Curiosity: Pope Francis’ Kerbedanz ‘Armenian Alphabet’ Watch

Curiosity: Pope Francis’ Kerbedanz ‘Armenian Alphabet’ Watch

The Pope does not accept gifts. However, he receives them very frequently! Among his manifold ways of refusing, there is one that is of great honor. The Kerbedanz brand recently experienced this.

By Joël A. Grandjean

It's not always easy to say no. In the end, the image of His Holiness Pope Francis lends itself well enough to the idea that a man of God cannot and must not accept human largesse, even if it is unselfish and inspired by fervour.

The art of refusing in the name of beneficence

Unlike some of his predecessors, the 266th bishop of Rome, a native of Argentina, comes from places where concrete work for the poorest takes precedence over theoretical or proselytizing concepts. This makes it difficult to come to terms the acquisition of external signs of earthly wealth.

Among his different ways of refusing, the most frequent is the guardianship of gifts received until an auction can take place. And when the gifts come when he travels, it is up to the local relays to organize these sales. By choosing the charities to which the proceeds of these auctions should be donated, the head of the Catholic Church has a means of conveying messages. For example, during his trip in 2016 to Krakow, Poland Francis received multiple gifts and chose to auction them to buy a mobile clinic to treat Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The same was true when he decided that the more than 280,000 Swiss francs raised by the sale in 2014 of a Harley-Davidson would be used to renovate a shelter for the homeless in Rome. It was a Dyna Super Glide model received in 2013 whose market value was estimated between 14'000 and 17'500 Swiss francs. Notably, a gifted Ferrari found the same fate, as well as a luxury watch from a well-known brand. The same consequence is regularly found for a whole bunch of objects that find themselves at the heart of a junk shop that can hold a variety of items ranging from racing bikes to coffee machines.

This "no" which is a sign of honour

The supreme authority of the Catholic Church has another way of declining, except that this is a matter of esteem. Thus, when the High Pontiff decides, with the help of his entourage, that the gift should join the collections of the Vatican Museums, a museum complex of 12 museums comprising 1,400 rooms divided into five galleries, this means that he classifies it in the cultural and artistic dimension.

This is precisely the fate that was reserved for the Armenian Alphabet timepiece from the Neuchâtel watch brand Kerbedanz, whose DNA combines the most advanced expertise in mechanical chronometry with the noble craftsmanship of a great family tradition. As for most of its models, it is on the register of the unique piece or the ultra-limited series that the production of this brand is articulated. There is nothing extraordinary about the fact that the timepiece offered to the Pope was unique.

With the tagline "Giving meaning to beauty", Kerbedanz has introduced an original dimension into the boundaries of watchmaking excellence, that of offering its timepiece recipients special messages that transcend their intimate personalities, as much by the choice of materials as by the options of motorization, by the finely crafted decorations and even by the locations of the various functions. The brand gives these often very influential personalities the name MIP, Most Important Personalities, in reaction to the galvanizing nature of the word VIP.

Beyond aesthetics, fervour

On a purely aesthetic scale, the original Armenian alphabet, a mixture of curves and entangled angles, tells the mysterious and fascinating story of a monk who wanted to make sacred readings more accessible. In the year 405 A.D., Mashtots invented and drew this set of literary codes whose use has lost none of its liveliness in 2018. Deposited harmoniously on the dial of a watch, these signs accurately replace the traditional time indexes.

Beyond this solid gold dial covered with micro sculptures and subtle guilloché designs that tell a story, there are perhaps other contests that allowed this gift to enter the Vatican Museum. Argentina, where the Pope was born, is after the United States the country with the largest Armenian community. And His Holiness Francis considers this people to be at the origins of Christianity. He expressed this reality in these terms during his official visit to Armenia in 2016:

"I come as a pilgrim, to draw from the ancient wisdom of your people and to imbue myself with the sources of your faith".

A symbol, a duty to remember.

The Kerbedanz Armenian Alphabet Timepiece

This is a unique piece dedicated to the aesthetics of the Armenian alphabet, inhabited by the mechanical self-winding KRB-03 calibre with double barrel for 120 hours of power reserve. 46 mm diameter solid gold case. Safe to say, it’s priceless.

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