The 1950s in the USA has delivered among the most memorable fads and icons of any decade in recent memory, from the beehive hair-do, to the torpedo bra, from the twist, to rock 'n' roll, from James Dean and Elvis, to Marilyn Monroe. At the heart of this bubbling, carefree, yet partly troubled culture, stood – or rather rolled – the car: great big gas-guzzlers, with rounded edges, lots of chrome, wild tailfins, busy dashboards. They coexisted with a veritable social institution, the "greasy spoon," those countless diners that lined the nation's highways and byways, offering homey cooking, fast and friendly service, and a congenial and practical space for people of all walks to meet.
A core component of this social construct was the jukebox, an amazing device with flashing lights and push-buttons that dished out a soundtrack to go along with your BLT, the pickles "in the side alley," or your "fly cake" with a cup o' joe. The best thing was: every customer could chose the track he or she liked best from a flip menu built into the front panel. It represented in some ways one of the nation's great selling points: freedom of choice.
Amazingly, the Harry Winston Opus 14, released on October 27, 2015, manages to pack many of these cues, often in subtle ways, into a burly white-gold case 54.7 mm by 21.9 mm. The Opus 14 title appears on a typical US road sign in a blue and red pattern. The rounded form of diner stool frames and their red Naugahyde upholstery, or of the semicircular odometers in some cars, are recalled on the retrograde minute arc. At 1 o'clock, a large blue star hints at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and beside it Harry Winston's signature.
Reminiscence alone would not suffice to make an Opus, a long line of individual watches that combine stunning esthetics and micromechanical brilliance. Number fourteen pays special tribute to the jukebox with a remarkable, patented complication, which is where the prominent "silo" at 9 o'clock comes in: Parked under the time disk is a GMT disc and a calendar disc, which like the star subdial are all grooved to suggest an old vinyl record. A sliding selector discreetly positioned at the left side of the activates the silo, which moves up or down. The button at 4 o'clock can then be pressed to send an arm to pick up the chosen disc, which is then placed in the 1 o'clock platform.
This mechanical hijinks was created by the founders and owners of the exclusive watchmaking firm, Telos, Johnny Girardin and Franck Orny. The two men, no pun intended, cut their teeth respectively at Patek Philippe and Greubel Forsey – the Opus 14's multiple subdials and the bulging silo containing the complications definitely do remind one of those almost esoteric GF creations.
The Opus 14 contains no less than 1066 components, including 124 jewels. The dedicated HW4601 movement inside ticks at 28,800 vph. But the whole jukebox action requires considerable energy, so Girardin and Orny squeezed two serially connected barrels into the case, one delivering sixty-eight hours of power reserve for the timekeeping functions, the other running the automaton five times. Each barrel has its own power reserve display.
A number of safeties have been built into the Opus 14 to ensure the movement's integrity. And while it may not feature an actual music box, the mere dance of the disc grabber might well trigger a musical hallucination, say, "Love Me Tender," "Sixteen Tons," or, more appropriately, "Juke Box Baby."