Wei Koh, the founder of Revolution Magazine and The Rake, is a big name in the watch industry. He has just launched Grail Watch, an initiative “to bring to reality the most ambitious, imaginative and coolest limited editions.” The first Grail Watch is a collaboration between Benoît Mintiens of Ressence and Alain Silberstein, a colourful creation that portrays some heavy philosophical musings about the fleeting nature of time. Using the Ressence Type 1 as a base, the revolving sub-dials circle the dial like planets orbiting the Sun and perfectly capture the essence of time in motion.
Our readers will be familiar with Alain Silberstein’s universe of bold primary colours and geometric shapes. Through his collaborations with MB&F and Louis Erard, the French design maestro is now a familiar name with a new generation of watch lovers, but he has been around since the revival of mechanical watchmaking in the late 1980s and even had his own watch brand until the company closed in 2012. Inspired by Miró, Kandinsky and Picasso, his bold yet playful designs are a refreshing contribution to watchmaking.
Memento Mori – Carpe Diem
For the first Grail Watch, Alain Silberstein wanted to create a canvas that captures the ephemeral nature of life and the fragility of material possessions. For inspiration, he turned to Philippe de Champaigne’s “Vanitas”, a still life depicting a tulip, a skull and an hourglass, three symbolic elements representing the passing of time. “The tulip,” explains Silberstein, “has become the hour indicator. The skull is the running seconds. Instead of the hourglass, I have used my yellow triangle on the day of the week indicator as a reminder to seize each day and make it yours”.
Type 1 Slim
Renowned for its distinctive ‘beyond hands’ displays, Ressence watches tell the time with revolving sub-dials powered by the brand’s patented Orbital Convex System (ROCS). Its sleek minimalist watches that belie their complexity are closer to the Japanese concept of shibui than Silberstein’s extroverted colourful universe. However, the message Silberstein wanted to relay worked perfectly with Ressence’s unique display of time in perpetual motion.
Set against a matte blue background, the revolving satellites on the dial physically represent the inexorable passing of time. The red ring of the hour disc with white hour markers houses the tulip; the running seconds is blue with a spinning white skull; and the day of the week with the yellow Silberstein arrow uses Ressence’s signature display of six curved white lines with one yellow line representing Sunday. Even the central minutes hand is thicker than usual in honour of Silberstein’s geometric shapes and picked out in light blue to match the 5-minute markers on the periphery.
Ressence’s Type 1 was upgraded in 2019 with a slimmer case height of 11mm with lugs and case milled from the same block of grade 5 titanium. With no crown protruding on the side to interrupt its smooth, sleek lines, the 41.5mm Type 1 Slim is wound and set on the caseback with an extractable lever. The patented ROCS module is driven by the minute axle of a customised ETA 2892/A automatic. Composed of 107 parts, the gears in the ROCS calculate the seconds, hours and day, taking only the minute as a reference from the movement. Beating at 28,800vph, the hours, minutes, seconds and days of the week will keep rotating for 36 hours.
In the dark, the 5-minute markers, the minutes hand, the skull and the hour markers of the Type 1 Grail Watch light up with blue lume, while one petal of the tulip glows yellow. Matching the blue colour of the dial and the red hours disc, the blue calfskin leather strap has red stitches at the lugs and an ardillon buckle.
Silberstein decided that the watch should be limited to 36 pieces as a tribute to the concept of Lamed Vav Tzadikim. As Silberstein explains: “In my religion, Judaism, we believe there are 36 righteous individuals alive in every generation, and because of their merit, the world continues to exist.”
Righteous or not, Max Büsser of MB&F has already bought the first numbered edition, and the remaining 35 will be on sale for CHF 22,500 (excl. tax) exclusively at grailwatch.com.