WEMPE Tim Heywood Marine Chronometer

WEMPE Glashütte Taps Yachting Legend Tim Heywood for Exquisite New Marine Chronometers

Large-format marine chronometers get a thoroughly modern re-envisioning from the heritage watchmaker along with a delicious dose of nautical design elegance and whimsy from one of yacht designs’ masters of the craft.

By Mike Espindle
Executive Editor

In the golden age of shipping, an accurate marine chronometer was as essential as the canvas of your sails and the wood that made up your vessel. Of course, complex, safe, and quick navigation required precise timings to stay on course. But it was also needed to ensure the safety of the crew and ship and the timely delivery of the cargo.

In response to the roll and yaw of the high seas, these uncannily precise marine chronometers often were mounted on arms and gimbals, so the delicate watch works “floated” in situ while the waves roared and the ship pitched around them.

Any number of existing prestige watchmakers have cut their teeth producing those chronometers of yore. And, on occasion, they even revisit those devices (we’re looking at you, Ulysse Nardin).

But today, we’re going to look at WEMPE Glashütte (a comparatively new player on the marine chronometer scene) and its new collaborative pieces with yacht designer Tim Heywood: the Marine Chronometer Coco de Mer and the Marine Chronometer Cube.

WEMPE Glashütte x Tim Heywood

For the last 80 years, WEMPE Glashütte has been producing its ever-evolving “unified chronometer” device. But in these latest editions, precision maritime time-keeping meets some whimsical yacht design as the Saxony-based watchmaker has partnered up with British ship designer Tim Heywood (the man behind the 133-meter Al Mirqab yacht that won 2009’s Motor Yacht of the Year at the World Superyacht Awards among many other stand-out vessels).

The new Type 07 chronometer movement, which powers these seafaring instruments, has been completely redesigned to leverage the latest advances in manufacturing and delivers a maximum rate variation of only 0.3 seconds per day with a 56-hour power reserve. Moreover, a chain-and-fusée assemblage provides constant, precise force to the gear train to ensure its accuracy at sea.

In and of itself, the Type 07 chronometer movement for these special editions is a large-scale work of horological art. But what happens when it’s placed inside a case designed by someone like Tim Heywood? It becomes and object of kinetic art that is just as fascinating as a clever bit of home decor as it is as a finely tuned instrument on a yacht.

While both special editions employ a bold blue dial with modern typography, their dials’ boroscilicate glass are cut from a solid crystal block, and 12 meridian lines radiate from the center and continue onto the curved glass back. Meanwhile, the gimbal mechanism is crafted from gold-plated brass and gives the appearance of modern sculpture, granting even more sleek modernity to the estimable history of the device.

But it is the containers in which these chronometers reside where the fun really starts.

Precision Chronometry, Cubed and Butted?

For WEMPE Glashütte’s Marine Chronometer Cube by Tim Heywood, the designer houses the device in an exquisite 215mm x 248mm x 250mm dark wood case featuring three hinged doors (one of which has an inward-facing mirror). Moreover, the case and its doors were made by the outfitter for the interior of luxury yachts Metrica using a laser-sintering process for perfect seaming.

Plus, no fewer than 16 coats of lacquer add to the gleam-factor of the hand-polished exterior. The “Cube” retails for $57,460.

For the Marine Chronometer Coco de Mer by Tim Heywood, again, we see highly polished dark woods making up the side doors of the container. However, unlike the Cube, the top of the Coco de Mer’s case carries some fun-loving yet nautically appropriate whimsy.

Specifically, Heywood’s design puts the feminine curves typical of a coco de mer coconut center stage (which served as this case’s model). But that is no surprise for those who know Heywood’s work; it has always drifted towards soft organic lines evocative of the feminine form. And besides, ships are the only human-made objects referred to with exclusively female pronouns, after all.

So, while the case was officially inspired by the lines of the exotic coco de mer variety of coconut, it is, well, an attractive bronze-coated execution of a woman’s hind quarters.

The Coco de Mer version is limited to 50 pieces and sells for $91,925. Ships ahoy!

You can learn more via the WEMPE website.

(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)

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