For the latest instalment of the Collector’s Series, we meet with Rob. He runs a software company that he founded in Seattle, Washington, thirty years ago, called Inteum. Inteum develops software for managing intellectual property and innovations and has customers around the world in 34 countries at the last count. As he explains, “One of these customers is CSEM (Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique SA). So you see, there’s a first link to my fascination with the world of horology. But I am drawn to engineered works of all kinds that exhibit brilliance and aesthetics.“
For MONOCHROME, Rob wishes to highlight the Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer or CIC. “The root of appeal for me is the exceptional movement design and passion of Mr Lederer, and his vision, which to my thinking, is both traditional and eccentric. He took on a challenge that few would accept and produced a watch imbued with technical brilliance matched with aesthetics par excellence. Just to my liking!” And on that, we can agree entirely.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – How did your passion for watches begin?
Rob – You see, there are several facets to my collecting sensibility. Technical innovation and excellence of execution seem to flow through it all, be it photographic two film and one digital Leica M camera and many lenses, to cars.
My journey in collecting watches began with a gift from my father. It was a pocket watch from 1949, a Paul Vallette with a 14k gold case. The movement is reminiscent of Patek Philippe of a similar era. That watch had been gifted to my father by his grandfather and is engraved accordingly: ‘DJ Gans to his grandson Graeme 16th April ’49’. A lengthy restoration brought it back to reliable running. And it gets wound daily, being part of my collection.
From then on, I have used particular anniversaries of my company as an excuse to acquire certain watches. For our 25 years anniversary, it was the Hentschel Inselchronometer, an engraved version within a limited edition.
How did you get to know Lederer?
I have been interested in novel movements and escapements for some years and in mid-2021, I observed that the Lederer Central Impulse Chronometer was going to debut in Geneva. I asked my friend Oliver Müller his impressions. He runs Geneva-based Luxeconsult (a consulting company specializing in market analyses). I encountered Oliver first in 2016 when I had seen a marine chronometer here in Seattle, the Osimor marine chronometer developed by L. Leroy. At the time, the article I read about L. Leroy identified Mr Müller as being associated with the brand so I reached out to him via email.
What is it you admire in the Lederer brand?
Technical differentiation and in particular the central impulse chronometer escapement. This quote from one of Oliver’s emails says it best. “It is somehow the final chapter of the book initiated by A.-L. Breguet or even further back by Leroy with his Duplex escapement. G. Daniels then perfected (in fact it was Omega who did) Breguet’s natural escapement. And finally, Bernhard Lederer achieves the missing pieces with a double gear train and the constant force.”
We are talking about one specific model. Why is the CIC your favourite?
The movement of the Central Impulse Chronometer is mesmerizing. It is a technically exquisite expression of horological art and is exceptional. The movement takes a contemporary position in the horological lineage and history of the escapements that have come before, as made by other greats. This is appealing.
The fact that it won the 2021 GPHG innovation prize was a welcome and well-deserved recognition of the masterwork of Bernhard Lederer. The fact that I was early enough in my expression of interest that I was able to reserve #7/25 was important. I own another watch from Parmigiani Fleurier that is #7/25. In part, I purchased the Lederer watch to commemorate 30 years since I founded my company. Both these watches have blue dials, by the way, but the PF is grand feu enamel.
When did you buy it and where?
I’ve wanted the CIC since the moment I learned about its existence. I especially keep my eyes out for novel escapements and immediately was drawn to this watch as it offers accessibility and visual spectacle that I only really came to appreciate once I had it in hand. I acquired it without ever seeing any prototype in person. I arranged to purchase the watch in mid-2021 well before production had begun. Oliver Müller kindly acted as liaison with the manufacture on my behalf.
Does your watch get a lot of wrist time?
No, my CIC does not get a lot of wrist time. I wind it along with my other watches every day, but as I work daily at a desk I would be concerned about potential damage. I did not wear it on the 30-year anniversary of founding my company as it was not delivered until December 2022.
I have shown the watch to only a few friends. My collector friends in Seattle have not known the brand or Mr Lederer’s professional reputation. So to them, it’s a revelation. I took the watch to a local meeting of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors, Inc. (www.nawcc.org)
The event organizer was most intrigued and examined it closely under a microscope with deep intakes of breath.
Do you know the current market value of the watch?
The list price was 128,000 Swiss francs. I imagine that I could resell it for at least that amount if a buyer appreciates the horological significance of the watch and the limited edition attribute, but I do not foresee selling the watch.
Do you have other passions that link up with your watch fascination?
I certainly have. I brought the first Ariel Atom from the UK to the USA and got it road registered. Moreover, I commissioned the construction of a 1958 American race car Scarab. The Scarab embodies similar characteristics as the Lederer CIC, but in an automotive expression.
Another hobby of mine is photography. Just to add to the catalogue and to explain some further background, the Alpa FPS is arguably at the pinnacle of photographic engineering execution. I took this camera on an icebreaker to visit sub-Antarctic islands and take landscape photographs. I became friendly with Swiss Andre Oldani, who at the time was a senior executive and indeed the designer/architect of this camera, made by Capaul and Weber of Zurich.
I also collect clocks. In fact, I have commissioned the construction of two clocks, based on one I acquired in Delft, a city in The Netherlands. The reinterpretation was commissioned to create a clock for my older son when he turned 21 years old. The construction took three years, so when his 21st birthday came around, we did not have a completed clock. We presented him with a three-ring binder with photographs of the progress of every part from blanks to gears, but no actual clock. My son has his clock now and we ended up constructing two because I liked the result so much, I desired to keep one for myself.
By the way, it was Mr Bill Curley, whom I found via the Internet, then proposed he considered reinterpreting the clock from Delft that became the two clocks he created. He took possession of the Delft tower clock, measured and recorded dimensions, entered into CAD, and then constructed his version with design modifications from scratch.
My more mainstream clocks include a Hermle masterpiece pendulum clock and even a Muhle Glashütte high-accuracy quartz marine chronometer.
Are you looking out for a new watch purchase?
If money was no object, I would be in line for a rose gold Ferdinand Berthoud FB 2RE. Moreover, I like the Sylvain Pinaud Origine very much. I am drawn to Romain Gautier’s Logical One and other models. I was fortunate to meet Romain and Kari Voutilainen a few years ago in Los Angeles. That said, I am also drawn to Voutilainen’s watches.
And I will visit Charles Frodsham this summer as I had been considering their double impulse escapement watch before I learned about the Lederer. This was several years ago. Now the waitlist for that watch is seven years long.
Which brands do you think are doing interesting work out there?
Now that I’ve explained a little of what draws my attention, it will not surprise you that I also collected Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches. I also purchased a Grand Seiko SLGH003 – dual impulse escapement – also a limited edition.
In the future, I would like to own a Grand Seiko that uses the 9R01 movement (Spring Drive, 8-day power reserve), especially the Grand Seiko SBGD202. I am fascinated with the AgenGraphe movement for reasons that match my interests.
And will there be any new Lederer watches?
I am quite confident that with the success and recognition earned by Mr Lederer with the CIC, he plans to reveal new exceptional works. While the CIC limited edition production has all sold, I believe he plans to reveal something new. I am confident that whatever that turns out to be, it will be limited and exceptional.
Do you have tips for other people who want to start collecting?
Choose what appeals to you. Look off the beaten path. Pay attention to your core passion. The possibilities are almost endless. That being said, I do own some exceptional Rolex watches. I also have hand-made German watches such as D.Dornbluth and the aforementioned Andreas Hentschel Inselchronometer.
More details on Bernhard Lederer, and the Central Impulse Escapement here. Note that most photos in this article were taken by our editor Xavier Markl.