“BNB wishes not to become a new watch brand, but rather a label of quality. Should BNB create its own brand, it would inevitably become a competitor to its customers.”
Unlike Renaud & Papi's selective austerity or Christophe Claret's mercenary dictatorship, BNB is a genuinely cool, relaxed community of eager young things with genuinely new ideas about how watches should work – with no less than five facilities in Duillier, Crans-près-Céligny, La Vallée de Joux, La Chaux-de-Fonds and Nyon at their disposal, all crammed full of the latest tools, CNC machines, electroplating and engraving machines, and rank-upon-rank of sterile assembly lines. What’s doubly impressive about BNB is that they make complete WATCHES for their 25-or-so clients – not just the multi-plane/dual-axis tourbillon movements they’re famous for. For a five-year-old outfit, that’s serious progress.
Members of the Confrérie Horlogere 2008-2009 and Mathias Buttet (CEO and founder BNB Concept ; founder Confrérie Horlogère).
From the left: David Rodriguez, Ranieri Illicher, Clara Bise, Mathias Buttet, Ken Koshiyama, Sabitry Montandon, Gabriel Salgado-de Arce, Brigitte Carneiro.
It was therefore inevitable, despite the abovementioned pledge, that as a fully verticalized entity, BNB would eventually indulge in its own vanity projects – albeit under an alternative banner, "Confrérie Horlogère". (Perhaps reminiscent of Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey’s Complitime factory, which bankrolled proceedings before they unleashed their eponymous double tourbillon).
Confrérie Horlogère is a bit Opus, a bit Maitres du Temps, a bit Time Aeon – only the emphasis is on nurturing youngsters with ideas beyond their usual means. And in this first year, no less than seven talents and four almost-complete watches have been put on pedestals by BNB’s effusive CEO Matthias Buttet (one of the "B"s in BNB - the others being Barbasini and Navas, all of them formerly of Franck Muller’s Watchland - Buttet as a micro-technical engineer, Navas and Barbasini as prototypists).
In Buttet’s words:
“The Confrérie Horlogère, far from being a product, is an ambitious project to promote such values as work, creativeness, craftsmanship, community spirit, respect and above all freedom of women and men moved by the will to express themselves through excellence, as well as unexpected design.”
And I’m pleased to report that every one of Buttet’s fresh-faced prodigies have come up with equally amazing movements and watches... It really is quite incredible to see such a tranche of brilliance emerge all at once.
Every year, Confrérie Horlogère will select a maximum of 7 “graduates” to develop their own watch, produced on a very small-scale – no more than 10 pieces each. And unlike many flash-in-the-pan pantomime projects, which run the danger of costing more to fix and service over a lifetime than the watch itself (if indeed you find a capable-enough and willing watchmaker in the first place, once the flash-in-the-pan brand has gone belly-up) the CH timepieces will benefit from a lifetime’s guarantee. Buttet trusts his kids that much.
This year’s 7 “companions” are:
1. David Rodriguez, a Peruvian watchmaker, whose “la Résilience” tourbillon demonstrates sublimely anarchic finishing with Punk overtones that actually reveal through its scars and stitching the difficulties Rodriguez faced as an abused orphan on crutches who, finally, found in Switzerland and watchmaking a refuge. Metaphorically biographical watchmaking – surely a world first?
2. Brigitte Carneiro, watchmaker, with “la Face Cachée”
3. Ken Koshiyama, watchmaker, with “Racines japonaises”
4. Ranieri Illicher, watchmaker, whose la Passion à l’italienne micro-brand debuts with the “Bel Canto” minute repeater tourbillon – a chiming watch literally suspended in a bell, which also serves as the watch case – why didn’t anyone think of this before?!
5. Sabitry Montandon, watchmaker
6. Clara Bise, watchmaker
7. Gabriel Salgado de Arce, engraver and chaser of watch components, whose coral reef ImmenSEAty just defies all watch-finishing convention. Words can’t do this justice.
8. An eighth Companion has already been selected for the year 2009- 2010. His name is Jérôme Siegrist, a watchmaker who is already involved in an ambitious project that focuses on recreating and scaling down to wristwatch dimensions an extremely complex mechanism built, anachronistically, two centuries B.C. and salvaged from a shipwreck in 1901. Antikythera will be presented by the end of 2009, but you can get an inkling of what to expect-->here.
Beside these individual “Complications” watches, the Companions will all be collaborating on joint Confrerie Horlogère projects, either as small-series “Classiques” or one-off “Masters” pieces. So far, there’s Masters Clef du Temps – an ornately skeletonised vertical tourbillon movement (presumably derived from the one developed for Concord, but as usual completely original and unlike anything seen before) – and Classiques Chronographe Tourbillon Pulsion 1 (I’ve run out of superlatives….)
The Master watch
The Confrérie Horlogère’s Only Watch 09 (by BNB Concept) is “La Clef du Temps” (the Key to Time) – a watch created by Buttet in collaboration with the brand’s R&D team. It is the first timepiece created in the “Les Masters” collection. It is a working prototype of a sophisticated timepiece called “La Clef du Temps”, which will be produced in small series after the Only Watch 09 auction. It is an innovative tourbillon watch featuring a hand-wound mechanical movement with hour and minute indications, a 3-day power reserve indication (PRI) in a 120° sectoral indicator at 8 o’clock and retrograde running seconds at 4 o’clock. The retrograde seconds of 0, 30, 60 depict the rhythm of time as it passes, and the power reserve reminds you when to rewind the piece as it makes its 0, ½, and 3-day passage. Like a body, if you don’t eat properly your body doesn’t function properly, and so with the watch if you forget to rewind it.
“The funds from Only Watch are there to indirectly help the children suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy,” says Buttet. “So I thought: what is it that everyone hopes for? Everyone hopes that these children will live longer than expected. I wanted this watch to express this dilemma.”
Buttet wanted the piece to convey two very important and thought-provoking concepts associated with being a parent: Firstly, the idea that however rich you are, true luxury lies in the freedom to manage one’s time as one wishes; secondly, the watch has a sophisticated mechanism that allows the wearer to “adjust the speed” of his personal time by adjusting a simple three-position lever that alters the running speed of the hours and the minutes.
Position 1 the pace of time slows by half so that the true value of one hour is displayed as a half-hour on the dial.
Position 2 the pace of time stays at true/standard time.
Position 3 the pace of time runs at double speed so a true/standard half-hour becomes a full hour on the dial of the watch.
As Buttet says, “This way, pleasant moments can be made to last twice as long while unpleasant ones can be shortened by half while the ability to ‘return’ to true time is always there.” The watch’s extremely sophisticated mechanism allows the watch’s time indications to remain in positions 1 or 3 as long as its wearer wishes, since a simple turn of the lever to position 2 (the watch’s memory) resets the hour and the minute hand to the real time of day.
As Buttet sees it, it’s his way of extracting some form of balance from a seemingly unjust world that makes us feel that when life is good, time flies, but it slows to a crawl during the rough patches. As with a child with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, the pleasure of the good times passes all too fast and the painful moments all too slow.
The movement is shaped like a stylized human brain because, according to Mathias Buttet, “Time is a sort of “state of mind” which is the result of the will of any single person. Not to have time to do something is, at the end, a personal decision and it is not at all something imposed by someone else. Every person decides if he or she wants to have the time to do or not to do something.” Moreover he adds “If you look at the figures on the dial you will see that they are mirror images of themselves. Some numbers are reflected face-to-face, showing the moments that are the result of the one’s will; others are reflected back-to-back: in this case, it is fate that controls your life.”
The futuristic case is shaped like a spaceship – ever searching for a better life, and the strap is composed of four rubber-clad steel strands. Lifetime warranty and the totally Swiss-made provenance of its every part and component are other characteristics of the “La Clef du Temps”.
LINK: Confrérie Horlogère Website
LINK: BNB Concept
All Alex Doak Post for The Watchismo Times
| Watchismo Blog | Watchismo Shop | Contact Us | Subscribe |