Any new venture can be daunting and creating a watch from scratch is no exception, yet this is the route Anouk Danthe and Olivier Leu have chosen to take. They wanted their first watch to encompass heritage and innovation, to combine a complex movement with a sleek line, and have a visible mechanism that wouldn’t distract from the legibility of the dial. A horological squaring the circle, so to speak. And yet the result is on a par with these specifications. The symbolically-named Revelation is unique in that the movement is revealed thanks to a polarisation effect when the bezel is lifted.
This system, which recalls the secret watches of the past, is like a car bonnet which covers the engine when closed. When the bezel is in place, the movement is hidden and the time can be read. When the bezel is raised, the complex mechanics are revealed for us to admire. And this is not just any kind of complex, as the movement for this maiden Revelation features a Tourbillon Manège, a third type of rotating regulating system after the Breguet tourbillon and the karussel. No doubt it will fuel the debate on these different concepts, the realisations they encompass, and the respective advantages of each one.
A case that links movement and exterior
For Anouk Danthe and Olivier Leu, however, their main concern was to bring into being a timepiece which many would have written off as complete madness before the idea even left the drawing board. The case is a complication in itself, in that it couldn’t be designed as a separate part, given its role as a link between the mechanism and the exterior. “This essential function introduced an additional complexity, as generally these two dimensions don’t interact,” Anouk Danthe explains. “We had to sit down with movement designers and case constructors to decide how this could be done, correlating maximum tolerances for machining, for example. A challenge in itself.” The result is that each case is individually CNC-machined from a kilo and a half of gold, for a final weight of 154 grams. The 71 parts include two small posts known as “reconciliation pieces” which compensate for tiny discrepancies in machining.
Revelation owes its second feat of technicity – how the heart of the watch is revealed when the bezel is lifted – to an optical system based on the combined rotation of two polarising glasses. It is the brainchild of the Centre Suisse d’Electronique et de Microtechnique (CSEM). “This combination of two polarising filters conditions the direction of the light, which can or cannot pass through these filters depending on how the nanometric microstructures that make up their surface are superimposed,” Revelation’s designers explain. This is the principle behind the Revelation System® of two polarising discs mounted one on the other. The first remains immobile while the second pivots 90° when the bezel is opened by means of an Archimedes screw. The screw itself is coupled to a differential gear which drives the crystal inside a ring. Hence the vertical movement of the bezel opening is transformed into a rotational movement.
Regulating organs on a moving arm
Needless to say, a case that reserves its most intimate secrets for a chosen few could hardly content itself with a standard calibre. Willy Meier, the independent engineer behind the Revelation System®, set about designing nothing less than an unprecedented complication: the Tourbillon Manège. He explains: “The constructors named this particular configuration “Manège” after the manège or fairground carousel where the cars and horses are attached to a rotating platform. Here, the organs that distribute and regulate energy, i.e. the balance, pallet lever, escape wheel and pinion, are mounted on a moving arm, which is the bridge of the Tourbillon Manège. This bridge is sandwiched between two wheels which are mounted on the central axis. Much like a fourth wheel, this unique system transfers the power supplied by the four barrels via a conventional gear train. This pair of gears which causes the Tourbillon Manège to rotate has been calculated to make a revolution in one minute which, as with the traditional tourbillon, compensates for errors of rate. An 18k gold ingot of 0.444 grams, mounted on one end of the Tourbillon bridge, serves as a counterweight to the regulating system at the opposite end, for optimal functioning.”
The final distinction is the beauty of this timepiece, evident down to the smallest details of its movement. “The fact we were behind the concept for the watch meant we could be involved at every stage of its creation,” Olivier Leu observes. “We contributed to the technical aspects and worked extensively on the components’ design, including the calibre and its escapement.” It is this “signature” that makes Revelation identifiable at first glance and defines a concept which, with one watch per month as from the next Baselworld, verges on a one-off creation. For Anouk Danthe and Olivier Leu, however, this is only the beginning. Already, their heads are bursting with ideas to continue the range.