The Logical One by Romain Gauthier: a creator journey
He's not a watchmaker by trade, yet he belongs to a new generation of watchmakers who put imagination and research into producing remarkable timepieces. Thriving on his dazzling creativity and exceptional intelligence, Romain Gauthier lives his passion.
When I arrived for our meeting at his small workshop in Le Sentier, Gauthier was putting the final touches to some components for his friend Jean-François Ruchonnet with an extremely sophisticated CNC machine. Indeed, he is part of a small team of young mavericks who have created a seemingly horizontal manufacturing chain. They decided to join forces in order to acquire state-of-the-art machines with which they produced flawless industrial quality for their exceptional timepieces. This allowed each of them to reduce their individual expenditure on these extremely pricey machines.
This has nothing to do with a collectivised “Soviet-style” system and everything to do with an intelligent approach by professionals who have decided to take advantage of their creative freedom by themselves.
From precision engineering to design
But what was a watchmaking designer doing at a CNC? Well, just his job. Indeed, Gauthier didn’t follow the usual path to become a watchmaker. He was born in Le Sentier, and therefore grew up in the shadows of fir trees, surrounded by the smell of oils, the noise of machines and the rather secluded watchmaking workshops. All this influenced his philosophy and his dreams. Hence, when he finished school he enrolled at the technical school of the Vallée de Joux – the natural thing for an aspiring watchmaker to do. Only Romain Gauthier did not choose to study watchmaking. Instead, he set his sights on precision engineering since he thought it crucial to learn the art of shaping metal, which he would later use for his watches. Becoming interested in design was just a logical step following his training, which is how he went on to acquiring a diploma in technical design.
He then entered professional life, working in component production for ten years in order to get to know all its subtleties from A to Z, and to master the technical skills one can only learn through daily work.
But Romain Gauthier was an entrepreneur at heart and decided to set up his own company. It was a risk because he soon realized that, although he benefited from extensive technical knowledge, he had no experience in commerce and management. Driven by a strong determination to succeed, Gauthier decided to do an MBA, which he obtained in 2002. Thanks to his solid foundation, Gauthier was now ready to start his watchmaking adventure.
Creative intelligence to support authenticity
It was now time to figure out what to do and how he was going to do it. He started by deciding on a set of values upon which to base his actions: “Haute horlogerieis like haute couture. It needs to perpetuate traditions, yet continually nourish horological know-how in order for designs to persist in meeting the expectations of the most passionate aficionados”. This is a clear manifesto in favour of out-of-the-box thinking. It acknowledges that haute horlogerie cannot exist without preserving its fundamental rules: an open door to imagination, experimentation and creation.
The movement comprises 22 rubies and indicates hours and minutes. “Rather simple”, some might say. That is true, but only part of the story. It’s all about how the movement works. Gauthier used the most sophisticated technical means in its construction and then decorated and finished all the components by hand, as horological tradition dictates. However, he wanted to distinguish himself from the others and so he added some ideas of his own. Hence the off-centre display of the hours and minutes in his timepieces, which give them a unique character. If you turn the watch upside down and look inside the movement, you will find an escapement wheel at 6 o’clock. This enables symmetry between the seconds’ wheel and the balance. In addition, the watch can be wound without removing it from the wearer’s wrist thanks to their slim manual winding. But these are just a few of the innovations Romain Gauthier introduced. We will explore them all in depth at a later date.
Logical One, promises and prospects
Practice makes perfect, as they say, and so Romain Gauthier proceeded on his quest. Today, we can enjoy the results of his hard work. The young watchmaker hired a helper and together they work in a superb workshop in the attic of a house in Le Sentier. There, nearer to the sky and closer to his dream, Gauthier prepares his next creation and, from what we saw, it will be truly remarkable!
Our colleague, the outstanding Pierre Maillard, tells us the rest of the story: “It was now time for this determined and methodical man to design an entirely new movement and build a solid foundation for his brand. In 2011, he decided to explore a new field. The following year was, as he puts it himself, ‘a difficult year. I went into isolation, did my homework while listening to some music, which I find stimulating…’” During the same period, he created a stock of in-house components to ensure the logical progression of his development.
The fruit of Gauthier’s research, the Logical One, was presented at Baselworld this year. He explained the timepiece without a trace of false modesty: “I had conceptualized this watch for a long time. It had to be both completely relevant and offer something new, something different. It also had to make an impact and yet have the potential to become part of horological heritage”. So, what is so special about the Logical One for it to find such a venerable place in the history of watchmaking? Turning the watch over in his hand, Gauthier states: “On the right, there is everything related to the watch’s functioning – the indications, the escapement... On the left, there is the fusée and chain corrector for the constant force. The back is entirely dedicated to the constant force reduction and the direct power reserve indicator.”
”Constant force is a complication that needs a very specific architecture. Besides, it is very rareand only a handful of makers use it, namely Breguet, Lange, recently Zenith, DeWitt, Cabestan”, Gauthier points out.
Reminded of the very new Constant Force by Girard Perregaux, he responds: “Yes, but the solution they propose is completely different. That said, every watch is the miniaturisation of physical principle”. He produces a series of graphics that showing the measurements of perfect constant force, in whichever position the watch is held. “The key point is the central pinion. This is the starting point for all calculations and can be seen at the back of the watch. The principle of reduction is essential, because it spreads the constant force evenly at 360º according to a principle based on dividing the amount of turns, making corrections and then multiplying the amount of turns. The result is that the watch reaches ±4 seconds throughout its 60-hour power reserve, without alterations”, he states.
We took the timepiece in our hand and inspected it; we could only admire it. What can one say? Its finish is superlative, subtle, both polished and racy –traits worthy of a Philippe Dufour. The movement’s architecture is rather discreet: the off-centre dial makes room for the escapement and the fascinating chain and its rubies. To top it off, the case is perfectly curved.
The result is a watch that is classical in design, contemporary in its execution, and sensual and mathematical.