Chief Executive Jean-Marie Schaller is quietly proud. And yet there on the Louis Moinet stand at the Geneva Time Exhibition reigns a truly extraordinary achievement: the Meteoris, a new kind of planetarium, accompanied by four tourbillon watches, based on the brand’s Vertalis model. Each watch is further distinguished by the space rocks set into its dial. The whole piece weighs 100 kg and is valued at CHF 4.9 million (€3.3 million). Very probably it will be Middle East-bound within the next few weeks. Jiddat al Harasis 479, Sahara 99555, Itqiy, Dhofar 459… do these mysterious-sounding names evoke anything for watch lovers? No doubt not, yet they are no less representative of what Louis Moinet is doing. The first brand to have incorporated pieces of lunar meteorite in its Magistralis, four years ago, it strikes again this year and inlays these four tourbillons’ dials with stone from Mars, Mercury, an asteroid close to the Sun, and the Moon. The oldest of these fragments has reached the ripe old age of 4.6 million years.
As Jean-Marie Schaller explains, “Meteoris is a one-off creation, an objet d’art with three unique characteristics. These are a representation of the ten planets orbiting the Sun, an accelerated rotation so that the Earth journeys around the Sun in 37 seconds rather than 365 days, and diabolical accuracy of some four seconds in 164 years, the time it takes Neptune to make its orbit around the Sun. Obviously this is something we did for the sheer pleasure. As a small, independent firm, we can allow ourselves less commercial considerations. A strategy that so far hasn’t let us down, even in 2009 when we were able to balance our accounts.”
For Jean-Marie Schaller, who back in his day engineered Perrelet’s revival, what matters most for a brand such as Louis Moinet is to go back to its origins and its essence. And with such a name, the brand has one of watchmaking’s great figures at its disposal. Born in 1768, Louis Moinet is considered the first true watch designer, a man who cultivated his passion for the arts alongside his perfect mastery of the mechanics of time measurement. Both a teacher of Fine Arts at the Louvre, and President of the Paris Société de Chronométrie, he is the author of a treatise on watchmaking, Le Traité d’Horlogerie (1848), which quickly became the definitive reference work for the profession. Not content to set down the theory of horological science, Louis Moinet, who worked regularly with Abraham-Louis Breguet, was an innovative watchmaker who developed a new type of balance, a counter, a regulator and an astronomical watch. Hardly surprising, in this light, that his customers should have included such illustrious figures as Napoleon, Thomas Jefferson and King George IV.
Jules Verne as a reference
With such a rich history to build on, Louis Moinet has gone beyond even its Meteoris. This year the brand is also presenting the Tempograph, produced in conjunction with Exidel in Moutier. Unique in its kind, its ten-second retrograde display is visible inside a case that comprises no fewer than fifty components. No less astonishing are the Jules Verne Instruments 1 and 2 whose chronographs, developed by Arola on a Valjoux base, are lever-operated. Instrument 1 has a second time zone and Instrument 2 a split-seconds function. Each of their cases incorporates a piece of moon stone at 9 o’clock, a reference to the Jules Verne novel “From the Earth to the Moon” whose rights Louis Moinet now holds, following an agreement with the author’s last descendent. With an entry-level price of CHF 8,900 (€6,000) for models in steel, Louis Moinet clearly intends positioning itself at an affordable level for fans of original timepieces, produced as limited editions.