Trilobe’s Nuit Fantastique Is Poetry In Motion
With its pure, clean dial and innovative time display, the Paris-based start-up’s newest collection is a real feast for the eyes.
Trilobe is one of those rare watch brands whose success seems to have happened overnight. Having launched just over three years ago, the Parisian start-up’s distinctive “hands-free” vision of telling the time has managed to seduce the watch fam at lightning speed.
In its young life, the independent watchmaker has already racked up three GPHG nominations and two Only Watch offerings, and can now boast nearly 20 points of sale around Europe, Asia, and the Americas. It also attracted a host of new admirers after making its debut at Watches & Wonders and Dubai Watch Week last year.
Trilobe’s rapid rise could be put down to founder and creative director Gautier Massonneau’s ability to grasp the basic principle that if you have a good idea and a clear vision, and execute it well, then people will take notice.
“To cut a long story short, I was looking for a watch that was different, unique, and reasonably priced, but I couldn’t find it. So, I said to myself: I will try and make it myself,” said the 31-year-old.
“I wanted people to read the time differently than they have been doing for centuries. My goal from the beginning was to offer the most creative and well-made watch possible at a price below €10,000.”
Dispensing with the Traditional
The son of an architect and interior designer, Massonneau had the idea to dispense with traditional watch hands; in their place, he wanted to employ three eccentric rotating rings, each paired with a fixed indicator in the form of a trefoil. An architectural motif depicting the outline of three overlapping rings, trefoil translates as trilobe in French.
Setting out on his watchmaking journey in 2013, Massonneau initially intended to do everything on his own to turn his unconventional concept into a reality. But he soon realized that he would need a helping hand.
The former banker duly enlisted the services of Swiss movement maestro Jean-François Mojon of Chronode to devise a patented module that could be integrated into an existing calibre, the automatic ETA2892-A2, to make the eccentric display he had envisioned. And to help develop the business side of the company, Massonneau brought in former Piaget and Marionnaud executive Volcy Bloch as managing director.
After five years of development, Trilobe launched in late 2018 with its first collection, Les Matinaux, meaning “The Morning,” named after a collection of poems by René Char. Its deftly finished dial – available in various colors – comprised a peripheral hour ring, inner minutes ring and rosette-styled seconds disk, another architectural motif. It was framed by a 40.5mm case in stainless steel or red gold.
“It is an anti-utilitarian vision of watchmaking. We do watchmaking to create beauty, to create poetry,” said Massonneau, and Les Matinaux encapsulates this philosophy perfectly.
But if there was one downside to this first offering from the brand, it was the use of an off-the-shelf base movement and its fairly underwhelming finishing. However, Massonneau soon remedied that by working with Le Cercle des Horlogers near Neuchâtel to develop a smartly-decorated, proprietary micro-rotor movement that now features in all the latest editions of Les Matinaux, as well as in Trilobe’s newest collection, Nuit Fantastique.
Clean, Uncluttered Dial
Named after Austrian writer Stefan Zweig’s collection of short stories, Nuit Fantastique – meaning Fantastic Night – is a fresh take on the brand’s deconstructed vision of time. The peripheral hour ring remains, but the minutes are displayed on a disk visible through an aperture, just above the seconds that are now presented on a ring.
“With Nuit Fantastique, you have a very clean, very empty dial,” commented Massonneau. “I am convinced that when you free up space and create emptiness, you create beauty.”
Enhancing Nuit Fantastique’s beauty is a neat blend of dial finishes: The uncluttered dial plate, hour ring and minutes disc bear a frosted graining, while the concentrically decorated seconds ring turns around a circle adorned with clous de Paris. Even the frame around the minutes and seconds is beveled and polished, and its top surface is satin-finished.
Through the display caseback, the new X-Centric calibre looks the part, too. Not just due to its evident yet understated decoration – including beveling on the bridges – but also its carefully-considered layout.
“I designed the movement to make the watch completely coherent with Trilobe’s architectural DNA. Its lines are like those of Brutalist architecture,” said Massonneau.
What’s more, the dimensions of this movement now allow for 38.5mm stainless steel editions of both Les Matinaux and Nuit Fantastique – in addition to 40.5mm versions – opening the door to a slimmer-wristed clientele.
Summing up the ethos of Trilobe, Massonneau said: “We are trying to build a brand but also a culture. We are fighting against conformity and the status quo. More than a product, we are trying to create a spirit.”
Pricing & Availability
Nuit Fantastique is available with silver, black or blue dial in a 38.5mm or 40.5mm stainless-steel case, paired with an alligator, barenia calfskin or suede calfskin strap, priced at $8,800. Pictured here are the 40.5mm black and silvered dialed editions.
Priced at $11,300, a stainless-steel “Secret” Nuit Fantastique is also available in both steel case diameters. Its lacquered dial can be personalized with a Super-LumiNova depiction of the starry sky as seen over a certain location on a particular date at a specified time, perfect for commemorating birthdays, weddings, and other memorable events.