The Opus Chronicles: A Look At The First Five Harry Winston Opus Timepieces
With Maximillian Büsser at the helm, the Opus series found its firm place on the map of highly sought-after timepieces.
The Harry Winston Opus series would never have taken off without the leadership of Maximillian Büsser. He is the watchmaker extraordinaire who founded Max Busser and Friends (MB&F) and a veritable rock star of the modern watchmaking world. Back in 1998, Büsser was hired by Harry Winston as its CEO for Rare Timepiecess when he was just 31 years old and fresh off a multi-year stint at Jaeger-LeCoultre. Here, we take a look at Opus I through Opus V, created under his stewardship.
A Win-Win Situation
Maximillian Büsser’s vision for Opus was to create a series of timepieces in collaboration with independent and relatively unknown watchmakers. These vanguard watchmakers, in collaboration with Büsser, brought their own unique vision to Harry Winston, highlighting Winston’s growing reputation in fine timepieces and boosting name recognition (and the prospects of financial backing) for the budding watchmakers themselves.
François-Paul Journe’s Resonance Chronometer and More – Opus Number One
In 2001, Büsser hired François-Paul Journe to create Opus One, a very auspicious start to the series. Journe made not one but three timepieces in limited editions of just six pieces each, all cased in platinum. Resonance chronometers are a Journe specialty, and the Opus One Resonance Chronometer does not disappoint.
Journe’s Opus One Five Day Automatic, with a movement including an in-line lever escapement and four adjusting weights, was another horological masterstroke. Impressively, the movement was only 30.5mm in diameter and 5.7mm in height and was the world's first automatic movement with a five-day power reserve.
Finally, to end the collaboration on the highest of high notes, Journe crafted a superb one-minute tourbillon with a constant-force remontoir d'égalité escapement.
Antoine Preziuso’s Tourbillon – Opus Number Two
Following the runaway success of Journe's inaugural Opus pieces, Antoine Preziuso focused on the holy grail of watchmaking: the tourbillon, along with a masterful perpetual calendar. A bold bridge held in place by two blued screws set the stage for the robust tourbillon sitting at 6 o’clock. More blued steel screws dot the semi-skeletonized dial, adding visual interest. Then the subtle, classic hour and minute hands ensure that the eye is drawn to the spectacular tourbillon.
The sapphire crystal caseback is protected by a hinged cover, perhaps as a nod to historical hunting-case pocket watches. Revealed underneath is the perpetual calendar with both retrograde indicators and a classic sub-dial. Retrograde days of the week occupy the 12 o’clock position, and the retrograde date at 6 o’clock. Finally, the 3 o’clock sub-dial indicates the month with a small aperture for the leap-year indicator.
Vianney Halter’s Space-Age Timepiece – Opus Number Three
The Opus Three by Vianney Halter is the first Opus with a decidedly untraditional look. The watch features a date function as well as the basics of the hours, minutes, and seconds. But here is where it gets interesting: the display consists of six “bubble” magnifying apertures through which the time and date can be read.
Blue numbers at the top left and right of the display show the jumping hours, black numerals on the bottom left and right indicate the jumping minutes, and the two apertures in the center display the date vertically in red.
Overall, it’s a decidedly modern, completely unconventional looking timepiece that has drawn huge interest from the collectors on the auction market.
Christophe Claret’s Minute Repeater and More – Opus Number Four
When tapped for a collaboration, Christophe Claret, unlike previous Opus watchmakers, had a substantially established, solid business of his own. Minute repeaters are a specialty of his, and Claret drew upon his expertise in chiming watches for his Opus. But he didn’t stop there: There’s also a brilliantly executed tourbillon, moon phase, and date.
The watch case is reversible, another first for the Opus. The top dial showcases the tourbillon beneath the blued-steel hour and minute hands. The opposite dial is enameled a rich blue and has a moon phase featuring an detailed moon landscape, craters and all. The date indicator is also on the moon phase side along with a two-hand time display, making the watch truly two-sided.
Felix Baumgartner’s Satellite Hour – Opus Number Five
After Urwerk was founded in 1997, but before it became a household name in watchmaking circles, the avant-garde and third-generation watchmaker Felix Baumgartner created an Opus in 2005 with his now-signature satellite hour movement.
Three rotating cubes in a circular “satellite” arrangement indicate the hours, and the minutes are read via a pointer hand. The current hour of the day is right-side-up at the base of the pointer. Rounding out the dial display is a day-night indicator and power reserve. Sounds complicated? It is, but it is also endlessly mesmerizing. The back of the movement has a rare “time for service” indicator aperture.
A Grand Departure
By the time Büsser left the company in 2005, seven years after he first came to work at Harry Winston, he had increased the timepiece division's revenue from $8 million to $80 million, according to reports.
Maximillian Büsser went on to found his own horological concept laboratory, MB&F, which also focuses on collaboration. In fact, the F in MB&F stands for the friends Büsser collaborates with for his horological machines. His chosen collaborators include designers, artists, watchmakers and manufacturers. It’s been a runaway success story.
(Images & videos provided by Harry Winston)