The story of Ateliers deMonaco starts with a pretty challenging question by the CEO of another watch company. Peter Stas, the man in charge of Frederique Constant, asked a group of visiting watchmaking students who would like to co-develop in-house movements for the brand. One of them, Pim Koeslag, answered that question with a “yes” and after developing 20 in-house references a bold idea brew: a minute repeater. Not being able to market that under the FC-name, they decided to form a new brand: Ateliers deMonaco. And here is their latest novelty for Baselworld 2016, the Ateliers deMonaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297.
Background of Ateliers deMonaco
Founded in 2008, Ateliers deMonaco is run by now interim-CEO Pim Koeslag, along with Robert van Pappelendam and Peter Stas. All three gentlemen are Dutch (we are expanding!) and met through a shared passion for watches. At the time of the big question from Peter Stas, Pim Koeslag was still studying watchmaking in the Netherlands. He joined the ranks of Frederique Constant and developed 20 references in just a few years. The dream of creating a minute repeater was growing, but not something that fits in the line-up of Frederique Constant.
Not wanting to go down the beaten path and start a company based in Switzerland, they looked for a location with enough inspiration to base a brand on and to create watches that would fit the chosen location. Monaco, still being a playground for the wealthy, seemed like the ideal surroundings for a high-end watchbrand. There is history and royalty, the necessary clientele and wealth and the freedom to walk beyond the beaten path.
The entire collection from Ateliers deMonaco comprises of 6 different complications in various iterations. Since the beginning the focus of Ateliers deMonaco has not only been on “series” produced watches. Of course we use that term relatively, hence the brackets. You cannot really talk about series produced watches when the annual run of production is around 175-200 pieces at the moment. Still, outside of the standard models, commissioned pieces are also possible; including a custom built La Sirène for Princess Charlène of Monaco.
New for 2016 is the Ateliers deMonaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297, with some very interesting features. The number 1297 doesn’t refer to the number of parts, or the limitation of the collection (remember, AdM only makes about 175-200 watches a year) but is a direct link to Monaco and it’s royal family, the Grimaldi’s. It is the year that Francois Grimaldi seized power by leading a small army to victory over the Italian occupiers, while being disguised as a monk. End of history lesson for now.
It would be too obvious to start with the tourbillon movement, so instead I would like to focus on the case first. The case is comprised of no less than 31 parts, measuring 44mm in diameter and 13mm high. The symmetrical case has alternating brushed and polished finishing. A refined touch on the Oculus series is the concave bezel. Of course sapphire crystal is used on both the front and back of the case, and if you would like to take it for a swim (I can’t imagine doing so!) it is water resistant up to 3 ATM. The case comes in grade 5 titanium or in 18k red gold, but if you ask nicely and have deep enough pockets they might do something more special just for you.
Moving from the outside in, the dial is the biggest stand-out feature of the Ateliers deMonaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 collection. Available in a deep, translucent blue, or a very contemporary grey tone, it is incredibly detailed with a longize pattern. This pattern is laser engraved with a five-axis laser which first cuts and then melts the material of the dial. The end result is a very lively, deep dial which plays with the light a lot. If looking at it closely, you can really see the even, smooth finishing of all the individual “pyramids” that are also part of the Monaco coat of arms. Each and every pyramid has an extremely fine brushing radiating from the very top down to the base. It is ever so subtle, and can really only be seen through a loop.
The movement is the in-house (obviously) developed XP 1-Minute Tourbillon movement, which is powered by a hand-engraved rotor in 22ct gold, bearing the coat of arms of Monaco. It also features a silicium escapement wheel and lever, reducing friction and wear. It operates at a frequency of 4hz or 28,800bph. The tourbillon escapement of the Oculus 1297 can be visible through the opening at 6 ‘clock, hence the Oculus in the name. A sapphire bridge covering the escapement ensures an unobstructed view of the rotating regulating organ. The decentralized dial in the top half of the dial displays hours and minutes, while the seconds are indicated with an added hand on the tourbillon.
The Ateliers deMonaco Tourbillon Oculus 1297 is limited to 88 pieces per version and comes on an alligator strap with folding buckle that matches the case, so in titanium or red gold. The strap is either blue for the titanium or grey for the red gold version. For more information we redirect you to Ateliers-demonaco.com.