Skeleton Watches and the Kings of Horology

The Louis Moinet Memoris

Horology [haw-roluh-jee] is the art and science of measuring time, and to the unpracticed tongue it’s damn difficult to say.  No, not Whore-ology, Horology.  Whore-ology is in all bets something vastly different and probably the topic of an extremely intriguing, albeit entirely separate Devious Gentlemen article. More on that much, much later.

 

There’s a new trend in the wrist-wear game and it’s taking over men’s style by storm- skeleton watches.  Artfully crafted & fascinating to watch (pun!), nowadays you can catch many a stylish man brazenly flashing his timepiece’s innards in place of what was once fervently concealed.  Skeleton watches are cool, nifty, and gosh darn it they’re damn sexy.  The smoothness and subtly of curvilinear, stationary features juxtaposed with rigid, ever-ticking mechanics make for a beautiful dichotomy one can wear right on their wrist and take wherever they go.  The details are endless and they practically mirror the depths of space itself, all the while encased in a universe of wonder 4.2 centimeters wide.  You could even go so far as to say that skeleton watches can represent their wearer- their mechanical inner workings uncovered, they are genuine of purpose and transparent with intentions.  Sincere is sexy, what was once covered is now revealed and on full display for all the world to see- that it’s 9:23AM.

 

Breguet-Tourbillon-03

 

This level of craftsmanship may seem unobtainable, with many top quality product lines ranging in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but those of us without millions to spend on top-notch timekeeping can still rely on more accessible means for finding just the right wristwatch.

$200 or $200,000

What you spend on your skeleton watch is up to you.  $200, $2,000, $20,000, $200,000… it’s only a matter of zeros, right?  Right. That’s what piqued my interest- what is it about these timepieces that dictates their price tag?  If you line up a handful of skeletal selections and told someone to pick out the $2 million collectors’ item only an expertly trained eye would be able to choose correctly, and most of us aren’t experts so let’s dig a little deeper.

 

12071031_1638344969763440_673355068_n         Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 12.01.27 AM

 

 

Besides the experts, historians, curators and collectors, though, are the fabricators themselves.  Few people alive today can construct a proper timepiece from start to finish by hand, and in such cases it can take a horologist a full year to complete the task.  One of the last people in the world able to do so and credited with the greatest development in his craft for almost 250 years for his creation of the coaxial escapement, was modern master craftsman George Daniels.  He succinctly described the process as:

you must work until you are exhausted, then pack it in for the night and start again the next day, always working to maximum capacity, or the watch wouldn’t get done.

 

16 hours a day, every day.  Bent over a work bench manufacturing tiny parts with tiny tools, illustrating intricate details and finessing maneuvers in the smallest of spaces- for a year. But, hundreds of years ago when modern tools and technology weren’t available and making a watch by hand was the only viable option, master craftsmen and innovators flourished.  One such innovator, who literally wrote the book on horology and watchmaking, was Louis Moinet.

 

The Chronograph, first created by Louis Moinet. Built in 1816 it had the ability to measure
The Chronograph, first created by Louis Moinet. Built in 1816 it had the ability to measure 60ths of a second, & it’s precision was unrivaled for over 100 years

A King of Horology

Moinet, like Daniels, created an invention pivotal to watchmaking & timekeeping as we know it- he invented the Chronograph.  Created to enhance his astronomical observations it was a counter in the shape of a watch displaying 60ths of a second- how badass is that?  For what we nowadays consider a simple and common convenience, it was originally built to observe the universe and it’s nuanced intricacies.

 

Apart from his contribution to designing new mechanical components and bringing the Chronograph into existence as an entirely new development in the field, Moinet published “the most comprehensive, the best written and the most indispensable of all the books that have been written on watchmaking.”  The work consists of two volumes and describes the most sophisticated and ingenious horological techniques known to date. It is enriched by numerous illustrations and technical drawings, hand-made by Moinet himself.  Indispensable for anyone in the field, this encyclopedia is the most complete and well-written book on watch making in existence.  Moinet worked on writing this masterpiece for twenty years, and it went on to become the reference work for the period.

 

The Traité d'Horlogerie took 20 years to complete partly because of beautifully intricate illustrations
The Traité d’Horlogerie took 20 years to complete partly because of beautifully intricate illustrations

 

Today we can still see Moinet’s legacy in the independent watch brand that bears his name located in Saint-Blaise, Switzerland. Louis Monet specializes in the creation of high-end timepieces, often featuring exotic materials and innovative technology, underpinned by the philosophy of limited edition mechanical art.

Louis Moinet Astrolabe Tourbillon
Louis Moinet Astrolabe Tourbillon

If you think about it, mechanical wristwatches were the original wearable tech.  Some experts swear that wearable tech is the future, but in reality it’s been around us the whole time.  The original pioneers of watchmaking were the greatest engineers and inventors of their time. Simple everyday conveniences of which we significantly take for granted were once monumental developments driving technology into the future.  Whether it’s on sale for $200 or at auction for $2 million, take pride in knowing you’re wearing a piece of history.

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2 Comments

  • I did not know that horology stood for the art and science of measuring the time until today. However, now that I understand that word I know that it is a large industry. I think that because of the constantly changing fashion, it is important for horologists to come up with new styles and designs as much as possible. It would be a good thing for regular watch wearers to learn more about horology.

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