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Le Rhöne: Friendship and Horological Complications

The little hat of the circumflex has been replaced by two dots above the O in this brand with the familiar-sounding name! This Swiss brand sticks to the principles of watchmaking excellence, while appealing to the troublemaker lying dormant in us all.

By Joël A. Grandjean

The River Rhône, the fluid line that links Switzerland to the Mediterranean, enriched by its passage through Geneva and its rich associations with luxury, along the legendary street bearing the same name, tarrying for a few moments on the shores of Lake Geneva in its eagerness to attain the open waters.

The twin dots of complicity

The trema on the ‘O’ in Le Rhöne is full of meaning. It conjures up an enigmatic, intriguing, provocative image. Two dots on the watchmaking landscape, Loïc Florentin and Timo Rajakoski, two entrepreneurial destinies entwined in a watchmaking adventure of such international proportions as can only be encountered in a city like Geneva. These two indissociable dots are to be found in even the subtlest of details in the brand's timepieces. They embody friendship in the extreme subtlety of its hand-finished refinements.

Their expat childhood friendship (they both went to school in Venezuela) was born of a solid bond forged from shared dreams. When, in 2012, they joined forces to found their own watchmaking brand, Le Rhöne, they wrote another chapter in their respective careers. The former hailing from a background with a luxury group, the latter from the banking sector. They each set off in search of new territory to conquer, characterised by passion, creativity and an independent state of mind. A force to be reckoned with, but especially a difference to be celebrated. Nothing could be further from the long tranquil river with which the brand shares its name. Le Rhöne, with its two little dots, continues to hold a few surprises in store.

The Double Tourbillon Home Time, when complications combine

Surprise no.1. The double-tourbillon challenge is one that is rarely met by watchmaking brands. Securing a firm foothold in this very closed circle establishes a brand instantly, no matter who it is. A solo tourbillon, the mother of all complications, whose ultimate mark of refinement may be savoured in a calibre that beats at the slower speed of 21,600 vibrations an hour, is given a companion. Two regulating organs, each ensconced within a cage, complete a 60-second revolution around their own axis. The manual winding providing a power reserve of around 72 hours establishes a solid connection with its timepiece, one based on respect and admiration for a dial so visible to the observer that it appears almost crystal-free. This illusion of depth comes from the super anti-reflection treatment, the same to be found coating the crystal back leaving open to view the secret mechanisms powering this masterpiece of micromechanical watchmaking. 

Crowning the dial at 12 o'clock noon, a first sub-dial marks off in 24 graduations the wearer's reference time, the so-called home time. Home Time is, in fact, the name of this model, which also indicates the day-night transition via a rotating star, the hallmark signature of the Le Rhöne brand in the case of the DT-01, or in the case of the DT-02, via a pear-shaped hand sporting a sun motif in its lower half. Two of the indices are Arabic numerals, while the others are short, fat and baton-shaped, with luminescent grooves, or simply absent. In the first model in the family, the tourbillons are surmounted by a pair of bridges, whose point of junction resembles holding hands, whereas in the second version, the brand's logo appears once again, seemingly levitating within the two flying tourbillons.

The 45 mm diameter white gold watch case, however, whose water-resistance has been tested to at least 3 ATM, i.e. a depth of 30 metres, has a number of surfaces that lend themselves perfectly to customisation. The stepped case can house an interesting interplay between polished and satin-finish, as well as the odd exclusive gem-setting. The combinations are endless. These models come with brown alligator strap with deployant buckle. 

The Road Racer bi-compax chronographs

When you take a look at the infinite array of variations presented by the Le Rhöne watch case and its 7 different levels of personalisation, it's difficult to ignore the appeal of the Le Rhöne Chronograph, whatever your taste and colour preferences. The brand's first piece was a sporty model, which added a few extra protuberances to its conventional curves, resulting in a pleasingly aesthetic combination christened the Road Racer. Conjuring up images of gloved hands on leather steering wheels and Bakelite dashboards, its spirit-of-the-times design openly revealed its vintage influences and ties with the automobile world. What's more, these pieces boasted the unique feature of including engine parts obtained from the first-generation 1969 Camaros.

Housed within the 45 mm diameter case, this time water-resistant to 100 metres, the heart of the calibre LR.CBC-1, a mechanical chronograph movement with automatic winding, beats at a frequency of 28,000 vibrations an hour (4 Hertz). In addition to its 25 functional jewels and hand-decorations, it boasts 44 hours of power reserve. The Le Rhöne movement features a modular-built chassis combining a Soprod A10 calibre base with a Dubois Dépraz chronograph module. Everything here has been executed in the purest watchmaking tradition, according to the most exacting codes required of watchmaking excellence. 

The special Road Racer Infinity Black

Amid the full array of possibilities dancing before my eyes, myriad combinations of materials, stylized dials and customized cases, there is one limited edition model in particular that sends shivers up my spine. The all black model boasts a black DLC-coated case alternating between mirror-polished and satin-finished vertical dials. The satin-finished version, whose galvanic depths harbour the discreet sweep of black hands, also coated in a luminescent material to contrast with the black appliques, stands as a testament to impeccable taste. Without a doubt, one of the most adrenalin-arousing chronographs of the season.

Le Rhöne Double Tourbillon in Video

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