provide the time, the eye is drawn to the three-minute tourbillon, which also boasts a second hand on its cage. The six-day power reserve is displayed twice on the watch: Once in a lateral window embedded in the side of the case and once on the back, though the observer’s attention is busy with the beautiful sunray stripes of the base plate surrounding the steel plate made from a transformed AK47. Only 20 of these will be made, each selling for $350,000.