The Opus Chronicles Part III: The Final Four, Harry Winston’s Opus XI to XIV

The Opus Chronicles Part III: The Final Four, Harry Winston’s Opus X To XIV

The Opus series hits its stride as Harry Winston’s high watchmaking prowess expands. Will we see more Opus in the future? 

By Hyla Bauer

The “Chaotic” Opus XI

Denis Giguet, the founder of Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps (MCT Watches), is the mastermind watchmaker behind the Opus XI’s orchestrated chaos. The watch’s time-only functions belie the tremendous mechanical complication required for this exceptional timepiece.

According to Harry Winston, “Ingenious mechanisms give the watch a rare character - an explosive temperament that makes a sport of time. In addition to its role as an instrument, Opus Eleven creates an engineering puzzle that resolves itself on the hour.” So, what’s so complicated? A lot.

The watch’s central dial displays the hours, while its two satellite dials, or “pavilions,” at 2 and 4 o’clock show the minute hands and balance wheel. However, instead of an hour hand, 24 separate placards revolve and rotate, powered by an intricate gear system.

Then, every hour, the placards separate in a visually chaotic fashion, only to rearrange in perfect alignment to display the following hour. Perhaps the mechanics are best described by the brand in the press release: “Four satellites mounted on a rotating platform, each with three pairs of placards, provide a vertical transmission through a train of eight intermediate wheels, three elliptical gears, a triangular wheel, and six conical points.”

Did you get all that? No? That’s okay – it’s complicated. 

The two satellite pavilions placed outside of the main attraction indicate the minutes at 2 o’clock and allow for an unobstructed view of the titanium balance wheel in all its glory at 4 o’clock. The upper pavilion displays the minutes on a jumping disc for the ten-minute intervals and a running disc for single minutes.

The manually wound timepiece has a total of 566 components, including 155 jewels, and it’s cased in 18K white gold with a sapphire caseback. In a nod to the number 11, the production was limited to 111 pieces. 

The No-hands Opus XII 

Following the Opus XI’s success, the theme of circular rotation continued in the Opus XII but with a new twist. Presenting a complex and altogether mesmerizing way to tell time, the watch lacks hands in the traditional sense, except for a retrograde 5-minute counter hand at the dial’s center. Renowned watchmaker Emmanuel Bouchet, who partnered with Harry Winston’s in-house designer Augustin Nussbaum, the idea and concept for this watch.

The hours and five minute-intervals are displayed via 12 separate indicators and activated through two separate crown wheels turning around the dial. The five-minute indicator wheel makes a full revolution every hour, while the hour’s indicator wheel goes around in 12 hours. 

Each indicator flips from its neutrally colored side to blue when it’s activated. For example, in going from 5 to 6 o’clock, the indicator at the 5 position flips from blue to neutral, and the 6 o’clock indicator instantaneously turns over to its blue side. Similarly, the five-minute indicators flip once every five minutes. The indicators point towards the center of the watch, in a nod to the Copernican (heliocentric) revolution in the 16th century.

A central retrograde display indicates the intervening minutes of every five-minute interval, allowing the wearer can read the time more accurately. So how does the wearer read the time? Let’s say it’s 9:17. The hour indicator would show blue at the 9 o’clock position, and the outer minutes indicator would show blue at 3 o’clock, indicating 15 minutes elapsed. Then the retrograde minutes indicator would be at 2 minutes. Fifteen plus two, as we all know, equals 17. So, it’s 9:17. 

The watch has two separate and independent barrels to store its energy. Both barrels are hand-wound through a single crown, but according to the brand, “The movement and animation are fed by independent barrels.” The watch’s power reserve is a full 32 hours, and it will stop when the animation energy is depleted. 

Finally, the 46mm case is crafted from 18K white gold, with a sapphire crystal caseback. The movement has 620 individual parts, including 80 jewels and 24 hands. The watch was made in two versions, white gold and diamond-set white gold, each limited to 120 pieces. 

The Opus XIII has 59 Minute Hands

No less than 59 pivoting minute hands are just one of the outstanding watchmaking feats that make the Opus XIII a total standout. Ludovic Ballouard’s singular expertise in jumping hours is taken to a new level in this extraordinary 18-karat white gold timepiece. “Nothing in watchmaking is beyond human ingenuity,” Harry Winston believes. It’s an inspiring sentiment for collectors and aficionados around the world. 

Each of the watch’s 59-minute hands is poised at a 40-degree angle. Every fifth minute has a red tip, helping to read the time at a glance. When the watch advances one minute, the hand jumps out to a straight angle. At the 60-minute mark of each hour, all of the hands instantaneously flip back to their 40-degree position, and the HW logo appears at 12 o’clock. Think of it as a domino effect, only in reverse. 

The magic doesn’t stop there. The watch’s central sapphire crystal covers 11 triangular hour hands. At the turn of the hour, the following hour’s triangle flips out while the previous triangle flips under it. So, what you have altogether is a bold look that “looks like the fan of a jet engine,” according to the brand.

Of course, the watch has all of the hallmarks of a luxury Harry Winston timepiece, including its aforementioned 18K white gold case, exquisite movement finishing, and a whopping 242 jewels with two ruby bearings on each minute hand. The watch is a limited edition of just 130 pieces and comes on a black hand-sewn alligator strap.

The All-American Opus XIV

Harry Winston went all out for the Opus XIV, the last in the series (at least for now). The brand hosted an elaborate, exuberant party in Baden Baden, Germany, for the American jukebox-inspired timepiece. The watch’s color scheme is red, white, and blue, and it houses a patented mini automaton “jukebox” function. 

The jukebox was wildly popular in the US from the mid-1940s until the mid-1960s, but the ‘50s were its heyday. Music and dancing became more energetic in the post-war years, and pre-recorded music soared in popularity. 

Another phenomenon emerged in this fast-forward decade. With the steady advancement of automobile reliability, speed, and long-distance capabilities, another fad emerged: the road trip. 

Route 66 became an icon and a symbol of free-wheeling road trips, and it’s referenced in the Opus XIV’s design. 

Harry Winston enlisted watchmakers Johnny Girardin and Frank Orny – who were the team behind the Montblanc Metamorphosis – to create the Opus XIV’s mechanical wonders. Given the fact that there is a fully functioning jukebox mechanism including four discs that resemble mini records, its 54.7mm case diameter is well justified.

Harry Winston enlisted watchmakers Johnny Girardin and Frank Orny – who were the team behind the Montblanc Metamorphosis – to create the Opus XIV’s mechanical wonders. Given the fact that there is a fully functioning jukebox mechanism including four discs that resemble mini records, its 54.7mm case diameter is well justified. 

The watch’s “stylized display” includes vinyl-style finishes on the various dials, the dégradé red minutes arc, and a prominent star emblazoned with Harry Winston’s signature at 2 o’clock. 

The Opus XIV features seven unique displays. On the left side of the dial, the local “home time” is read off a disc, while, on the right, the minutes are indicated with a retrograde hand. There are also discs for a GMT display, a calendar display, and an aesthetic display – all of which can be engaged through the jukebox animation function. Last but not least are two power reserve indicators. The animation power reserve is shown on a disc at 6 o’clock, while the movement power reserve is shown through an aperture. 

It’s a whole lot of watch and fascinating to operate. Sadly, only 50 Opus XIVs were produced in 18K white gold. Given its functions and many moving parts, the watch’s 1,066 components seem fitting to get the job done. 

Will there be more Opus timepieces on the horizon? Only time will tell.

(Images & Videos © Harry Winston)

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