A Look At Chopin Watches: A Polish Brand With Serious Swiss Roots
Launching a new watch brand is always a challenge. Launching a new mechanical Polish brand increases the difficulty a few notches. Using a renowned name like Chopin makes the venture very tricky. Luckily, Chopin passes the test with flying colors!
No matter how young they are, when people are passionate, it shows. No matter how tricky a brand's creation is, when meaningful, it works. Watchonista had the honor of being invited to the launch of Chopin watches in Warsaw last week. Chopin is a brand well worth discovering for any aficionado of well-made independent brands.
At the beginning there was meaning
Michal Dunin and his team of passionate watch lovers are not afraid of challenges. In 2012, they revived the only brand that truly made wristwatches in Poland in the 60’s: Błonie. The name comes from a small Polish village where its production took place from 1959 to 1969. You probably never heard about it, but 1.2 million watches came from this tiny place during that decade. Before relaunching these mechanical automatic watches for the masses, a young team of entrepreneurs had to convince everyone they meant good.
They actually pitched their idea with a prototype in hand directly to the town council where people who had worked in the factory still lived. In front of 60 people, they explained their project and showed everyone how serious and well-thought it was. Questions were asked. Emotions were shared and the Błonie brand lives again. This shows how genuine and authentic Michal and his team are. This is the bedrock of Chopin watches.
The best of Swiss Made
After successfully launching their entry-level automatic Polish watch, the next challenge was to create a true luxury watch with international appeal. As Michal puts it, “We had to go Swiss Made so people would know right away we meant business. And we did not want to just put a famous name on a dial. The Fryderyk Chopin Institute would not have agreed to it and that is not how we envisioned it anyway. We wanted to create a meaningful timepiece that would express the character of the great master: his uniqueness, his romanticism, his strong emotional feelings about the Polish revolution as he expressed it in his masterful music” Quite the goal! The search started to find the right partners to match their passion, unaltered vision and relentless hard work.
They approached Antoine Tschumi, the famous Swiss designer of Neodesis who has been designing watches for over 20 years for familiar names like Breguet, Harry Winston, and Greubel Forsey to cite a few. He loved the idea and the team of people behind it: “I am lucky enough to be able to choose who I want to work with. So, one of the most determining ingredients for me is people. When I met with Michal and his team, it clicked immediately. The challenge of designing an emotional timepiece translating Chopin’s sensitivity and complexity was exciting.” Then Michal needed someone to build it. Schwarz Etienne came in naturally, as a true independent manufacture from La Chaux-de-Fonds.
Michal explains: “They master internally all the watchmaking craftsmanship we required. They have a strong brand but also offer a great private label activity. They know how to make movements from A to Z, even the balance wheel and hairspring! And they have capabilities to produce high-quality cases internally as well. Moreover, they are just a great team of people: fun, hard-working, uncompromising…like us.” The project was on the right tracks. And the result is spectacular: Chopin Opus 10 N.12.
Emotions and details
This is typically the kind of timepiece that screams independent watchmaking. The more you look at it, the more details you uncover, the more emotions it provides. The dial is multilayered with different finishing at each level. The outer ring is white with double blue PVD ‘bâton’ indexes, except for the 10 and 12 in Roman numerals…in homage of Chopin’s Op.10 N.12. The center circle is open-worked to offer a clear view of the bridges and main wheels so you immediately understand you are in presence of a pure mechanical gem. At nine o’clock, the 96-hour power reserve is displayed on an elegant piano keyboard. At 6 o’clock the small second counter indicates the timepiece’s name in full: Opus 10 N.12, Chopin, Revolutionary Etude.
It invites us to dig deeper into the master’s work and understand when this musical art piece was written: during the Polish uprising of November 1831. It adds further depth and emotion to the watch. At a slight angle, you notice a red hue coming from under the small second disk. It is a ring of carnelian stone, symbolizing the heart of Chopin which returned to Poland and is embedded in a pillar of the Holy Cross church in Warsaw. The hours and minutes hands – also blue plated to stand out for great legibility – are refined and romantically shaped like Chopin’s music. Finally, the Chopin signature, directly taken from his written correspondence under the strict supervision of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, sits proudly at 12 o’clock. And that is just the dial!
Schwarz Etienne craftsmanship
The stainless-steel case is made of five parts perfectly integrated. The flanks bear a very delicate guilloche inspired from the lid of the pocket watch Chopin received at the age of 10 when he was already a genius musician performing concerts all over Europe. The plunging lugs provide excellent comfort for this 43mm case…and are shaped like piano legs. Details, details, all over. Turn the timepiece around and the open-case back offers a perfect view of the Schwarz Etienne MSE210 manual winding caliber exclusively developed for Chopin watches.
The two barrels delivering the commanding power reserve are fully decorated with all the relevant dates in Chopin’s life, as well as his motto, that the brand made hers: “Time is the best sensor and patience the most perfect of teachers.” Laser engravings of Chopin’s handwriting adorn the sandblasted finished plates and bridges. It is like having a personal message from the masterful musician on the wrist. Very emotional. The final touch is the red balance wheel evoking once more the heart of Chopin. A feat in itself as the coating alters the equilibrium of the wheel and requires even more precision to fine tune.
Altogether this Chopin Opus 10 N.12 is a beautiful piece of haute horology with a fantastic caliber from Schwarz Etienne and a flurry of emotional details. The limited series of only 56 pieces is priced at CHF 14'500 (VAT included) and will most surely be sold out quite fast. Five were sold on the opening night in Warsaw last week…