“Purity” is, to me, a very desirable notion. This word has a great echo in my books and really is positively oriented. Nothing like “clean” or “uncluttered”. I personally have a soft spot for minimalistic design, for the beauty of a shape and of proportions, for the delicate curves and angles that create an object and that makes it bold, unique and desirable. I love minimalistic and simple approach in design, in furnitures, in architecture and, surprisingly (or not…), in watches. To me, purity also goes along the word detail; because purity and simplicity doesn’t mean void. And that’s where purity becomes beauty… and this where the Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor “Montre Ecole” caught me.
Presentation of the Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor “Montre Ecole”
Not everyone knows that, before being a brand, Laurent Ferrier is, beyond everything, a man – a talented, humble and really nice man. Take a look at the conversation we had with him here). As a man, Laurent is a passionate. Passionate about cars (he raced at the 1979 edition of the 24 hours of Le Mans), and mainly passionate about watchmaking. Besides having a brand bearing his name, Laurent Ferrier is also a brilliant watchmaker. As such, he has spent 37 years working for one of the most prestigious brands of Geneva (PP are the initials…). Before that, he of course had to train and learn, some years that ended in the creation, as most watchmaking students, of a school watch, something that French speakers call a “montre école“. This particular watch of Laurent (visible here) has been the inspiration for a new shape and design, based on the Galet Micro-Rotor.
After his first creation, the Galet, a perfectly smooth watch, without a single sharp angle and with integrated lugs, later followed by the Galet Square, the brand’s interpretation of a classic shape, the cushion, Ferrier now comes with a third, pure, minimalistic and rather vintage design, the “Montre Ecole“. This Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole can be seen as a pocket watch to be worn on the wrist, something to recall early wristwatches from the end of the 19th / beginning of the 20th century, when pocket watches were transformed into wrist timepieces, by adding lugs to a perfectly round case. And with the Montre Ecole, you can identify this at a glance.
The case still measures 40mm, a size that is dear to Laurent Ferrier, something that he will define as the perfect combination between modern presence and timeless elegance. Just like the Galet Micro-Rotor and the Galet Square, this new iteration has that same diameter, yet in a completely different shape. Everything starts with a perfectly round 3-piece case – a case that is named bassiné by the brand – on which straight and thin lugs are attached (and not integrated as in the rest of the collection, to the exception of a unique piece made for Only Watch). If the spirit and style of Ferrier are perfectly visible, this new case slightly change the perception of the watch on the wrist – but I’ll get back on this later.
Dial-wise, this Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole plays on the codes that made the brand successful. Pure, minimalistic, perfectly readable too… The watch is a simple 3-hander, with hours and minutes on the central axis and a small second positioned at 6 (and well positioned, as far below the central axis, thanks to a movement developed for the watch… this is in these details that “in-house” movement makes sense). The two-tone dial, with 2 distinct surface finishing, bears the thin and pointy markers of Ferrier’s watches, together with the superb “Assegai-shaped” gold hands. The dial shows only the necessary, without feeling once empty or too clean. Everything is in its right place, right proportioned and well thought.
We can’t talk about a LF watch without talking mechanics, movement or finishing. Because, apart from the inherent beauty of their watches, the view from the back is mainly why you’ll have to pay a rather steep price (yet entirely justified). Inside the Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole is the signature no-tourbillon movement of the brand, a calibre that has been developed by the brand and that is shaped and decorated in a stupendous way. It might just be a 3-hander, this doesn’t mean it is simple. Winding is done by a solid gold micro-rotor, which allows to keep the thickness below 5mm (at 4.35mm precisely). Not ultra-thin, but remember the 3-day power reserve.
Then, this movement features an exclusive development inspired by the “natural” escapement invented by Abraham-Louis Breguet. This new double direct-impulse escapement fitted directly on the balance is equipped with a silicon lever (see, you can respect traditions and still be innovative and modern). The movement has in fact two escape wheels, which can give two impulses per oscillation (1 oscillation = 2 vibrations) directly to the balance from both sides, twice as much as a normal lever escapement. This natural escapement requires no lubrication and greatly reduces frictions and wear.
Finally, there’s the finishing and decoration… Hand-made of course.
- Bridges are finished with Côtes de Genève stripes
- Mainplate is finished with circular graining
- Edges of bridges are beveled
- Wheel spokes are beveled
- Screw heads are polished
- Interior angles of the balance cock are beveled and polished
- Steel parts (cock bridge, rotor bridge) are mirror polished
- Micro-rotor is guilloche
A Differentiated Steel Version
As of now in this article, you’ve only seen the gold version of the Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole (in white gold here, but a red gold version also exists). Yet, there’s a second sub-collection, with a steel version, slightly different visually… and with a nice secret on the back side. The main difference that you’ll notice, besides the use of steel for the case instead of gold, is the dial. The rest (movement specifications, shape, finishings) are the same, and we won’t complain.
On the contrary of the gold versions and their two-tone / bi-finihsing dials, the steel version of the Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole has a monochromatic, single-finishing style, as being entirely vertically brushed (to the exception of the recessed small second of course). I have to admit that, if it’s just a detail, the gold version seems slightly more lively and more attractive when worn. Yet, this steel version compensates with something very, very desirable on the back side.
Laurent Ferrier chose for the steel version a rougher decoration for its micro rotor movement, recalling the original materials used in prototyping, such as brass, which offers a contrast with steel. Further hand-finishing skills applied to the movement include shot-blasting, known as microbillé, and mirror polishing for the parts in steel, including the balance cock. We had seen this specific finishing already 2 years ago on a prototype of the Galet Square – LF was experiencing – but it is now in regular production. This decorum, rather in line with the commoner nature of the steel used for the case, makes a highly desirable package.
We all know where the devil is…
In the introduction of this article, I said how passionate I am about minimalistic design and purity (a word that is to me a compliment). I love when things are simple, but not basic. I love the beauty of an object not by the abundance of luxury, of features, of exclusive materials, but the beauty that is inherent to it, due to the balance of shapes and proportions, by the precision of the details, by the abundance of hidden features that create complexity. This is what I always loved with Laurent Ferrier. These watches are never demonstrating, never screaming their origins, never showing brutally to the world how complex and exclusive they are. They keep that for the owners and a few connoisseurs only. And, to me, that is where high-end surpasses luxury.
With the Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole, the devil is in the details, in the small things that you don’t see at first but that are yet present to create the object you’ll end loving. Take the case for instance. At first, extremely simple. In the end, you can easily reduce it to just a round container with 4 lugs added. But not… This bassiné case is full of details. There’s a step present between the three parts and that step is brushed, to contrast with the polishing of the flat surfaces. A detail that create depth and reliefs on a watch that is virtually all round. Then, the lugs feature a round cabochon, something that is again a tribute to antique pieces. Finally with this case, there’s the feeling when touched. This specific sensation is very often neglected by brands, which focus on the shape and not always on the comfort and the smoothness when your finger touches the metal. Then again, it is a detail, but one that will gain importance when wearing a LF watch.
Then, there are the proportions of this Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole. Just like the Galet Micro-Rotor or the Galet Square, it measures 40mm. Yet, specifications on papers are a different story that the feeling when worn. What caught me with this Montre Ecole is the virtually smaller dimensions, enhanced by the attached lugs which are not integrated to the case. Yet, smaller doesn’t mean small. The presence on the wrist is very good and the watch feels perfectly balanced.
Finally, there’s the dials. Extremely simple at first, very pure, almost empty. Still, they are extremely lively, especially the gold version’s dials. They play with the ambient light, change tonality and color, going from cold metallic tones to warmer grey colors, reflecting or absorbing light depending on the angle… And they are perfectly legible, something that again is often forgotten nowadays.
Conclusion… Not really needed here. You probably understood that I (and many others at the Monochrome redaction) love this watch. is it objective? Yes and no, but with such high-end watches, objectivity is not in the equation anymore. Passion is.
The Laurent Ferrier Galet Micro-Rotor Montre Ecole is priced at Euro 33,000 / CHF 35,000 / USD 38,000 in Steel and Euro 42,000 / CHF 45,000 / USD 48,000 in white or red gold. More details on laurentferrier.ch.