Although his name might not ring a bell, Stéphane Von Gunten has a long track record in the industry. After a couple of years with Patek Philippe, this watchmaking engineer has spent most of his career with Ulysse Nardin to become its R&D Director… Quite a background, given the brand’s propensity for innovation. There, he was involved with filing no fewer than 30 patents. Now in his mid-forties, Von Gunten is launching his own brand, Haute-Rive and his first watch, the Honoris, a watch boasting an impressive 1000-hour power reserve. Proud to represent the fifth generation of a family of watchmakers, Stéphane Von Gunten chose the name Haute-Rive because it was the name of the workshop of his great-great-grandfather, Iréné Aubry. The name of the model itself, Honoris, was chosen as a tribute to one of his ancestor’s creations patented in 1889, a pocket watch with 8 days of power reserve, known as the Hebdomas.
More often than not, the choice of a watch is not entirely about its utility. When talking about watchmaking innovation or complications, it is more and more common to see mechanical watches with special functions or features you would hardly ever use. Very simply, we love mechanical watches because they tell more than time… yet they are still here to perform their utilitarian task.
Among the most useful feature of the watch is its power reserve and its capability to run efficiently over a given period of time. The industry standard for a mechanical wristwatch is an autonomy of 40 to 50 hours. Naturally, with an automatic watch, the movements of your wrist will constantly wind the watch. Yet, if you take off your watch for a few days, the power reserve will inevitably stop, and you will have to manually wind it and set the time again.
Having a longer running time does offer tangible practicality and comfort. Some makers are now proposing wristwatches with 3 days of power reserve or more. Watches with a week-long power reserve are a rarity. Those with over a month of power reserve can be counted on the fingers of one hand… The A. Lange & Söhne 31 and its 31 days of power reserve, the Hublot MP-05 and its 50 days of autonomy on 11 series-coupled barrels or the Vacheron Constantin Twin-Beat with its 65 days of power reserve (but in stand-by, low-frequency mode only).
With its inaugural piece, the Honoris, and its exceptional 1000-hour or 41-day power reserve, Haute-Rive has become the latest member of this exclusive club. To achieve this, Stéphane von Gunten has designed a movement fitted with one single barrel, housing a 3-meter-long mainspring. In relation to its exceptional size and length, the barrel “drum” is machined directly into the main plate – with a diameter of 35mm for coiling the mainspring! Although the watch is manually wound, the outer end of the spring features a slipping bridle to avoid excess tension and protect the mechanism from overwinding. One may wonder if managing this huge driving force might be an issue. Stéphane Von Gunten advises that his 30-turn barrel delivers a rather stable torque over most of the power reserve. Last, the 360-degree power reserve indicator at the back of the watch allows you to check the winding state at a glance.
Always with practicality in mind, the movement can be hand-wound by rotating the fluted bezel – a distinctive and functional design choice inspired by another Iréné Aubry creation, a pocket watch presented to Pope Leo XIII featuring 40 days of power reserve. Using a standard crown would have been impossible because of the strength required to wind the oversized, powerful mainspring. The watch also features a smart function selector (hence the push-piece on the side of the case) driven by a column wheel that allows you to set the time via the crown without pulling it out.
These beautiful mechanics and ultra-long power reserve are not the only charms of the Haute-Rive Honoris. This tourbillon watch is elegantly composed in a classic sense and remains relatively thin despite its huge mainspring (7.75mm for the movement and 11.95mm for the case). It is crafted respecting the most demanding standards with a 42.5mm yellow or white gold case and beautiful finishings throughout.
The champlevé grand feu enamel dial (made with Marc Bolis of 2B8 in Marin, near Neuchâtel) is more than just a flat surface. It is the canvas for an aesthetic mechanical composition. The large wheel over the dial was dubbed the “time wheel”. Transmitting the barrel’s rotation to the gear train, it puts in perspective the importance of the driving force in this watch. At the centre, gears are held in place by a distinctive four-pillar bridge. Just above the unusually long crown stem and its sliding pinion, a cut-out reveals the column wheel, allowing you to switch functions. Last but not least, the one-minute tourbillon seems to be mysteriously floating over the dial. Its variable inertia balance ticks at a slow 2.5Hz frequency, which makes sense in relation to the intention of a long power reserve. Last, the leaf-shaped, polished and slightly rounded hands are either in white gold or flame-blued steel, depending on the version.
The watch comes on a black or brown hand-stitched calfskin strap with a gold pin buckle matching the colour of the case.
All in all, the Haute-Rive Honoris is a prime example of independent watchmaking. A creation where craftsmanship and inventiveness are guided by passion and personal perspectives. As you can imagine, the production will be quite limited, with about ten watches per year. The first ten watches will be available under subscription, with delivery starting in early 2024. The price is set at CHF 148,000.
For more information, please visit www.haute-rive-watches.ch.