When Perriard joined the company in 2006, his task was to redesign the brand’s product line according to five key words: the new Concord had to be edgy, unexpected, daring and modern, and it had to exhibit know-how. The string of words chosen to describe the new Concord is not necessarily new. “When Concord launched the Delirium in the ’70s, it was very daring and a little bit edgy and completely unexpected,” says Perriard. “It was also modern, and it was based on know-how: it was the thinnest movement ever made, at 0.98mm, and this was very radical at the time.” As long as the new watch was edgy, daring, unexpected and something that demonstrated know-how, then, it would reflect the brand’s heritage without necessarily duplicating something from the archives. Enter the C1, which stands for both Concord 1 and Concept 1.
Dimension-wise, the C1 is the opposite of Delirium. The case is 16.7mm thick, compared to the Delirium’s 0.98mm, and 44 mm wide. The 55-component case is made of steel and rubber. It is a chronograph, a COSC certified chronometer, and water-resistant to 200 meters. But perhaps the most striking thing about the C1 was that it replaced every other product in the Concord line, including the Delirium, when it was introduced in 2007. Now, at the end of four years, C1 remains Concord’s only collection, instantly taking the brand’s average price point from $3,500 to $8,000-$12,000. The C1 has since evolved to include a red gold version, a jewelry version and a World Timer with vulcanized rubber and DLC (diamond-like carbon). In 2008, the first of two tourbillons was introduced, the C1 Gravity, followed this year by the Quantum Gravity. With these, Concord’s top price point soared to $250,000 and $450,000 respectively.
Collaboration with BNB Concept
Concord collaborated with tourbillon specialist BNB Concept on the C1 Gravity, with the specific goal of introducing “something no one else had ever seen before,” as Perriard puts it. BNB’s Mathias Buttet, as one of the most unconventional watchmakers in the business, was exactly the right man for the job. As a master watchmaker, Buttet worked at Lemania, Daniel Roth, Vacheron Constantin and Franck Muller. As an independent, he has created new movements for several other top brands, including Hublot (BNB1450 tourbillon chronograph), HD3-Jorg Hysek (BNB5000 double-axis tourbillon), Romain Jerome (BNB2222 double tourbillon) and Jacob & Co. (BNB9031-T automatic with 31-day power reserve). Formed in 2004 by Buttet and two partners (he is now the majority shareholder), BNB creates concept and custom movements, most notably tourbillons based on the BNB 1000 base caliber, a variation of which is used by De Witt, among others.
Two things distinguish the C1 Gravity Tourbillon from its standard tourbillon counterparts. The escapement mechanism is inclined in the vertical position, and the cage is extended to a position outside the case at 4 o’clock. The watch is also a flyback chronograph, a pusher for which is located at 7:30 on the case side, while the crown is moved to 2 o’clock. Sweep seconds are shown face up on the edge of the tourbillon cage, as it rotates once per minute. The key component of the movement – what makes it both unique and technically challenging – is the orthogonal linkage that connects the cage to the long, thin (0.5mm) shaft and the gear train. The perpendicular gear connection had to be precisely tuned, as any tiny misalignment between cage and case could affect precision. The extra gears required to complete this link represented an additional function of the movement.
Next on the drawing board is the C2
The challenge of supporting the C1 Gravity’s long central axle was solved in a dramatic way on Quantum Gravity, which employs a bridge-like system of carbon fiber cables to hold the tourbillon axle in place between the gear train and the tourbillon carriage. The watch itself looks like something between the Brooklyn Bridge and the mother ship in Deep Space Nine. In the Quantum, three elements protrude from the case – a small seconds indicator and winding crown on one side and the tourbillon cage on the other. In a final flourish, a vertical cylinder of glow-in-the-dark green gel rises and drops between the dial plate and the crystal to indicate power reserve – a kind of liquid Superluminova. There are no patents for the movement, despite its obvious uniqueness, “because then everyone would know the secret recipe,” says Buttet. All ten of the $450,000 Quantum Gravity pieces, released in April, have been sold.
Perriard’s exit from Concord will do nothing to deter the momentum of the brand’s transformation. “Concord is a brand, not a person,” says Efraim Grinberg, CEO of Movado Group, Concord’s parent company. “C1 was in the works before Vincent joined the company and we will continue to take it in this avant-garde direction.” Next on the drawing board is the C2, and while rumours circulate that the watch will embody a tribute to the brand’s former Delirium collection, Grinberg will not confirm this. “C1 still has a tremendous amount of legs,” says Grinberg. “We will continue to expand that.” But he hints there will be a new introduction at Basel next year.”