Why A $44,000 Mechanical Belt Buckle Could Be Your Next Horological Purchase
We all like to dream about our next horological purchase, but what if it wasn’t a watch at all but a luxury mechanical belt buckle?
When you look closely at a Roland Iten mechanical belt buckle, you will notice just how similar it is to a watch movement. But unlike a watch movement hidden away under glass, you are allowed to touch and play with this piece of precision engineering.
An independent designer and inventor, Roland Iten made his first mechanical watch buckle for the Swiss luxury fashion house Bally over two decades ago. The buckle won awards and was a huge success, so Bally asked him to help the company design a watch. To research this new project and better understand the watchmaking process, he decided to visit watch manufacturing sites in Switzerland and became instantly captivated by the world of micromechanics. The experience ignited a quest to show the world what else could be made using haute horlogerie know-how.
When Iten set up his own company in 2003, he continued to develop belt buckle designs. He worked directly with manufacturing partners in the watch industry, which could craft his buckles with the same attention to detail as a fine timepiece.
Why Does A Belt Buckle Need To Be Mechanical?
Iten loves creating objects that bring a little extra pleasure, comfort, and luxury to the lives of the discerning gentleman. Always attentive to details, he noticed how annoying it was that his belt would constrict around his waist while in the seated position, especially when driving.
So, Iten came up with a solution that would allow him to loosen and tighten his buckle without taking his belt off. With a quick and discreet, one-handed gesture, he created a solution to elegantly flip the belt buckle horizontally to loosen or tighten it.
Iten has created over 11 different mechanical belt buckle systems to date, all of which include this adjustment feature. But it is not just about comfort and practicality. Each gesture is also a playful mechanical maneuver that is highly satisfying to the senses. Moving the buckle activates a series of moving mechanical parts that makes its manipulation both a delight to the touch and a pleasure to the ears with a subtle and gratifying series of clicks.
The New R18 Superdriver
Iten’s latest creation, the R18 Superdriver, features a new system that he fondly calls his “hot wheels” design. This 11-axel, 169-component mechanism is produced by the brand’s manufacturing partner Montanari S.A. from Saint-Imier. It works using six low friction wheels that drive on three tracks along with a mechanically leveraged flow carriage that is completely self-cleaning and requires no lubrication.
Four patents cover this innovative system and relate to the R18 Superdriver flow carriage with the rolling-wheel mechanism and friction control, the mechanical leverage leather strap insertion clip, the leverage leather strap release system, and the self-locking mechanism that prevents accidental release.
The Ultimate Luxury Supercar Factor
The R18 Superdriver stands out from other Roland Iten buckles because clients can incorporate into the design the lines of any supercar. As Iten explained in a press release: “The first few pieces of this collection have been customized for Bugatti Chiron owners, but using the same high-performance chassis, and within the same 3.4mm thickness of the hood, I can create any Supercar a client might desire—new or vintage.”
In response to clients’ demands for a sportier buckle, the bespoke R18 Superdriver is also larger than Iten’s previous creations. Additionally, it features a titanium architecture, which can be dressed in steel, red gold, white gold, and/or colored titanium or aluminum. There are also numerous engraving and gem-setting possibilities, along with an infinite number of leather belt color options.
So, if you like the idea of playing with your mechanics and not just looking at them, consider wearing them around the waist instead of on the wrist!
(Images © Roland Iten)