Collection Friday, February 24th 2012
Renowned for his astronomical complications, Martin Braun became part of the fold at Franck Muller Group in 2007. Now the German master watchmaker returns with timepieces sold under the Antoine Martin brand. The first model is a perpetual calendar; a second, with the addition of a flying tourbillon, is expected at Baselworld.
Martin Braun © Antoine Martin
Martin Braun isn't one to blow his own trumpet. Rather, it's his passion for watchmaking that brought him to the Geneva Time Exhibition, held the same week as the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie. A passion that has led him to develop a supremely innovative and exceptionally creative new movement. Because Martin Braun is no lightweight in the world of watchmaking. After rising to the rank of master watchmaker in 1991, he earned his stripes restoring antique timepieces alongside his father, mostly grandes complications and frequently for A. Lange & Söhne, all the while working on his own concepts that would draw him further into the world of astronomical complications. In 2000, he unveiled his first piece, the EOS, to great acclaim. In the space of a few years, Martin Braun would become a reference, to the point of catching the eye of Franck Muller Group, which took over his business in 2007. But the partnership didn't gel. Two years later, the German watchmaker walked out. Now he is back centre-stage, still producing innovative timepieces under the brand name Antoine Martin.
A life's work
"I left because I had done all the groundwork for the movement in the watch here on this table, but Franck Muller Group wasn't interested. Rather than donning a salesman's cap, something I'm not, I decided to stick to being who I am, which is a watchmaker. My entire working life, all the experience I have gained over the years, are contained in this movement. There was never any question of giving it all up." Back, then, to square one and the opening of Manufacture Horlogère Obwald in Alpnach, near Lucerne, with backing from entrepreneur Antoine Meier and Bruno Jufer, formerly with Maurice Lacroix, Jaquet Droz, Zenith and Carl F. Bucherer, as CEO. Says Jufer, "we aim to establish Antoine Martin as a world-class manufacturer of luxury watches. The brand wants to be recognised for its inventiveness in the techniques of mechanical movements, and for the unparalleled aesthetic of its watches."
Actions speak louder than words. Two years in development, the first Antoine Martin Perpetual Calendar with Large Balance Wheel (AM 39.001 calibre) is a lavish concentration of technology, research and creativity, beginning with a new high-performance escapement. "The angles of the Swiss lever escapement have always been a compromise between efficiency and retaining oil using the capillary effect of certain angles," the watchmaker explains. Martin Braun resolved this problem using silicon, by recalculating the angles of the impulse planes of the escape wheel, and by redesigning the pallets to increase the energy yield by some 15%.
More surprises at Baselworld
Another major innovation is what the brand terms its Aerodynamic Amplitude Stabilization, a sophisticated mechanism in which a cam is guided by the power reserve. As the brand explains, "when the movement is fully wound, the cam moves to within 0.01 mm of the balance wheel whose arms accumulate air, which acts like a cushioned brake. As the mainspring loses its tension, the system ensures the amplitude remains the same." Another striking feature is the unusually large titanium balance wheel, 17.5 mm in diameter and beating at 18,000 vibrations/hour with no index and a free-sprung balance spring. "Technically speaking, this large size makes a lot of sense," Braun comments. "Not only does it build up more kinetic energy, should the movement experience shock, a large balance is more apt than a smaller balance to remain within its amplitude, thus keeping a stable rate."
Of course, every part of the movement is original and is made at the Manufacture, except the shock-absorber system. Needless to say, Martin Braun has no intention of stopping there. He will be at Baselworld with a perpetual calendar flying tourbillon with regulator, retrograde date and large balance wheel. Patents have been filed for this second timepiece which, visually and technically, promises more surprises. ■