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Baselworld 2017 : Creative and fresh according to three independent watchmaking brands

Independent brands are so varied that it would be impossible to cover them all. We have chosen three which in 2017 have been examplary of the strength driving this important hub of creativity for the whole industry. They are Hysek, Akrivia and Lebeau-Coullary.

By Benjamin Teisseire

Swiss watchmaking comprises leading brands, some of which belong to leading groups. It also comprises scores of independent brands that are gradually gaining recognition and appreciation among collectors. All of them bring a touch of freshness, poetry, innovation and technical elements to the industry in their own way, which explains why they are put on show at every watchmaking fair around the world.

Hysek demonstrates its mastery

Ever since it joined the watchmaking scene in 1997, the brand has offered an unconventional approach to watchmaking. In 2007, it integrated its production and started to make its own (outstanding) calibers and complications in-house. Ten years later at Baselworld, the now-manufacture celebrated its 20th anniversary by showing the extent of its watchmakers' skills. The highlight of its jubilee was the introduction of the monumental “Colossal”.

Seeing the new piece made one want to exclaim 'twenty years and already halfway to the future!' Before letting us look at, touch or study the watch from all its innumerable angles, the Hysek team took us to the heart of the new timepiece through interactive augmented reality. Our eyes scanned, our fingers chose and "clicked" in space. It was playful and well done and allowed us to easily explore the 3D model of the Colossal with a few surprises along the way. The urge to hold the watch in our hands increased.

When we were finally given the green light to examine it, we were immediately in awe of its extreme complexity, which encapsulated several wonders. The watch features the brand's favorite complications – jumping hours, perpetual calendar and three-dimensional moon phases. But it also displays several others. We could literally spend hours admiring the seven levels of different bridges, the arc-shaped case, the rim and the sapphire glass, the GMT, the power reserve and the day/night indicator. So much so that we could almost forget about the flying tourbillon visible from the back or the Perpetual Calendar displayed in a line thanks to vertical gear rollers.

Incidentally, this feature – one of the most challenging in the piece – has been filed for patent because of its backward and forward gear system which ensures a perfect synchronization when it is 00:00. A work of art.

Its 1,086 components, 186 rubies, 61 bridges (!) and seven ceramic ball bearing trains all make it a true masterpiece, and one of the fair's pieces most talked about. Truly Colossal! It has been produced in a limited edition of eight pieces. The only drawback is that its size – 57 mm long, 18 mm thick and 44 mm wide – and its weight (189 grams), make it more suitable for big wrists.

AkriviA, a contemporary icon of traditional horology

The young brand is, in a way, the favorite of independent watchmakers' fans – for many good reasons, namely the unique history of the brand and its founder. Rexhep Rexhepi, a young talented watchmaker who was an apprentice at Patek Philippe, honed his already sharp vision of what excellence in watchmaking should be. When he founded his brand in 2012, he revealed the extent of his mastery with his tourbillons – Monopusher Chronograph, Barette-Mirroir and Regulator. They are wonderful pieces with an immediately identifiable design, as is often the case with iconic models.

AkriviA is also praised for its decorations, the refinement of its finishing and the raw emotions it provokes. Its dials are worked on in-house using a rare and complex micro-hammering technique by hand. Every dial is thus unique and a true work of art. The production is ultra-limited – even confidential –and thus perfectly customizable to the great delight of its happy clients. The timepieces of the Genevan brand are prized for their originality and the symmetrically designed movements that are characteristic of the brand. But above all, they are praised for their prodigious finishes. They are full of inward angles – either locked or mirror polish – and each detail is carefully studied and designed with obsessive meticulousness.

In order to meet the increasing demands of all kinds of collectors, AkriviA created, for the first time, a movement with no tourbillon: the caliber AK-06. In this caliber, Rexhep Rexhepi highlighted the power reserve, a complication that he is particularly fond of. He revealed his own conception of his connection to watchmaking. The watch lover develops an intimate connection with his timepieces. He likes to look at them and get lost in the beauty of their details and finishes. But the most interesting part comes when his own human and personal energy breathe life into the winding system.

Thanks to the AK-06, every wheel and gear train of the winding system, the power reserve and the hand setting are visible on the dial. Owners can finally see the delicate animation they themselves bring to life on the dial when they wind the watch.

Watchmaking as a vehicle of emotions is the philosophy behind these mechanical wonders. We hope that it will be enough to ensure a long-lasting existence for the industry at the service of micromechanical refinement. And like other independent watchmakers, Rexhep Rexhepi has understood this. With an infectious and delightful freshness, he introduced the AK-06 model and its 100-hour power reserve provided by a single barrel.

Lebeau-Courally affirms its DNA

By acquiring IMH in 2015, the luxury Belgian gunsmith brand showed an interest in becoming a true watchmaking manufacture and master all the aspects of its creations in-house. In 2017, the most Belgian of Swiss manufactures has introduced its second in-house movement, after the extra large engraved moon phase it presented in 2016. On top of this, the brand added its personal touch to the industry thanks to the artisanal know-how it developed for its original core business.

Less is more. Named Micro II, the model laid the foundation for the brand's future. Entirely designed, developed and verified in Le Locle, it goes well beyond the 60% Swiss-Made requirement. The new self-winding mechanical caliber is characterized by its micro-rotor, its three-day power reserve and its thinness (3.1-mm). All this featured on a Lebeau-Courally dial with a new design – three hands and an off-centered seconds sub-counter at 9 o'clock. A simple, elegant and streamlined piece; a complicated exercise that often helps to carve a long-lasting DNA.

The blend of different crafts in the case decorations and on the dial affirm Lebeau-Courally's DNA, which links it directly to its roots. On the side of the watch is the "clé de fusil", the brand's traditional feature. For the time being, it is not functional – unlike 2016’s Phase de Lune in 2016 – and was used only for decorative purposes in this model but the young brand is working on creating a fundamental use for this unique element. The more we think about it, the more impatient we become! The biggest achievement of the new timepiece is the possibility to include customizable engravings, completely hand-made at the Lebeau-Courally manufacture in Liège.

It's a magnificent, subtle and delicate piece that is just as refined and well designed in the red gold version as it is in the steel version. The first limited editions of the Micro II (45 pieces in all taking into account engraved and non-engraved pieces) should soon be sold out.

When Belgian manufacturer Joris Ide acquired Lebeau-Courally in 2009, it was with the intention to save a flagship element of the luxury gunsmith industry. However, the universe of the niche brand was extremely constrained. By taking over the Swiss watchmaking manufacture IMH and making the most of his Liège skills, he succeeded to increase the possibilities for Lebeau-Courally in the most beautiful way with the help of his son, Enzo. This is evidenced by the fact that the Micro II caliber is also offered to ohers and seems to have found clients already. Joris Ide henceforth owns a double-barreled gun with refined engravings that are as beautiful as they are effective.


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