Romain Gauthier is, without doubt, one of the top watchmakers when it comes to decoration – check this and you’ll understand why. His watches are as mechanically fascinating as they are rare, and his level of expertise in the finishing of a movement – in the traditional “Vallée de Joux” style – is indisputable. Mouthwatering material for seasoned collectors. Today, the man unveils his latest watch, based on the (apparently) simple Prestige HMS, and introduces his first watch crafted in stainless steel. Don’t think that because it is in steel any corners have been cut; the execution of the dial and the finishes on the movement prove otherwise. Meet the HMS Stainless Steel and Meteorite.
The Prestige HMS is Romain Gauthier’s (superb) vision of a time-only watch. Certainly not the most exciting of his watches when it comes to complications and mechanics – the award goes to the Logical One – this piece is, however, much more than just a time-only piece. You might have already noticed that there’s something wrong with the case… something missing. First surprise: there’s no crown on the side of the case. Second surprise: turn over the watch and look at the movement and you’ll see that a time-only function doesn’t necessarily mean simple watchmaking. The Prestige HMS is a pure connoisseur’s watch. Discreet at first sight, full of details once you take a closer look.
Already existing in multiple editions, all of them with a partially opened dial and precious metal cases, a new version of the Prestige HMS has just been unveiled: Romain’s first watch made of stainless steel, which also happens to be the first version of this timepiece with a closed dial. And what a dial it is!
The case of the HMS Steel is, as indicated by its name, made of stainless steel. Combining polished and satin-finished surfaces, its execution is like the rest of the watch: superb. Rather large on paper (43mm x 12.1mm), the dimensions are attenuated by the absence of a crown a 3 o’clock and sloping lugs. Winding the movement and setting the time is done on the reverse side, where a flat crown is integrated. Both elegant and practical on a daily basis. The choice for stainless steel wasn’t only driven by the idea to have a special piece, but mainly to coincide with the material used for the dial: meteorite, a material with high ferrous content.
The pièce de résistance regarding the habillage is the meteorite dial. This isn’t a first for the watchmaking industry, far from it. However, Romain Gauthier relies on a solid, thick layer (0.8mm) of meteorite to manufacture this dial – and not a thin slice of meteorite affixed on a brass base. The material can actually be seen through the movement.
The meteorite used to make the dial is an octahedrite – an iron meteorite – that was discovered in 1931 at the Henbury crater field in the Northern Territory of Australia. The meteorite looks like a fairly ordinary chunk of grey metal until it is subjected to a nitric acid treatment that reveals intersecting bands of nickel-iron crystal. As you can see on the images, the pattern is complex and the surface deliberately textured. The only treatment applied is an anti-corrosion coating, to ensure its appearance will not deteriorate over time.
The display of the HMS is, as its name indicates, based on the indications of the hours, minutes and seconds – all of them slightly off-centred to give the watch a controlled eccentricity. Tracks and markers are painted in white directly on the meteorite plate, while applied triangles mark the hours. The hands are all blackened steel for a better contrast over the grey dial. Hour markers and hands are filled with luminous material.
Turning the watch over reveals one of the most impressive movements currently in production. Really, believe us, Romain Gauthier and his team are in the top five of the Swiss Watchmaking industry when it comes to decorating a movement. The Calibre 2206 HMS is almost entirely manufactured in-house (with the exception of a couple of parts), with signature gears with circular spokes, a bespoke balance wheel with curved arms and calibrated eccentric weights, and S-slot screw heads. The movement ticks at 4Hz and boasts a comfortable 60h power reserve.
Moving to the decoration, this is where Gauthier’s expertise really gets expressed. All the parts are finished and decorated by hand, in the most traditional way, even though the movement is modern looking. The wheel spokes are bevelled with sharp internal angles, for instance. The bevels are patiently created and polished by hand. Their surface is meticulously polished to obtain a uniform lustre without even the slightest imperfection. The superb bercé anglage (the rounded profile of the bevels) on the bridges is performed by just a handful of craftsmen in the industry… The cutouts in the main bridge reveal ultra-sharp internal angles, which can only be performed by super-skilled hands. We’re talking about more than 60 hours of patient work to finish such a movement. For more contrast and modernity, the bridges are black NAC-treated and straight grained while the mainplate is hand-frosted.
The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel Meteorite will be produced in only 10 pieces. It will be priced at CHF 68,000 (before taxes). The price of a true handmade piece. More details on www.romaingauthier.com.