The comeback of Wyler and the Incaflex: collector’s models - Part 2
Wyler Genève made its great comeback to the worldwide watchmaking scene in 2007. Loyal to its history and to the invention of the Incaflex that made it famous, the brand dipped its toes in the automobile universe before disappearing again.
Baselworld, spring 2007. One year after the Binda group announced its relaunch, the brand arrived at the international watch and jewelry fair with a new concept of sports and "high tech" watches that succeeded Wyler-Vetta. Italian cinema star and former James Bond girl, Maria Grazia Cucinotta, was in charge of adding an extra touch of charm to the launch of the 2007 collection.
To perpetuate Paul Wyler's philosophy, Wyler Genève stood out from other watch brands by producing the only watches equipped with triple protection: a shock-resistant case, a crown guard (a first in horology) and the famous Incaflex balance. The first piece to feature this triple protection was set with 333 diamonds.
The Wyler Genève chronograph
Produced in 3,999 pieces, it was the flagship of this revival. It brought back the concept of material fusion that worked so well for Hublot by combining titanium, pink gold, carbon fiber and rubber. Its modern and completely sporty design was inspired by the automobile universe. It featured a crown encapsulated in rubber, a strap made of natural rubber that evoked a tire tread, two chronograph pushers that looked like a car pedal, and an open worked oscillating mass in heavy metal that evoked a ventilated brake disc.
The trendy and sport-chic tonneau-shaped case took its inspiration from Richard Mille watches. The large 43.4 mm x 52 mm case is the first element of the Wyler triple protection and has a multi-piece sandwich assembly. It consists of a titanium compartment that houses the movement under which there is a carbon fiber frame. The top and bottom plates are fixed to it with four sprung titanium screws. The screws acted as perfect shock-absorbers by ensuring that the dial-movement unit was airborne.
The second element of the triple protection system is the patented crown guard. It can be locked and unlocked via two sliding pins to give access to the crown. The third protection is the famous Incaflex balance that can be seen through the sapphire glass of the case back. It houses the tried and tested self-winding movement derived from the ETA 2894-2 caliber. It has a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour and it features a 42-hour power reserve.
The sporty design of the dial is particularly refined. Protected by a treated anti-reflection sapphire glass, it is divided into two zones -inside and outside - that alternate brushed surfaces. The traditional tricompax layout is modernized by the 8-shaped flanges of each of the chronograph's two timers. The Arabic numerals and the applied indexes match the case's metal, as does the rim of the timers. The skeletonized faceted hands of the hours and minutes are tipped with Superluminova. The red lacquered central hand is precise to the quarter of a second. Lastly, a small date aperture is displayed at 4:30.
After its release, many pieces of this chronograph were sold. And just like Paul Wyler did, their robustness was tested. One of the brand’s retailers in Taiwan ran one of the first pieces over with his car and proved that it still worked after the shock. Wyler Genève also tested the robustness of its watch during the celebration of the 100 years of the Beijing-Paris race won by Italian Prince Scipione Borghese in 1907. Official timer of the anniversary Paris-Beijing 2007 race, the brand gave the driver of the Itala – the winning car – a chronograph as a gift, which he wore for the race.
The Paris-Beijing Tourbillon
The brand celebrated this centenary race by introducing a special-edition, 8-piece titanium tourbillon. It was based on the Wyler Genève Tourbillon, revealed in Baselworld in a limited series of 24 pieces in platinum, 18K pink gold and titanium. The brand only launched this tourbillon to illustrate its skills in haute horlogerie, which was something only a few manufactures mastered at the time. And it was a success as all the pieces were sold within the year.
This model also features the triple protection case. It is embedded with a "trust index" that indicates the amplitude of the balance of the hand-wound caliber as well as the point when the precision of the movement is at its maximum.
Wyler Genève and the automobile world
The sporty design of its watches gave Wyler Genève the opportunity to close ties with the automobile circle. The triple protection case is used as the presentation case of a special range celebrating the exclusive partnership the brand signed with the Italian coach-building company, Zagato. Its President, Andrea Zagato, is a childhood friend of the Binda group’s president. The Wyler-Zagato watch is a beautiful piece with its brushed aluminum dial that evokes Zagato's famous visual signature: the double roof boss. Its hand-wound WM1 caliber provides an 8-day power reserve thanks to the two barrels that operate in series. This limited edition of 25 pieces was also the occasion for the brand to highlight the "carbon neutral" certification it obtained from the British Carbon Neutral Company for its contribution to the environment, making it the first eco-responsible Swiss watchmaking brand.
In 2008, Wyler Genève varied its product range by adding new configurations to its chronographs and GMT watches. New limited editions made their appearance, such as the 88 pieces of a version in tantalum, a rare ultra-resistant yet very difficult to work with metal. 76 years later, Wyler Genève was once again appointed official watch of the Squadra Azzura, the Italian national football team, for the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
The fall of Wyler
In early 2009, Wyler Genève restructured its product range. The existing models - chronograph, Tourbillon and GMT - were grouped in a collection called "Code-R". A new collection - Code S - was revealed to widen its range and its target clientele with more subtle pieces that were smaller and mainly oriented towards women. The triple protection case sported round lines and for the first time, the bezel was available in either ceramic, gold or in a version set with precious stones. The dial was daring, with its bright colors and a version in mother-of-pearl set with either white diamonds or blue or pink sapphires. The Code-S collection used the same self-winding movement as the Code-R.
At the same time, a new series of Tourbillon watches was introduced. Named "WT3", this haute horlogerie piece was the first watch produced under the new watchmaking label "Poinçon du Jura" which guarantees movements are entirely made in Switzerland with 90% being produced in the Jura Arc. This label, which did not work well with other Swiss manufactures, lasted for a long time.
Three other great legendary races
Wyler Genève continued its incursion into the automobile circle by producing an official Paris-Dakar watch in 182 pieces made of tantalum. Nine-times winner Stephan Peterhansel, wore the watch during the rally. The black ceramic chronograph “El Camino Real” celebrated the legendary West Coast of the United States. Lastly, the chronograph Code-R Night Racer marked the first late-night Formula 1 "Grand Prix" on September 28, 2008 in Singapore, one of the brand's largest markets.
However, whilst 2009 looked promising, Wyler Genève bore the brunt of the world economic and horological crisis that began in 2008.
Its trendy-yet-very-classic sports watches became too expensive and cost the brand its clientele, which favored the “safety” of traditional watchmaking values. The brand sold only one million pieces per year and fell pray of an extremely competitive market and a too-swift diversification, which extended its distribution network to over fifty countries. Nearly all the staff were let go in July of that year and the brand went bankrupt four months later, when no one volunteered to take over.
Thus, less than three years after its revival and in spite of the undeniable quality of its timepieces, Wyler Genève disappeared again from the watchmaking scene. Today, the brand’s special watches deserve to be (re)discovered. The innovating design of their movements’ protection system and their unique environmentally friendly "carbon neutral" certification, definitely put them in the category of future collectibles.