A blank canvas is soulless before the first stroke of a brush. A block of marble is only lifeless rock, until that first strike of the hammer and chisel. Everyday things, like air for instance, are meaningless on their own. Obviously we need air to survive, but it is still… air! Until we decide to perceive or display it otherwise, at which point it can become art. Art relies heavily on this principle, and so does watchmaking. As a result, it is even possible to combine art and watchmaking together. We go hands-on with a perfect example of these blending worlds; the Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml L.E.
You can produce a watch, without a story, and it remains just that; a watch. You can also choose the difficult route, and try and relate to your potential target demographic in a way that might entice them to buy it. We see this every day when we go through press releases, or visit a brand’s store or website. You encounter descriptions like “soul” or “heart” trying to create a connection between you and whatever they are trying to push. Creating an atmosphere you want to be a part of increases the chance of a purchase. Now, us watch snobs of course, are numb to these sorts of tactics, but every now and then they still tingle our senses.
Regardless of all of this, it is still, simply put, a watch we’re talking about. There are watches however, that aim to be more than just a combination of gears and springs put together to tell time. Under the right circumstances and if executed well, these can become a reflection of the artist’s idea and entice us to actually buy it. We’ve seen the Greubel Forsey Art Piece 1, with a micro-sculpture by Willard Wigan inside, or the watches created by or in collaboration with Kees Engelbarts. Watches with an extra dimension that gather attention not through some complicated way of telling time, but through artistic expression.
The Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml is another example of this principle at a more accessible level of watchmaking. Before we go into the watch, let me briefly explain who Rolf Sachs is. Rolf Sachs is a Swiss born artist based in Lausanne. He doesn’t focus on one specific medium like painting, but tries to encourage the public to question preconceptions of everyday things to find a new perspective. This is fuelled by a passion for modern and conceptual art, and many of his works follow the principle of minimalism. Nowadays he also experiments in other fields of artistry, such as photography and watchmaking. A noteworthy project is ‘Camera-in-Motion; From Chur to Tirano’ from September 2016. This series of photographs, taken from a train, focusses on motion in stationary landscapes. The process of a train cutting through a landscape gives a sense of motion to otherwise motionless objects, grasping the “instant of a fleeting moment” as he calls it.
The Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml L.E. is the fourth collaboration between Rolf Sachs and the Grenchen, Switzerland based brand, which has a history of creating art-pieces, like this Stratoliner Chronograph. The three previous versions in collaboration with Rolf Sachs are the 2π, the IQ and the ‘Frisson’. The 2π featured a whiteboard like dial, fully luminous by the way, with geometric markings on it in red/green/blue/black. The coolest bit? The scribbled on logo and name. The IQ watch has a chalkboard like dial with mathematical equations as hour markers, complete with traces of a chalky eraser. The ‘Frisson’ was inspired by Vodka and features a frosted glass, partly obscuring the dial. Wiping the glass with a wet finger or breathing upon it provides clarity and enables you to read the time.
Inspired by chemistry and the items you can find in laboratories around the world, the Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml takes its design cues from glassware, like beakers and measuring cups. This inspiration is not limited to the design, but incorporates a first in watchmaking as well. The orange colored markings you see have been cauterised onto the inside of the scratch resistant glass using a process called ambering, or amber staining.
The design is applied onto the glass before being dipped in an amber stain tank and then baked in an industrial oven. The design is burned into the glass, rather than painted or engraved. Very slight variations in color and sharpness of the design makes each Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml L.E. watch a somewhat unique piece. This is also why at first you might be put off, as the hour markers, minute track, Fortis crown logo and other decorations seem to be quite crude. Let me assure you, this is due to the ambering process and adds to the laboratory feel of the watch!
The name of this watch is a direct reference to another mathematical, chemical indication; volume. The volume of air (as we come “full circle” in this article) captured between the dial and glass is exactly 2.4ml, hence the name! This is a perfect example of the multilayered approach by Rolf Sachs for his artwork. Not just a design, but also other details that link to the topic of inspiration.
You’ve probably noticed that I have not gone into any specifications of the watch yet, but we’ve not left them out. To me it was more important to share the story of the watch, it’s substance, then go into the technical stuff. In all fairness, this too is still a watch and one to be worn too. The Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml has a 40mm wide brushed steel case. The brushing is a perfect resemblance to the utilitarian approach of tools used in a laboratory, where aesthetics are not a primary objective. With 40mm it has a rather modest size, although the beefy lugs make it appear larger than it actually is.
The movement inside the Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml L.E. is a basic ETA 2836-2 movement, indicating hours, minutes and seconds only. The white dial allows for a striking contrast between the burnt orange markings on the glass. Time is indicated with metallic hands for the hours and minutes, and a neon yellow seconds hand. It comes with an orange silicon strap, matching the burned markings in the glass, which needs to be cut to size after purchase due to the folding buckle attached to it.
The final piece of the puzzle is the way it is presented, or delivered if you will. The watch is strapped to a round sponge and put inside a glass beaker used in laboratories, before it is put in the white outer box with yet again orange marking like on the inside of the glass. A cool little touch and another direct hint to the inspiration of the watch.
Technical specifications of the Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml Limited Edition
- Case: 40mm diameter – stainless steel – numerals, indices & logos amberized into the crystal – white dial – 100m water resistant
- Movement: ETA 2836-2 – automatic – 45h power reserve – 28,800 vibrations/h – hours, minutes, seconds
- Strap: orange silicone strap with stainless steel pin buckle
- The Fortis Rolf Sachs 2.4ml L.E. will be available in a run of 150 pieces only, and costs CHF 2,880 // USD 3,170 // EUR 2,700
More information on Fortis-Swiss.com