Darwin & Da Vinci: The Inspirations Behind David Candaux’s New DC7 Genesis

Darwin & Da Vinci: The Inspirations Behind David Candaux’s New DC7 Genesis

The independent watchmaker continues his impressive rise with a new timepiece and movement, at the heart of which is mechanical symmetry and visual harmony.

By Steven Rogers
European Editor

Whatever the sphere of activity – business, music, sports, gourmet cooking – it takes courage and conviction to strike out on your own. Watchmaking is no different; especially if you were raised in the Vallée de Joux. Then, all you saw growing up were established names and big manufactures – like Breguet, Audemars Piguet, and Jaeger-LeCoultre – dotted around you.

Four years ago, engineer and master watchmaker David Candaux did just that. After more than two decades of restoring, designing, and developing complicated movements for other brands, the Vallée de Joux native took the plunge and began creating spectacular, high-end timepieces under his own name. The latest of which is the new, blue DC7 Genesis.

“I hadn’t dared to go it alone before then. I didn’t feel ready,” the 42-year-old David Candaux told Watchonista. “By 2017, I felt in the position to create my own watch brand because I had acquired the skills and experience to become what I call a ‘complete’ watchmaker.”

A Horological All-Rounder

Candaux’s journey to becoming a horological all-rounder began at a tender age. With watchmaking in his genes – his grandfather was a quality controller at Jaeger-LeCoultre and his father a watchmaker at Patek Philippe – Candaux did an internship at Jaeger-LeCoultre in 1993 when he was just 14. Then he joined the brand as an apprentice watchmaker a year later before taking up multiple positions in the restoration, after-sales, technical design, and complications departments over the next 17 years.

During his time at La Grande Maison, Candaux restored hundreds of historical creations – including original Reversos, Futurematics, Memovoxes, pocket watches, and Atmos clocks. He also worked on the development and assembly of ultra-complicated pieces such as the Master Minute Repeater Antoine LeCoultre, Reverso Grande Complication à Triptyque, and the Hybris Mechanica à Grande Sonnerie, displaying a prodigious prowess whether at the watchmaker’s bench or while using CAD programs.

All the while, he even managed to find time to enroll in classes in the evening and on Saturdays to study movement engineering, then mechanics, and finally business management.

First Steps to Independence

In 2011, Candaux scratched his first itch to plow his own furrow, leaving Jaeger-LeCoultre to set up the Du Val De Bois movement company where he designed and developed complicated, multi-patented mechanics for big brands as well as niche independents like Rebellion, MB&F, and Fonderie 47. But the appeal of creating his own watches gradually took hold.

“After 17 years at Jaeger-LeCoultre and six years supplying other brands, plus all the study that I did, I wanted to take everything I knew about movement engineering, mechanics, materials, hand-finishing, assembly, and how to run a company, and channel that into my own watch brand,” said Candaux.

Birth of a Brand

He began by marrying all his technical knowledge to a design philosophy he had been cultivating since his youth.

“I’m curious about many things. I love nature and aeronautics, and I vividly recall discovering the architectural drawings of Leonardo da Vinci and the theories on evolution and beauty put forward by Charles Darwin,” he said.

He continued: “Darwin wrote, ‘The eye prefers symmetry or figures with some regular occurrence,’ and that has always stuck with me. If you look at humans, animals, trees, cars, or airplanes, there is always a symmetry along one axis and an asymmetry along the other. I wanted to incorporate that idea into my timepieces.” 

Promising Beginnings

With his first series of watches, powered by the manual-winding, in-house H74 caliber, Candaux managed the feat admirably, at least in terms of its harmonious dial. Whether it is the classically styled DC1 with its steel case and frosted red gold dial, the contemporary DC6 Half Hunter with a guilloche dial, the sporty DC 6 Solstice, or the high-tech DC6 Black Phantom Carbon, the face of each bears a striking vertical symmetry.

Below the 72-hour power reserve indicator at 12 o’clock, there is an hour-minute sub-dial at 3 o’clock counterbalanced by a precision-improving 60-second tourbillon at 9 o’clock featuring an inertia-reducing titanium cage and 30°-inclined balance wheel. Meanwhile, integrated into the 44mm case at 6 o’clock is a “magic” pop-up crown that features 31 components and took three years to perfect.

Putting Ideas into Practice

Besides stunning visual harmony and excellent timekeeping accuracy, the first series also saw the watchmaker put into practice his ideas about readability, wearability, and movement decoration.

In relation to the case, Candaux inclined not only the movement but the dial by 3°, providing both visual depth and an easier read of the time when glancing down at the wrist.

He also chose to make the movement bridges from natural Grade 5 titanium, commenting that it is “the best natural material and perfect for a 21st-century watchmaker,” of which the strength-to-weight ratio gives a very light caliber and overall timepiece.

Such is its resistance, titanium is tricky to machine and decorate, but that didn’t stop Candaux from applying a number of impressive hand-finishes, including mirror-polished countersinks, rounded and hand-polished bevels, and “Côtes du Solliat” stripes. The last is a subtle variation on Geneva waves named after Le Solliat, the village where Candaux works with his small team, including his 76-year-old father, Daniel.

The New DC7 Genesis

True, the first series proved a hit among ultra-high-end collectors – editions start at CHF 217,000 – and helped Candaux earn a coveted membership in the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI). But it did not manage to fulfill the watchmaker’s original goal of making a timepiece where both the dial and the movement are perfectly symmetrical along the vertical axis.

That is no longer the case. Candaux’s latest creation, the DC7 Genesis, which bar two ever so slightly non-symmetrical jewels on the back of the new H70 movement, accomplishes Candaux’s initial aim – the genesis of his idea – of creating visual equilibrium dial side and on the back of the movement.

Returning from the first series is the chronometrically-enhancing tourbillon – which also marks the passing seconds – and 30°-inclined balance wheel, now at 12 o’clock on the domed dial made from titanium that has been anodized a striking blue and given a sunray finish. The “magic” secret crown is also back at 6 o’clock.

Again, the dial is set at 3° to the case, but this time, the gap between the central dial and its surround is narrower at 12 o’clock and wider at 6 o’clock, creating a subtle variation in perspective.

The central skeletonized hands follow the dial’s contours, and both the tips of the hands and the Arabic numerals feature a Swiss Super-LumiNova that glows in the dark.

Turning the watch over, we can appreciate the harmonious proportions of the five natural titanium movement bridges, which draw clear inspiration from da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The surfaces of the bridges have been hand-frosted using Turkish oil stone, while the edges have been beveled and polished by hand as per Candaux’s adherence to the finest of finishing.

The movement weighs just 24g, and when housed in the 44mm titanium case, the entire piece (minus the strap) weighs an extremely comfortable 58g, with wearability heightened further by the sculpted lugs that ergonomically wrap downward.

Pricing & Availability

The new DC7 Genesis is available in two eight-piece limited editions: In Grade 5 Titanium, priced at CHF 149,000, and in 18K red gold, priced at CHF 175,000. Straps are available in alligator leather with an in-house pin buckle or deployant clasp. Ballistic Velcro rubber straps in a choice of colors are also available.

For more information, visit David Candaux’s website.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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