After covering several exciting new independent watchmakers who have launched their maiden timepiece, here’s one more for you. A young French watchmaker has spent three years developing his debut watch, and what a watch it is! A major achievement for any watchmaker of course, but to do it in such a way is far beyond an average debut watch. Let’s discover the Cyril Brivet-Naudot Eccentricity, and the man behind it.
The work of a young talent
In the past year, we’ve covered multiple exciting young independent watchmakers such as Antonin Falk, Théo Auffret and Remy Cools. Next in line is Cyril Brivet-Naudot. This young French watchmaker, now 28 years old, has a proper family lineage in watchmaking. Both his grandfather and great-grandfather were watchmakers. After being educated as a watchmaker in the Lyceé Edgar Faure (Morteau, France) Cyril went on to achieve his Bachelor in Science at the École Polytechnique Federal of Lausanne.
Working in various areas of watchmaking, restoring vintage watches or prototype fabrication for various brands, he started work on his first watch about four years ago. Three years in development, the Eccentricity was presented last year and includes some very distinctive design elements and technical innovations. Making everything by hand, as Cyril aims to do, poses many challenges. Tolerances are extremely fine in watchmaking so it requires tremendous know-how, skill and dexterity to have a watch function perfectly – even if you rely on CAD software for the design. The only exceptions to this “handmade rule” are the mainspring, the hairspring, the jewels and the crystal. According to Cyril, these are areas of the trade that represent an entire industry in itself, and he is absolutely right.
Cyril believes in the artistry of watchmaking, the “forgotten era” before industrialisation and the quartz revolution. That is the main reason why Cyril manufactures his watches by hand. Inspiration comes from people like George Daniels, Julien Coudray, or mathematician Édouard Philips. Also, automaton-animated clocks from the renaissance period have a great appeal to Cyril for their technical wizardry. He describes his passion as fuelled by the sensation of gradually creating something unique, by hand. From raw materials to a finished product, using nothing but man-made tools and craftsmanship. This approach to watchmaking has landed him an AHCI-candidacy, which is quite spectacular at his young age. It is also a testament that true talent in watchmaking will eventually surface and sustain the creativity of independent watchmaking for years to come.
The watch – Cyril Brivet-Naudot Eccentricity
The Eccentricity pays tribute to the pre-industrialisation, the “forgotten era” of the fully hand-crafted, made-to-order watches.
This historical inspiration is eminent in Cyril’s first watch, named Eccentricity. For instance, the escapement he developed in collaboration with Luc Monnet, is an updated version of the libre excentrique, or free eccentric escapement, instead of the classic Swiss lever escapement. The free eccentric escapement, developed by Louis Richard in the 18th century, is like a detent escapement. Until very recently, the detent escapement was mostly used in marine chronometers, fitted in a box with a gimbal construction, always keeping it levelled, in order to counterbalance one of the detent escapement’s main drawbacks: high sensitivity to shocks.
In a detent escapement, the balance wheel oscillates mostly undisturbed during its cycle, with the exception of the moment it gets its necessary impulse. A single locking pallet is fitted on a spring blade and gives only one impulse to the escapement wheel instead of two in the Swiss lever escapement. An example of Cyril’s craftsmanship is the fact that the hardened gold spring blade in the escapement is only 0.03mm thick.
Cyril Brivet-Naudot’s free eccentric inspired escapement, however, uses this principle of a single impulse on the escapement, but in a different way. Not one but two locking pallets control the motion of the escapement wheel. This improves the stability and shock-resistance of the escapement without losing the chronometric precision that this type of escapement provides.
Although the Eccentricity definitely looks the part, a seemingly crucial part appears missing: a crown! To be honest, this takes a little getting used to. There have been brands which have experimented with different setups instead of the traditional stem-mounted crown protruding from the caseband – think of Ressence or Romain Gauthier, who’ve thought of an alternative way to wind and set a watch.
Instead, the Cyril Brivet-Naudot Eccentricity is wound with a key through a shaped opening on the back directly feeding into the mainspring. In the early days of watchmaking, a winding key was the way to do things. Even clocks were wound with a key. It does make for a very unique experience: you have to take it off, you have to have the key at hand and you have to wind the mainspring. All very hands-on stuff, which I absolutely love! The setting of the watch is done with the same key by the way, through a second opening on the caseback.
Another incredible detail is the way the click for the mainspring barrel is executed. A polished toothed wheel on the outside, with a very slim click-spring on the edge of the bridge to hold it in place. Just exquisite! Of course, all parts are meticulously finished by hand, with frosted plates, polished wheels, chamfered edges, heat blueing, etc.
The time indication is off-centred, opposite the large balance wheel. Hours are indicated on the small disc, inside the silver minute ring. The minute ring is mounted on the edge of a sapphire disc, rotating in 60 minutes with a blued steel pointer indicating the correct minute. Also mounted on this sapphire disc is the satellite hour dial. This rotates along with the minute ring, and a blued steel hand indicates the hour. This needs a little explaining, as it is not a “standard” satellite hour disc. The centre of the hour disc is the 12-hour position, and as the disc rotates, time is read relative to the central dot. It takes a little getting used to, to be honest. If you are wearing watch in rotation with other timepieces, it implies a long-term commitment to getting to grips with it.
The 39mm steel case looks smaller than it actually is. As mentioned, the absence of a crown looks somewhat unorthodox at first. It does, however, make for a balanced, symmetrical look. Lugs are screwed on the caseband, with handmade screws and protrude straight out of the case. The edges of the lugs are beautifully rounded off, and the bottom part is slightly cut at an angle for a bit of extra comfort. The combination of the straight lugs versus the uncluttered case gives the Eccentricity a unique profile. This is most notable when wearing the watch of course, and you can get a sense of this in the wrist shots.
The polished, rounded bezel is mounted flush with the centre case and the caseback. Regarding the caseback, note the handmade screws that hold it in place. The design for the screw heads is similar to that of the key, Cyril’s logo and various other touches in the movement. On several wheels and gears, such as the escapement wheel this circular signature design element can also be found.
Price and availability
Now, before we reveal such down-to-earth concepts as limitation, or price, it’s worth taking a minute to appreciate just what has been done by Cyril Brivet-Naudot. Three years of painstakingly crafting a delicate piece such as this, with only hand-controlled tools. No less than 170 parts are entirely made by hand. Yes, he certainly is not the only one who does this (Akrivia, Sylvain Pinaud, Hulsman) but this is still impressive. It is an incredible piece of watchmaking, and at this level, we are no longer talking about “is it worth the price” or “how many will be produced”? No, we are talking about what it means for the industry, the relevance, and to why someone is a) fortunate enough and b) educated enough to purchase a watch like this.
The Cyril Brivet-Naudot is priced at CHF 75,000 before taxes. Since not one single step in the process is outsourced, production is limited by time.
For more information, Brivet-Naudot.com.