Watch brands born and die everyday. Even when it comes to proper high-end watches, we see many new brands coming on the market – and unfortunately some pass away as fast as they came in. However, when the name of the AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants) is mentioned, the story gets a lot more different. As a candidate, your name goes next to some of the greatest actual watchmakers: Journe, Baumgartner (Urwerk), Dufour, Voutilainen, Halter… And these members are your godfathers, some guarantors that your watches are done in the proper Haute Horlogerie way. This year, the AHCI has a new candidate, Kim Djapri, which came with a new brand – Belier Watches – and his first watch – the Reverse. And because Voutilainen and Dufour say he’s good, it deserve some of our attention.
Kim Djapri, a new AHCI candidate
Kim Djapri might be a young watchmaker (born in 1979, Cologne, Germany), he nevertheless already has quite a resumé. After finishing training in Furtwangen (Black Forest), he worked as a watchmaker for Lang & Heyne in Dresden until 2014 – and Lang & Heyne is not what you can call a low-end manufacture. They do impressive watches, with a strong respect to traditions and a lot of attention to details. Working there, he learned from a great watchmaker, Marco Lang – also member of the AHCI.
Kim began constructing his own watch at the end of 2013. He designed and built the first prototype in October 2015 and subsequently he presented his work to master watchmakers Kari Voutilainen and Paul Gerber. Both are members of the AHCi and, impressed by the work of the young watchmaker, they decided to be Kim’s godfathers at the Academy. He’s now in the candidate process for entering the AHCI membership. But the main success for him was to be invited to present his watch on the AHCI booth during Baselworld 2016, getting to show it to both the other members of the Academy, to specialized press and to potential clients – and rare fact, he already sold a few watches to collectors. It was also the occasion for him to meet with Dufour, who said that his watch was “a very well made watch” – and knowing Philippe Dufour, this is not a small compliment. Approved by Dufour, sponsored by Voutilainen… It seems that Kim Djapri and his Belier Watches deserve to be regarded closely.
The Reverse by Belier Watches
The Reverse by Belier Watches is rather unusual but also completely traditional. It is a time-only watch, with traditional finishings – made by hand, mostly by Kim, internally – but with certain twists to make it unique. At first it does look like a reverse watch, but this is not only because of the movement’s layout, exposed entirely on the front side, but because of its display. Yes, it shows the hours, minutes and seconds (on a separated sub-dial) but all the hands rotate counterclockwise… Strange, maybe not easy to read, but very unique.
The Belier Watches Reverse is a bold and large watch, measuring 46mm in diameter and available in pink gold, white gold and platinum. On the other hand, its movement is very traditionally finished and shows the influence of the German school. It has been conceived, finished and assembled internally, by Kim. Whether it is the balance, the hairspring or the gear train, they are all done in-house. Of course, as being a small workshop, some parts are machined externally, such as the CNC-machined main plate. However, it takes Kim 2 weeks only for polishing the angles of all the plates and bridges. The engravings are all done by hand, by engraver Matthias Köhler. He has also helped with the polishing of the case. The case, the crown and the buckle came as raw parts to the workshop and Kim does all the grinding work and the polishing.
The front side of the watch reveals all the technical elements. First you have the large (14mm) balance wheel with Breguet overcoiled hairspring (bended by Kim) and held in place by a superbly finished traversal bridge, with a rounded and minor polished profile (something that is actually extremely time-consuming). Then, next to the escapement is the small-second sub-dial, followed by the gear train and the main dial showing the hours and minutes. The barrel, which provides 45 hours of energy to the watch, is hidden behind the main dial. Thus, the Belier Watch Reverse remains a rather simple watch, both in terms of complications and technology used, and all its interest is located on the execution of the parts – and of course in the unique reversed display, with counterclockwise indications.
As you can see from the close-up photos, every surface is painstakingly finished: bridges are frosted / brushed by hand and then gold plated, the edges are all chamfered and polished, the ruby bearings are in gold chatons with blued screws, wheels have bevelled spokes… It is all about traditional executions, with a rather German feel but with, in the end, a technical and opened look. The back of the Reverse is of course more simple, at least visually, considering that all the moving parts are on the dial side. However, the main plated has the same exquisite finish as the front, with frosted surfaces, hands-engravings and polished chamfers. The rachet-wheels have a pleasant and classical solar finish.
For a first attempt, the Belier Watches Reverse is highly interesting, as mixing classical elements of the German School and a strong finishings with the originality of an opened dial, showing all the technical elements and a reversed display, which will be, without a doubt, a subject of discussions. The work of Kim Djapri is surprisingly mature and desirable, and done internally with great care. He could potentially be one of the future members of the AHCI. Curious to see what will be the next creations. The Belier Watches Reverse will be priced at 49,900 Euros in pink gold (limited to 11 pieces), 54,900 Euros in white gold (limited to 11 pieces) and 68,200 Euros in platinum (limited to 11 pieces).