Monochrome Watches
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Buying Guide

Thinking Different, With Five Independent Watchmakers Offering Crown-less Watches

Some watchmakers have thought of ways to get rid of the conventional crown and offer something entirely different.

| By Robin Nooy | 6 min read |
Remy Cools Tourbillon Souscription

The humble little crown. At first glance, it doesn’t look all that impressive. Each watch has one, right? And they all pretty much do the same: wind and set a watch. Sure, it can look a little different from brand to brand and watch to watch but today’s crown system remains fairly unchanged for almost 180 years. There are watchmakers, however, who seek to get rid of this protruding little knob that digs into your wrist every now and then, possibly causing you discomfort. With that in mind, we take a look at five watches that offer a different solution to the age-old conventional crown.

The history of the crown on today’s watches can be traced back to John Arnold, who first developed a crown for winding and setting a watch. Over time this was perfected by illustrious watchmakers like Abraham-Louis Breguet and Louis Audemars. In 1844, Adrien Philippe (one half of Patek Philippe), invented and patented the keyless winding system as we pretty much know it today. This would replace most of all other existing systems, and despite advancements in technology and materials remains the go-to system to set and wind a mechanical watch.

Ressence Type 3 BBB

Ressence has made it a habit to create visually striking, pebble-like watches pretty much from the brand’s launch onwards. While initially the watches still used a traditional crown, it was the Type 3 that first came without one. It resulted in the sleekest, smoothest possible looking watch and following collections would not see a return to a conventional crown set-up. Ressence transferred all the functionalities to the caseback. In the Type 3 BBB for instance, you simply grip the sapphire crystal and rotate it one way or the other to wind it or set the time, date and day of the week. Genius!

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Ressence Type 3 BBB

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Quick Facts – 44mm x 15mm – black DLC-coated titanium case – fully polished – two domed sapphire crystals with AR coating – black with white dial – biaxial satellites for hours, thermal gauge and days of the week – white minute hand – rotating date on side of case – indications filled with green Super-LumiNova – ETA 2824/2 base, in-house ROCS module with magnetic transmission – anthracite strap with honeycomb pattern – produced for 1 year only – EUR 36,500

Jacob & Co Astronomia Tourbillon Art Static 4 Skulls

There’s no beating about the bush with Jacob & Co, as pretty much all the watches are extravagant and super-expressive. But don’t let the showmanship fool you, there is some properly complex mechanical watchmaking going on. The Astronomia collection, home to numerous very limited editions and one-off pieces, is certainly provocative but also one that is free of the traditional crown. Instead, two flip-up winders integrated into the caseback are used to wind and set the watch. Setting the watch results in spinning the satellite display under the hugely domed sapphire crystal. The model you see here is the latest edition, named the Astronomia Tourbillon Art Static 4 Skulls.

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Quick Facts – 50mm x 25mm – 18k pink gold case – sapphire crystals with AR coating – 30m water-resistance – 3D 18k rose gold skulls with cabochon eyes – aventurine base dial – skeletonized titanium dial with lacquered Roman numerals – Calibre JCAM25, hand-wound – 384 components – 42 jewels – 21,600vph – 60h power reserve – double-axis tourbillon – hours, minutes – rotating diamond – rotating globe – limited edition of 6 pieces – USD 660,000

Cyril Brivet-Naudot Eccentricity Power Reserve

The Eccentricity Réserve de Marche by Cyril Brivet-Naudot is watchmaking of a whole different order. This young independent watchmaker crafts his watches entirely by hand, without the use of any CNC machine or subcontractors. Only the hairspring, jewels and sapphire crystals come from suppliers and everything else is done in house, by hand. The Eccentricity Réserve de Marche started out as a one-off commissioned piece but has since been made available to order. The movement has 19th century inspired “Libre Excentrique” escapement, a unique way of indicating the time, and a subtle power reserve indicator. Turn the watch over and two little keyholes become apparent, for both setting and winding the watch. This is a bit of a return to historical watchmaking, perfectly befitting the original philosophy of the Eccentricity.

Cyril Brivet-Naudot Eccentricity Reserve de Marche

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Quick Facts – 38.5mm x 10.5mm – handmade silver or gold case – sapphire crystal on both sides – reverse crystal with keyholes for winding and setting – 30m water-resistance – dial-mounted oversized balance wheel – off-centred time display – grained mainplate – key-wound calibre with libre excentrique escapement – 18,000vph – 40h power reserve – 27 jewels – directly wound barrel – hours, minutes, power reserve indication – made to order only – base price of EUR 120,000

Remy Cools Tourbillon Souscription

As a freshly graduated watchmaker from the Lycée Edgar Faure on Mortea, Remy Cools came onto our radar through his montre d’école. Despite his very young age, he shows tremendous skill and has since evolved his school watch project into the Tourbillon Souscription, limited to just 9 pieces. He’s reworked and improved it in several key areas, but it still follows the original concept. The entire movement is handmade, with a one-minute tourbillon in the lower half of the dial, and an hour and minute dial in the upper half. A highly-domed sapphire crystal covers it all. On the backside you will see two flip-up keys for winding and setting of the watch, with a shaped sapphire crystal revealing more of the movement. Everything is meticulously hand-finished to Haute Horlogerie standards.

Remy Cools Tourbillon Souscription

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Quick Facts – 40mm x 15mm – stainless steel case – high-domed sapphire crystal – flip-up keys for winding and setting on caseback – shaped sapphire crystal caseback – 30m water-resistant – off-centred hour and minute subdial with Breguet-style hands – dial-mounted oversized tourbillon – hand-wound mechanical movement, produced in-house by hand – 18,000vph – 36h power reserve – hours, minutes – 9 watches produced only, per subscription order – EUR 85,000 excl. taxes

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Stainless Steel Meteorite

Romain Gauthier is considered one of the best watchmakers in the industry, and revered for his level of finishing and attention to detail. His work is fascinating from every angle, especially in complex pieces such as the Logical One and the Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette. A little less complex, but no less impressive is the Prestige HMS, which stands for Hours, Minutes, Seconds. While the dial is made from Henbury Octahedrite meteorite and very appealing on its own, it’s the backside of the watch where the HMS really shines. The Calibre 2206 HMS features a flat crown nestled into the caseback. When in its original position, it can be used to wind the watch. Pull it out one position and you can adjust the blackened steel hands. At the same time you’re doing this, your granted a view of the gorgeous shaped and finished bridges and Romain Gauthier’s signature gears.

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Quick Facts – 43mm x 12.1mm – stainless steel case, polished and satin-finished – flat crown on caseback for ergonomic winding, pulled out for setting – sapphire crystal on both sides – 10m water-resistant – Henbury Octahedrite meteorite dial – blackened steel hands – Calibre 2206 HMS, in-house – hand-wound – black NAC-treated bridges and rhodium-treated gears – handcrafted and -finished – 128 components incl. 22 jewels – 28,800vph – 60h power reserve – hours, minutes, small seconds – limited to 10 pieces – CHF 68,000 before taxes

5 responses

  1. Es que Pita con su Oceana está muy lejos del nivel de acabados del grupo citado. Su mérito son sus diseños en papel, pero cuando los lleva a la práctica dejan mucho que desear. El unico exponente creativo de España no puede competir en las grandes ligas.


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