Wristwatches with detent escapements are few and far between, mainly due to the complexity of their construction, regulation and fragility. It is considered a pinnacle in the art of precision chronometry and is an inspiration for some highly skilled watchmakers on the “indie” scene. This highly technical innovation was developed in the 18th century and was primarily used in marine chronometers. Now, well over 250 years later, it emerges once more by the hand of Raúl Pagès and his spectacular Régulateur à Détente RP1.
Raúl Pagès is a name not everyone will be familiar with, but he is an expert independent watchmaker, designer and artist based in Switzerland. He has been working as a restorer of historical masterpieces following his education in watchmaking. By 2012 Raúl Pagès decided it was time to embark on his own watchmaking quest, and presented the Tortue Automaton, made entirely by hand. This was followed by the Soberly Onyx in 2016, his first wristwatch, and now the Régulateur à Détente RP1.
Before we get into the technical details of the detent escapement, let’s go through the watch’s habillage. Just like the Soberly Onyx, the Régulateur à Détente RP1 (or RP1 in short) looks relatively simple from the outside. The 39.5mm wide and 10.9mm thick steel case shows a mix of satin-finished and polished surfaces. The lugs are attached to the middle case with bevelled and polished screws. On top, there’s a polished bezel with sapphire crystal.
The dial is inspired by Le Corbusier and shows a refreshing mix of textures and colours. Being a regulator, we already know the display for the time will be spread across three separate indications. From top to bottom, we have the hour display, then the central minutes indication, followed by the small seconds at 6 o’clock. Each indication has its own distinct design. The hours, for instance, are indicated on a raised ring with diamond-polished bevels. The minute hand follows a cantilevered chapter ring on the perimeter of the dial. And lastly, the small seconds are indicated by a hand revolving over a light-blue recessed sub-dial.
The RP1’s movement is constructed, regulated and finished almost entirely in-house. The hand-wound calibre uses a detent escapement. Without going into too many details, this type of escapement was developed to increase chronometric precision in timing instruments and was first presented by Pierre Leroy in 1748. Mainly used in maritime chronometers, the detent escapement is very rarely seen today but remains one of the most accurate to this day.
While not similar in construction, the principle is comparable to Urban Jurgensen’s 1140C detent escapement. For almost its entire cycle, the balance wheel swings back and forth uninterrupted. The only “interference” with its oscillations is the moment of impulse, which occurs once per cycle instead of twice in a Swiss Lever escapement. A very thin blade spring with a locking pallet is used to hold the escape wheel in place. This benefit to chronometric precision also comes with a drawback: low shock resistance. The detent is equipped with a beak that rests on the roller to prevent the escape wheel from tripping due to a sudden shock.
The entire movement, comprised of 171 components, has been finished to Haute Horlogerie standards and can be admired through the sapphire crystal caseback. As mentioned, almost everything is done by hand, even the delicate detent unlocking spring (0.02mm thick). Running at a frequency of 18,000vph, it provides a running time of 47 hours.
The Raúl Pagès Régulateur à détente RP1 comes with two leather straps, one in black and one in beige with light blue stitching. Each one comes with a tool-free removal system and an engraved stainless steel pin buckle. The price of the watch will be CHF 85,000 excl. taxes. Production isn’t limited, but Raúl Pagès can produce only about four or five watches a year.
For more information, please visit PagesWatches.com.