Svend Andersen needs no introduction to many enthusiasts and collectors. He’s the man that is responsible for (now over) forty years of highly creative watchmaking stemming from Geneva. What Svend Andersen does is a unique and eclectic mix of original and inventive watchmaking, often mixed with playful themes and unconventional designs, all made to order for clients. Celebrating his 40th-anniversary last year, we take a closer look at the Jumping Hour watch, his latest creation and one that almost took home top honours in the Artistic Crafts category at last year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
Svend Andersen operates under the name Andersen Geneve, but considering the man is basically the brand, we stick to referring to Svend Andersen. In all his watchmaking career, Svend has amassed quite the set of skills, from early on already.
The early days; from Denmark to Switzerland
Fresh out of school, with a watchmaking degree under his belt, he moved to Switzerland and would end up working on some of the most complicated watches imaginable. Following the start of his career in after-sales service at Gübelin in Luzern and Geneva, and through the creation of his first-ever Bottle Clock (which is exactly that, a clock in a bottle) he ended up under the interest of Patek Philippe.
Joining the brand’s “Ateliers des grande complication” in 1969, he spent 9 years at the fabled maison before really setting out on his own. What started out as a workshop manufacturing cases for collectors quickly turned into designing and crafting bespoke pieces. Ever since that early start, Svend Andersen has been creating some of the most unique and complex watches in the industry, and can be considered one of the all-time greats.
Calendar watches and world timers
One of the crowning achievements in Svend Andersen’s work is the creation of the Secular Calendar, circumventing an oddity in the Gregorian calendar. This complication takes into account the irregular phenomenon that within the Gregorian calendar, the type of calendar most used around the world, every hundredth year is not a leap year despite being dividable by four. This means that, unlike a Perpetual Calendar, the Secular calendar complication does not need adjustment in the years 2100, 2200, 2300 etc…
A second highly coveted watch by Svend Andersen is the World Timer. While working at Patek Philippe he has had the chance to work on the complication derived by Louis Cottier. In the late 1930s, Louis Cottier managed to create a never before seen complication, capable of indicating the exact time in major cities around the world; the world timer. It was first seen on a possible unique Patek Philippe, the reference 515. What followed were several world timer watches using a single crown to adjust both the time and the world timer indication, with a hand pointing at corresponding cities printed around the dial. By 1953 the same Louis Cottier had developed a system using a second crown to adjust the world time zone independently, resulting in the famous Patek Philippe 2523.
The world timer as developed by Svend Andersen and introduced in 1989 has become a cornerstone model for the independent watchmaker. Since its introduction, it has seen several iterations, including one with his famous “blue gold” in the centre of the dial. But his accomplishments don’t end there. The final watch I want to mention is the creation of the smallest calendar watch ever created, measuring a record-breaking 6,5mm by 17,4mm, one that has never been bested so far.
Sharing the knowledge
Svend Andersen has always upheld the philosophy to share his skills and expertise with other watchmakers, and as such he has opened his atelier to the likes of Franck Muller, Felix Baumgartner (Urwerk) and others throughout his career. This has also been the driving force behind the foundation of the Académie Horlogère des Créateures Indépendants, otherwise known as the AHCI. This foundation is always looking to strengthen the bonds and foundation of independent watchmakers worldwide. Members include of course Svend Andersen himself, but also MB&F, Konstantin Chaykin, Philippe Dufour, Andreas Strehler, Francois-Paul Journe, Kari Voutilainen and others. But there’s also room for new talents like Cyril Brivet-Naudot and Hajime Asaoka.
The AHCI foundation has been instrumental in developing the visibility of some of the world’s most creative independent watchmakers. It provides a platform for individuals otherwise being left in the limelight of the industry, and preserve the craft for future generations. Since the very first exhibition in 1985, the AHCI has garnered over 30 members and continues to look for new talent. It has been a part of Baselworld for many years, showcasing the incredible range of talent of each member.
In recognition of the work of not only the AHCI but also from watchmakers being part of the foundation, a total of 26 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève trophies have been won by its members. This includes watches like the Grönefeld 1941 Remontoire in the Men’s category in 2016 and the quirky Konstantin Chaykin Clown watch in the 2018 Audacity category. In last year’s ceremony that is “the Oscar’s of the Watch World” Svend Andersen was nominated in the Artistic Crafts category for his stunning Jumping Hour watch.
40th plus 1 year anniversary
And now, in 2021 he is celebrating his 40th plus 1 year anniversary in watchmaking. And no, that is not a mistake on our side, it is really communicated as such. Nevertheless, it is a great opportunity to celebrate the living legend and cover the quartet of celebratory watches dedicated to this momentous occasion.
The Jumping Hour
The first celebratory watch dedicated to four decades of watchmaking by Svend Andersen is the Jumping Hour, presented last year. The jumping hour complication is another stable in Andersen’s repertoire, frequently requested by collectors. The most striking element of the watch is obviously the dial, which has only minimal timing indications yet is fully decorated. On top, there’s a large aperture for the jumping hour display, with a subsidiary minutes dial on the bottom section. On either side of the minute dial is a plaque with ‘1980’ and ‘2020’, obviously referring to the 40 years of work.
The decoration for the Jumping Hour dial is a striking combination of a superbly intricate hand-applied guilloché patterns. The “magic lozenge” pattern as it’s called, is engraved into a solid plate of 21ct BlueGold, a signature Svend Andersen material. BlueGold is used almost solely by Mr Andersen and is achieved by heating 24ct gold with iron elements in a kiln to achieve the blue colour. The applied pattern requires three different machines and results in a very ornate decoration.
Svend Andersen is using the Frédéric Piguet 11.50 calibre as a base, with the in-house developed jumping hour module on top. This movement has an ultra-thin construction, keeping dimension rather in check. Its double-barrel architecture ensures a power reserve of 60 hours. All edges of the base movement have been bevelled by Svend Andersen, and on top is an 18ct yellow gold rotor with a barleycorn guilloche pattern. Surrounding the movement is a BlueGold ring with an inscription; “40 years of independent timepiece creation”. The case is now done in platinum, instead of last year’s red gold. It is limited to 40 pieces, whereas the red gold version is not limited.
Quick facts – 38mm diameter x 9,22mm height – red gold or platinum case – 21ct BlueGold dial decorated with “Magic Losange” guilloché pattern – in-house jumping hour module on top of Piguet 11.50 base calibre – handmade 18ct yellow gold rotor – BlueGold framing ring with special engraving – limited to 40 pieces in platinum – CHF 41,600
The Tempus Terrae
Of course, the celebrations wouldn’t be complete without a special version of Andersen’s Tempus Terrae, inspired by the Louis Cottier world timer watches from the 1930s. Svend Andersen’s history with this complication dates back even further than his 40 years of independence. However, the Tempus Terrae is a cornerstone piece in the collection ever since the first iteration was presented as the Andersen Geneve Communication Worldtime back in 1990.
The unique style of the watch is enhanced with a diamond-set bezel featuring 36 baguette-cut diamonds in invisible settings. The centre section of the dial is once again done in BlueGold, finished with an interlacing scale-like guilloché pattern. It uses an outer ring with 24 cities and one Andersen-A above the city of Geneva to display all the time zones spread across the globe. A day and night ring, adjustable via the second crown, indicates the correct time for each time zone.
The Tempus Terrae comes in a 39mm wide red gold case with a flip-up pocket watch style cover on the backside. A high-quality Swiss-made automatic movement is used, upgraded by Svend Andersen and with an in-house world timer module fitted to it. We’ve reviewed a 2015 prototype when visiting Svend Andersen during Baselworld that year, and loved it! This special commemorative piece continues down the same path, bringing its own touch to the original Louis Cottier style of the world timer display.
Quick facts – 39mm diameter x 9mm height – red gold case with hunter caseback – diamond-set bezel with 36 baguette diamonds – BlueGold centre dial with interlacing scale-like guilloché – city-ring with Andersen-A above Geneva – high-grade Swiss-made movement base with in-house world timer module – BlueGold in-house made rotor with matching guilloché decoration – CHF 96,500
The Automaton Joker
The last piece in the quartet of watches is the quirky and super-creative Joker Automaton, created in collaboration with Russian independent watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin. The Joker series of watches by Chaykin has proven to be very evocative, sparking many variations since its initial launch. In 2017 the two independent watchmakers joined forces for the first time, creating a watch that combines the Joker display from Chaykin, with the automaton expertise of Andersen.
It was presented in a limited run of 20 pieces, all made in a red gold case. The Automaton Joker features a unique dial, conceptualized by Konstantin Chaykin, where the dial is an actual representation of a clown’s face. The indications for the hours, minutes and moonphase, combined with several decorative features, give the watch a unique character. It even has multiple facial expressions as time progresses.
On the reverse side of the Automaton Joker is a band of mischievous Batman villains, playing a poker game along with a dog. We can see Penguin, Poison Ivy and the Joker each trying to wind a hand of poker, complete with moving hands and rolling eyes. The dog in the automaton is a reference to the Montre a Tacte by Svend Andersen, where time is displayed on the caseband of the watch, and through a curved aperture in the face of the watch, with the rest decorated with a miniature painting of four dogs playing poker. In turn this image is directly decending from a series of 18 paintings and other artworks made by Cassius Marcellis Coolidge, created between 1894 and 1910, all featuring dogs at a poker table.
Back in 2017 it was presented in a red gold case and limited to 20 pieces, the anniversary edition comes in white gold in an equally limited run.
Quick facts – 42mm diameter x 16,8mm height – white gold case with moving hinges – Joker inspired dial with hours and minutes as eyes and moonphase as mouth – automaton on reverse side with three Batman villains and a dog playing poker – historical mechanical movement upgraded by Svend Andersen – limited to 20 pieces – CHF 88,000
For more details, please visit andersen-geneve.ch.