Time is so complicated
At first glance, Harry Winston's new technological wonder - the Opus 11 - looks more like a lethal James Bond secret weapon than a timepiece. Bearing 566 moving components and a case and dial so complex that it defies measurement, the timepiece that was created by Manufacture Contemporaine du Temps' founder Denis Giguet, in collaboration with Harry Winston, is - as its name suggests - the 11th in the Opus series.
More than a decade ago, the famous American jeweller started the Opus series where it would work with one leading watchmaker every year to produce a revolutionary timepiece. The dial itself takes complications to new heights - there really isn't a dial but, instead, 24 rotating plates do their thing for close to 60 minutes and then go into an anarchical jig to deconstruct and then come together again to show the hour with four plates in the centre of the dial.
The transparent display on the back of the gold case reveals a manually wound movement in the style of the old pocket watch movement, with a big balance wheel. It is, as its inventor says, 'a very complicated way to show the simple time'.
Despite its complexity, Giguet says his inspiration for the watch comes from a simple source: the sight of shoals of fish swimming in the ocean. 'The idea was how to expose the time, but it's not easy to find a new system that is different,' Giguet says. 'Then I thought of the fish swimming together in a shoal. When something comes to disturb them, they swim in different directions, then they come back together again. After that, we just had to calculate to make it more mechanical.' Work began on the movement about 19 months ago once they decided on the idea for the watch. The case itself was another challenge for the watch engineers, Giguet says. 'It's the most complicated case you can see with the sapphire dome and flying display. The case is really an important part of the project because it represents Harry Winston's DNA, with the off-centre time and the free area.'
The watch, featuring a power reserve of 48 hours, comes in a limited edition of 111 pieces, 11 of which will have gem settings.
Besides the Opus 11, Harry Winston also introduced the new, elegant Midnight Collection with four references. The masculine versions come with a 42mm case.
The Midnight Big Date also houses a self-winding movement and comes with a black or silver-toned dial featuring a circular guilloche pattern and a sunburst satin-brushed hour circle ex-centred at 12 o'clock. A porthole with twin apertures at 6 o'clock displays the big date. A single diamond is perched above the large date, a reminder of Mr Winston's habit of keeping a gem in his pocket for the pleasure of rolling it between his fingers.
For the ladies, the quartz Midnight Midsize comes in a 32mm rose or white gold case and has similar options for the dial, while the Midnight Large comes in a similar 39mm case. The 12, 3, 6 and 9 o'clock indices are set with three brilliant-cut diamonds. Both watches come with an option of a fully paved bezel set with brilliant-cut diamonds.
In the high jewellery, Jewels That Tell Time, collection this year are also two secret watches - the Rosebud and the Rendezvous. The versatile Rosebud, featuring a quartz movement, can also separately be worn as a brooch or a pendant and comes with a white gold chain, a foulard and a satin strap. The snap link for the chain and the buckle for the strap are set with 12 and 29 brilliant-cut diamonds, respectively, while the watch is set with 16 baguette-cut, 12 pear-cut and 126 brilliant-cut diamonds, making a total weight of 6.9kt.
The Rendezvous, which comes in a platinum casing with a fully pave dial, is set with 88.88kt of diamonds.
While Harry Winston is predominantly a jeweller, the US brand has placed strong focus on its watch business as well, with significant investments including the purchase of its own Swiss manufacture in 2007.
This year's collections demonstrate Harry Winston's talent for the extremes, says Harry Winston CEO Frederic de Narp. 'Harry Winston is a brand of the extremes. We have the best of craftsmanship and you can see that with the Rendezvous, which is the most extravagant Harry Winston piece with a secret watch. At the same time, we have the refined, elegant watch for ladies in the Midnight collection. For men, you have the thin, ultra-design and sober references. And for the ultra-technology, we have the Opus 11, which is the thickest watch but took 14,000 man hours to make,' de Narp says.
Like other watch brands, Harry Winston is also keeping a close eye on the Chinese market. 'The Chinese want the best. Nothing is too big, too beautiful and too expensive. It's just 'tell us what is the best'. It's a perfect fit between the Chinese culture and Harry Winston. We were the first brand in 1996 to go to the Forbidden City, and now it's like going back to China with the full power and full creativity of the brand,' de Narp says.
'I met a customer there who has 400 watches in his collection and he told me that Harry Winston had the same status in his collection as brands that had taken 250 years,' he says. 'It was the best compliment for me. That told me our mission. We have to go big on watches. We had to invest.'