You probably know Furlan Marri already. Founded in 2021 by Andrea Furlan (Swiss industrial designer) and Hamad Al Marri (watch collector and artist from the Middle East), it started as a crowdfunded project on Kickstarter. The first watch, a handsome vintage-inspired mechaquartz chronograph, made quite some noise. The second model, an automatic time-only this time, gathered some attention again with its cool design. But up until now, we’ve been looking at carefully designed watches for sure, but in an accessible price range. Things are changing and the two men have been moving faster than anyone imagined. Even if still a unique prototype offered for charity auction Only Watch 2023, the next watch is playing in a far higher category. Co-developed with Dominique Renaud and Julien Tixier, we’re talking about an ultra-simplified, modular secular perpetual calendar, with a single adjustment once every 400 years. Now that’s what we call a surprising move.
Before we move to discovering and deciphering this unique (for now, more on that later) Furlan Marri Secular Perpetual Calendar, we need to rewind a bit. What is a secular calendar? And mostly, how does it compare to a perpetual calendar? As we all know, our days, months and years have been defined according to the Gregorian calendar. It was introduced on February 24 with a Papal Bull, and went into effect in October 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII as a modification of, and replacement for, the Julian calendar. Its objective was to correct some of the errors in the Julian calendar, since some small variations exist between nature and the administrative reality of a calendar – the idea is simply to get as close as possible to the 365.2422-day solar year, determined by the Earth’s revolution around the Sun.
For that, the Gregorian calendar has its complications… And not just a few. First, some months are 30 days, some are 31 days, and February is 28 days. But, in order to correct the variation between the solar year and the administrative year, every four years, February is 29 days – what is known as the leap year. But this correction isn’t yet precise enough. For this reason, the Gregorian calendar includes secular years, during which February is 28 days, while it should have been 29 days (according to the rule of leap years). As such, a normal perpetual calendar watch (which takes into account automatically months with 30, 31 or 28 days, as well as leap years) during the next secular year – 2100 – won’t be accurate and will consider a standard leap year.
Enters the secular perpetual calendar. First unveiled in a wristwatch in 1996, thanks to master watchmaker and AHCI co-founder Svend Andersen, the secular calendar watch encompasses all the variations of our Gregorian calendar, surpassing the classic perpetual calendar in terms of precision. In addition to calculating automatically leap years, as a normal perpetual calendar, it also takes into account future secular years and won’t need an adjustment, for instance, in 2100. But due to yet another complexity of the Gregorian calendar, years divisible by 400, like 2000 or 1600, will be leap years (again to come as close as possible to the length of the solar year). For this reason, most of the very few existing secular perpetual calendar watches will still require one correction every 400 years… if ever they’ve been running continuously.
The Furlan Marri Secular Perpetual Calendar
Having said that, you can easily imagine that creating a secular calendar isn’t something easy. The main proof is that only a handful of watches feature such a complication – the Patek Philippe Caliber 89, the Svend Andersen Secular Perpetuel Calendar, or the Franck Muller Aeternitas Mega 4 are some of the very rare examples. The fact that a small, young and usually accessible brand such as Furlan Marri even considered this complication is already raising some eyebrows. The fact that they managed to give birth to this movement is surprising at least, if not truly exceptional to an extent. But even more impressive, what results from a joint development with two great names of the indie watchmaking scene (external help was required, of course) is a highly simplified take on the concept of the secular perpetual calendar, built as a module to be adapted to an accessible movement.
The Furlan Marri Secular Perpetual Calendar is, for now, a unique prototype. But let’s go straight to the point; it is a teaser for things to come, as this movement won’t remain just an exercise of style. It will be housed in a future watch, the first model within a new and higher-end collection. The idea was to use the visibility of Only Watch in order to present this watch and movement, before the next phases of development and conception.
Above: Julien Tixier and Dominique Renaud (left) – Andrea Furlan (right)
How did this watch come to life? It has been made possible using Andrea Furlan’s connections. Having worked already with Dominique Renaud, as Andrea was involved in the design, technical aspects and 3D rendering of the DR01 project, the co-founder of what’s now known as APRP was keen to join. Julien Tixier, a prototype watchmaker, who also knew Dominique Renaud, joined the creation of this watch. The pitch: creating an ultra-simplified version of the most complex type of calendar, which can be used on top of a classic and readily available automatic movement, ending in a watch offered at a relatively accessible price… And that meant rethinking the complication practically from scratch.
In addition to being more accessible and easier to produce, creating a simplified version of the secular calendar comes with multiple advantages. First of all, simplification means easier assembly and disassembly. Having fewer parts and fewer adjustments required, the mechanical module will be, on paper, more reliable (fewer parts, fewer problems…) For instance, the large rocker, usually located in the middle of classic calendars, now became peripheral; it meant information would be communicated differently, but also more efficiently. Tixier adds that “a large peripheral rocker means that we can take information from just about anywhere on the movement and place the elements where we want them.”
A secular module is grafted onto this perpetual calendar, making it accurate over the next 4 centuries, which make up the secular years. The secular assembly comprises just 5 parts, and the date module has a total of 25. In addition, Tixier explains that “by simplifying the mechanism, we’ve made it totally modular, allowing us to configure the calendar as we wish. This way, we can switch from a secular calendar to a simple calendar, while keeping the same base and removing components.” Clever thinking…
User-friendliness was also at the centre of the development process, with a new way to adjust the complication. Here, a ring-shaped corrector, with a button at 6 o’clock (in blue) to adjust the entire calendar, in either direction. The date is set by turning the corrector to the right, and the days of the week by turning it to the left. The crown is for adjusting the hours and minutes. This also ensures that there is no risk of damage to the movement while the watch is being adjusted.
Finally, as said above, this secular calendar is a module. This means that the brand had the opportunity to simply choose an existing and reliable movement to power the watch, making this a consumer-oriented approach with costs in mind. Here, Furlan Marri relies on a simple and powerful automatic La Joux-Perret G100, a 4Hz movement with a comfortable 68h power reserve (even though the module will probably consume some of this energy). Accessible, easy to serve and reliable. The future standard version of this watch will surely be a massive step up in terms of price for the brand, yet could well be one of the most accessible of its kind on the market.
About the watch itself now. The Furlan Marri Secular Perpetual Calendar for Only Watch 2023 is quite special also regarding its habillage. This quite compact watch, measuring a mere 39mm in diameter and only 11.4mm in height, uses rhodium-plated silver for its case. The lugs are applied to the case, the latter being hand-turned and not stamped. As with previous creations of the brand, it exudes a vintage feel yet has more boldness and modernity, specifically with its blue ring-shaped corrector. The bracelet is another oddity. Using a classic Milanese look, it has been handcrafted by Laurent Jolliet, one of the last chain-makers in Europe, and is also made of solid silver.
Where the usual vintage vibe of Furlan Marri is the least visible is on the dial side. It is made of titanium and given an anodic oxidation treatment resulting in this blue-grey colour. The steel day and date hands are flame-blued and the hour and minute hands are polished. The month hand in polished titanium bears the leap-year cam indication in the form of a Maltese Cross. The titanium peripheral ring also undergoes an anodic oxidation treatment. The two sub-counters are openworked, releasing parts of the secular perpetual calendar module. The module’s plate is sandblasted, then electroplated with a coat of 18k yellow gold. The gears are circular-grained and the date cams black polished by hand. The steel springs are straight-grained and bevelled by hand, too.
Finally, even though the base movement is industrially finished, it receives an oscillating weight cut and bevelled by hand by Dominique Renaud, and then it has been hand-engraved by Coralie Mercier, whose workshop is in the same building as Julien Tixier.
Altogether, the Furlan Marri Secular Perpetual Calendar is a highly surprising and impressive watch. Surprising because this isn’t something we were expecting to see from such as young brand, usually offering watches in a 500-1500 Swiss francs price range. All previous models have surely been carefully designed and have received great accolades. But they’ve remained, up until now, watches with off-the-shelves movements and outsourced parts. Impressive because, when you think about it and look closely at the module, it is a truly clever development. Simple, efficient, clever-designed, adaptable and evolutive… It raises some questions regarding its future – how and who will manufacture it? Will it be available to others? When can we expect the final version? – but nevertheless, it does open an interesting new chapter for the brand…
The Furlan Marri Secular Perpetual Calendar is a unique piece for Only Watch 2023 and will be auctioned on November 5th, 2023 to fund research into Duchenne muscular dystrophy and neuromuscular and genetic diseases. It carries an estimate of CHF 20,000 to CHF 30,000. More details at www.furlanmarri.com and www.onlywatch.com.