Baselworld 2019: Schwarz Etienne Introduces A Psychedelic Tourbillon And Fiji In The Sky With Diamonds
Schwarz Etienne is one of those independent brands with a unique style. A true watchmaking manufacture who loves to surprise whether with the quality of their movements or via off-beat creations with a humorous touch. For men and women!
Fine watchmaking is a serious world. Humor is rarely seen in luxury. Schwarz Etienne denies both statements with joy and asserts her own character, her welcomed indifference. Proof that serious watchmaking does imply being systematically serious. It is refreshing! The following story is inspired from real facts.
Each year, Schwarz Etienne pays homage to artistic craftsmanship through a powerful and original limited series, iteration of one of their great complications. The latest one was Ode to Spring (read more here). As I arrive to discover their new Ode to the seventies, I felt a tingling at the back of my neck. I heard the gentle beating of a balance wheel turning around in a tourbillon.
Soft and appeasing at first, then louder. The lively rhythm lulls me gently into a horological trance. Suddenly I see a flash of light. Bright and colorful…and I hear the sweet sound of a ukulele. Is it one of those acid flashbacks I have heard stories about? No, it’s stronger! The Ode to the Seventies has just landed on the table in its magic case: a ukulele box comprising of the exceptional piece as well as a SwissKubik winder to perpetuate the intoxication and the power of the automatic timepiece.
Drawn towards this explosion of colors, I take the watch in my hands and start my in-depth inspection. Multicolor waves of Grand Feu enamel entangle together separated only by a meticulous work of cloisonné and champlevé. Each color requiring its own time of cooking, it must have taken 160 hours to complete this artwork on the solid grey 18k gold dial. An artistic work realized the exquisite craftsmanship savoir-faire of Madame Bourquin, master enameller at one of the great master specialists in Jura.
The flashy colors come in waves in an ever-moving ballet. I think I have spotted the familiar Peace & Love symbol in the middle of it at 9 o’clock. Yes, it is there, I am not going crazy. It is lacquered on the micro-rotor of the precious timekeeper, echoing the large flying tourbillon and its fine watchmaking finishings at 1 o’clock. A third opening in the dial reveals the ratchet, fully decorated in enamel as well.
The moving structure, powered by the in-house caliber TSE 121.00, stands out proudly in the 44mm 18k grey gold. But this is getting a bit too serious. Gladly a pair of bell-bottom jeans comes to my rescue. The joyful hand-made color stains and the red stitching warm my heart. We are indeed at Schwarz Etienne where Haute Horology knows how to be beautiful and playful.
I would have picked different colors probably. It does not matter, the dial of these 23 pieces limited series are completely customizable. Its price comes down to CHF 118’000 VAT included.
Precious Flower Power
Hardly out of my 70’s trip, I move to discover the new feminine pieces from the Fiji collection, introduced in January in Geneva (more info here). Immediate success for these timepieces from the La Chaux-de-Fonds brand as they offer a real fine mechanical watchmaking opportunity for women. At the heart of the Ateliers in Baselworld – true breeding ground of creativity in Basel – Schwarz Etienne enlarges the collection with three precious models.
The codes are identifiable: The salmon and black dials decorated with their central floral engraving, the elegant applied drop shaped indexes and the hypnotic animation of the small seconds sub-counter. The brand innovates by showcasing the full modularity of the architectural conception in three parts: the bottom of the case integrating the lugs, the dial and the tapering case itself. The first model in steel displays a diamond-set bottom edge case and lugs. The small delicate diamonds enhance the femininity of the timepiece and twinkle discreetly like so many residual hallucinations.
The warmth of the rose gold case of the second model shrouds me like Woodstock’s sun. And there is always that intoxicating dance of the small seconds at 6 o’clock counting them in a floral kaleidoscope. The third one immediately projects me in the Beatles tune “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” with its fully paved center. The 5 carats of diamonds reflect myriads of tiny flashes. Is the strap really made of red python? I must be dreaming again. But no! It is indeed an elegant handbag from Noleti in this chic material. Schwarz Etienne even makes useful and beautiful watch boxes.
I am in the presence of feminine and jeweled Haute Horology, playful, happy, unbridled. Powered by the automatic mechanical movement with micro-rotor ASE 200.00, made entirely in house, delivering 86 hours of power reserve, these precious timekeepers can accompany ladies in the best festivals for days.
Schwarz Etienne continues to make its marks in independent watchmaking. It asserts further its own style for the pleasure of collectors, men, and women, who boast a free spirit and a strong character. For people who seriously know how to have fun while carrying high the colors – psychedelic or not – of Fine Watchmaking.
It was time for me to leave, to rest in order to let these dizzying moments impregnate my consciousness… Thank you Schwarz Etienne.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)