Exclusive: A First Look At The Remy Cools Tourbillon Souscription
Nowadays, not many young watchmakers come directly onto the market with an eponymous brand, a handcrafted debut watch defining its universe, and a subscription-based model.
In November 2018, I was attending round-table discussions in La-Chaux-De-Fonds, celebrating the 160th anniversary of the British Horological Institute. At the end of a fascinating day, I met up with Rémy Cools, a young watchmaker who recently graduated from the renowned Lycée Edgar Faure watchmaking school in Morteau, France. To be accurate, I was literally rendered incapable of motion upon seeing his wrist, attracted by a tourbillon watch that was clearly inspired by Breguet aesthetical design codes. It was Rémy’s montre école, or school watch, done for his graduation, and it’s where this whole story begins.
When Independence Is The Goal
At just 23 years old, it would be natural for us to assume that Rémy Cools watchmaking expertise is in its infancy, but we would be very wrong. In reality, what he has achieved in just 8 years of education and practice is thoroughly impressive.
Rémy Cools started his watchmaking studies in 2012. By 2014, he was already recognized as one of the best watchmaking students in France, being named meilleur apprenti de France (or best watchmaking apprentice of France) and receiving the prestigious national golden medal. After four years of studying, he presented as his final school project a handmade tourbillon table clock, which during SIHH 2018, won Cools the Young Talent Competition, an international contest organized by F.P.Journe and the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH).
After, Cools continued his studies with a two-year specialization in restoration and conception. By this stage in his education, the young watchmaker was repairing and restoring clocks and watches to finance the purchase of watchmaking tools. When other students were thinking about which brand they wanted to work for, Cools was undoubtedly already on the road to independence.
The quest for watchmaking independence motivated Rémy Cools to develop his first wristwatch for his final exam before graduation. In general, the graduating students do not present a full finished watch for their final exam, as they must complete their final projects within just 8 months. Instead, given the time restraint, students usually only present a raw prototype.
Yet despite the tight timetable, Cools spent more than 1,000 hours crafting his impressive tourbillon montre école, which features a crownless winding and setting mechanism incorporated into the caseback.
It was during SIHH 2019 that I had the great pleasure of introducing Rémy Cools to a few collectors and seeing their astonished faces when they fully grasped the fact that it was this freshly graduated watchmaker who had made this impressive timepiece from scratch. And even though Cools was employed by Greubel Forsey at the time, it was clear to me that, in the coming years, his temperament and talent would lead him to develop and produce his own watch.
What I never could have predicted was that the day Rémy Cools declared his independence would come so unbelievably soon. For you see, it was not yet a full year later when, at the end of 2019, Cools informed me that he had set up a workshop with all the necessary tools in order to produce the first Remy Cools watch brand prototype, followed by a 9-piece series available by subscription only.
From School Watch To A Brand
While staying true to the primary concept of his montre école, Cools started development on the prototype with a smaller case, 40mm (his montre école case was 42mm). By keeping a large tourbillon with a 15.5mm diameter (the montre école tourbillon was 16mm) Cools achieved an equilibrium of proportion. At 15mm high, I expected the watch to be too prominent on the wrist. But as 7 of the 15mm comes from the domed sapphire glass, the watch is thin, in a visual sense, and extremely wearable.
One of the most challenging aspects of development was optimizing and waterproofing the two winding and setting flip-up keys on the back. This mechanism is integral to the design because it is this specific crownless architecture built into the case that makes the design so unique.
By making the case in stainless-steel and excluding any precious metal in the watch, Cools wanted to offer a timepiece whose value is based purely on its watchmaking prowess, not its expensive building materials.
All components are hand-finished, including the mirror-finishing on the anglage, black polishing, circular brushing on the wheels, the beveling on the balance wheel, and much more. The dial and movement inscriptions are also hand engraved.
If the tourbillon and the curved minute dial bridges are inspired by Abraham-Louis Breguet, it is no surprise Cools used another one of Breguet’s great innovations: the subscription. Like François-Paul Journe and his first series of Tourbillon Souverain in the late 1990s, the first watch released by Remy Cools will be a limited series available by subscription.
Only 9 pieces of the Remy Cools Tourbillon Souscription will be produced and can be ordered directly from the watchmaker. With a price of 85,000 Euros (excl. taxes), no doubt all these rare birds will find a home where they will be appreciated.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point out a fundamental truth: We are in the presence of an awesome watchmaking talent and the future of haute horology.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)