We’ve written quite a lot about microbrands lately, with brands like Gaia & Co. and Marnaut launching interesting new watches on Kickstarter. Most are unique and have a character of their own, but all share one thing in common – simple, generic automatic movements. SEMPER & ADHUC is taking a different approach by building new cases for vintage, restored movements from the 1930s to the 1960s. Similar to what Vortic Watch Co. started a couple of years ago (3D printing new cases for vintage pocket watch movements), SEMPER & ADHUC is combining modern techniques with the handcrafted tech of the past. It’s a novel idea and brings a history and soul to the watches that a new Miyota or ETA movement simply can’t match. Is this enough to raise their head above a very crowded market? Let’s take a closer look.
At only 30-years-old, young watchmaker Colin de Tonnac has been working on the concept for a couple of years in Bordeaux, France and it’s now launching on Kickstarter. While the Swiss movements are restored originals, every other aspect of the design and manufacture of the watches is completed within the southern half of France, with everything locally sourced. The name and logo of the company are also interesting and deserve a mention.
Semper means “always” while Adhuc means “until now.” Combine the two and it’s a little abstract, but seem to refer to the joining of old and new. Their logo of three intertwined faces is derived from Greco-Roman mythology. The faces are of three sisters, goddesses of destiny, who hold a long thread that symbolizes the course of life. The first sister wove the thread (birth), the second unwound it (life) and the third cut it (death). The company compares this (loosely) to the role of the very first watchmakers. Colin de Tonnac definitely put some thought into his branding.
The watch cases come in three distinct shapes – round, oval and cushion. There are also various dials to choose for each. In fact, they offer a deeper level of customization that includes the placement of the crown, dial and hand design, engravings and more. A lot of this à la carte freedom is coming, but only the crown orientation will be available at launch.
All cases are brushed stainless steel and 8mm in height, with the round case being 37mm in diameter while the others are 37mm vertically. The designs are very simple and dare I say, timeless. They’re water resistant to only 30m, so avoid swimming and diving, with sapphire crystals on the front and small exhibition “eyecups” on the back. You’ll get a cool but incomplete view of the vintage movements. The crown is stamped with their three-faced logo and a unique manufacturing number will be stamped on the back.
The dials come in black, white or tan, with various printing arrangements among them. All are simple with common fonts and everything is printed, avoiding applied indices and complications. In fact, all three designs are time-only with not even a seconds hand. In my eye, they have a 1960s retro vibe, and two commonalities are the company’s name wrapped around the top half of the central hands and ATELIER FRANCAIS printed at the bottom. The dial colours have a matte finish and legibility seems excellent across the board.
The movements are all Swiss made and restored, adding a recycled and “green” aspect to the watches. They beat at either 18,000vph (2.5Hz) or 21,600vph (3Hz), depending on the model, and are limited to central hour and minute hands. All models will have a 36-hour power reserve.
The leather straps are handmade in France and come in tan, dark brown and black, with a lug width of 18mm. The steel ardillon buckle is engraved with the company’s name. As with the rest of the overall aesthetic, the straps are simple without fancy stitching or clasps. Like a mechanical Leica camera, these watches are stripped to the bare essentials, but the beating heart brings a unique history and character that few in the industry can match.
The new SEMPER & ADHUC watches will have an early bird Kickstarter price of EUR 1,125, which is a 25% discount on the EUR 1,500 retail price. The crowdfunding campaign will run for a month, starting in September 2018. Production will be limited to 150 watches per year. More on the dedicated Kickstarter page.