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Independent Watchmaking

The Genus Watches GNS 1 and its Incredible Time Display (Live Pics, Video)

Complicated watchmaking in a class of its own.

| By Xavier Markl | 4 min read |
Genus Watches GNS 1

The vast majority of watches produced display the time in the classic, standard way – with 2 or 3 hands rotating over a circular dial once per hour or once per 12 hours. Practical for sure, but not the most original way to indicate the time. Still, some watchmakers from the independent scene are proud to launch watches that don’t use traditional hands but that are meant to only fascinate us. Latest in the game: Genus Watches and the GNS 1. And it does feature one of the most impressive “unusual displays” we’ve recently seen.

Genus Watches GNS 1
Catherine Henry and Sébastien Billières of Genus Watches

Genus watches was created by Catherine Henry and Sébastien Billières in Geneva. Catherine Henry, an entrepreneur with a long experience in various industries, is spearheading the development of the brand. Sébastien is the watchmaking mastermind behind this complex development. With over 20 years of experience in the industry, including Roger Dubuis and Urwerk where he has been involved in the Opus V project for Harry Winston. After establishing himself as an independent watchmaker in 2007, he co-created GMTI a company specializing in the manufacture and assembly of ‘Geneva Seal’ movements for watch brands. This subcontracting company now has over 20 staff working on a variety of movements ranging from time-only to complicated calibres. Sébastien Billières is also in charge of the training and consulting activities… But it was time for him to create his own watches. And it is really worth a close look.

Genus Watches GNS 1

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“Sui Generis” watchmaking

The circular motion of hands has been widely adopted for displaying the time. But there are multiple ways to indicate the hours and minutes. This offers endless opportunities for watchmakers to express their creativity, opening up a world of original designs. This is the road Genus Watches chose to create a brand in a class of its own. Reading time on their first opus is a different experience…

Genus Watches GNS 1

Starting with the hours, these are indicated by indices rotating at the periphery of the watch. These indices orient themselves in the reading direction as they get closer to the fixed pointer at 9 o’clock. The most spectacular and original part is probably the indication of the tens of the minutes. Some type of mechanical “centipede” (the brand calls this free-circulating element “Genus”) crawls over and around two 30-minute circular indicators. Moving from one orbit to the other, it forms the figure eight, while its first link or “leading-element” allows reading the time. Last, the precise minutes are displayed at 3 o’clock thanks to an index on a rotating disk. Naturally, it is a bit puzzling at first but this complex mechanical development is unorthodox, creative and captivating. Just watch the following video which makes things clear.

Sébastien Billières mentions that he has been inspired by his fascination with the number 8. The creation of this horological UFO required no fewer than 10 years of research and three years of development. It is protected by two patents (and apparently Genus is planning new applications based on some of the systems developed). The movement alone comprises over 400 parts.

Genus Watches GNS 1

This complex kinetic sculpture is housed in a well-designed 43mm white gold C-shaped case. The case is built to maximize wearing comfort and the spectacle of the movement inside with no bezel and a domed box sapphire crystal. The faceted crown features the brand name G-E-N-U-S in relief.

Turning the watch over, the exhibition caseback allows a view of the other side of the hand-wound movement. If it looks more conventional, it is nevertheless a feast for the eyes with top-notch hand-finishing. Sébastien Billières even created specific tooling to hand-finish some components to match his expectations. The main plate and bridges are fashioned out of 18k gold. The escapement and oscillator are part of a block that can be removed from the movement which helps the watchmaker adjust the display mechanism. Ticking at 18,000vph, the large balance wheel features adjustment screws. The power reserve of the movement is 50 hours.

Genus Watches GNS 1

The Genus Watches GNS 1 is a limited edition of 8 pieces in white gold. The hand-sewn navy blue calfskin strap is integrated into the case for optimal comfort. It is secured to the wrist with a gold pin buckle. A folding clasp is available upon request. Price is set at CHF 148,000 excl. taxes.

Genus Watches GNS 1

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1 response

  1. This mechanical amusement (you couldn’t really refer to it as a timepiece) reminds me of the silver mechanical swan in Bowes museum Co.Durham. Its very clever and shows real skill and ingenuity but it is not a thing I would ever want.

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