August 22, 2008 Romain Jerome offers unique watches that fascinate the technophile and fundamentally defy logic. We pondered earlier this year just how successful a watch could be that contains metal from the Titanic (centre of pic and famously the world’s worst peacetime maritime disaster measured in lost souls), yet the series containing metal from the ship continues to be so successful that Titanic-DNA variants are simply jumping off the drawing board and onto people’s wrists at a price normally associated with a luxury dwelling. In recent times this rare metal has been used in an exquisite “objet d’art” writing instrument, then came the logical collaboration with Cabestan for Jean François Ruchonnet’s yacht-inspired “winch” vertical Tourbillon (top left). The Day&Night; watch, however (bottom right), takes the cake for sheer outrageous “I-don’t-give-a-flying-toss” (but-really-I-do) elitism. It’s a limited edition of just nine watches costing US$300,000 apeice and all were snapped up immediately they went on sale. Here’s the kicker – the watches have no hands – they do not indicate the time in any way other than simply day and night – it’s the watch for people who are of such “independent means” that they do not care what the time is. Go figure!

Now it’s not that the Day&Night; is lacking in sophistication, comprises two tourbillions joined by a differential system – absolute world class engineering and design, with exquisite execution. The concept evolved from the friendship of Romain Jerome CEO Yvan Arpa, CEO of RJ and BNB Concept General Director Mathias Buttet and speaks volumes of the ethos of both companies.

The Tourbillon (French for whirlwind) was invented in 1795 by French watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet to enhance accuracy by countering the effects of gravity as a watch is carried, twisted and turned. These days, the tourbillon is included in elite watches to demonstrate advanced manufacturing capability.

Infinitely more practical and “watchable”, is Jean François Ruchonnet’s vertical Cabestan Tourbillon, now with Titanic-DNA too. I once sat fascinated for hours in Sydney’s Powerhouse museum contemplating a working replica of one of the original steam engines and noticed that there were several other males equally captivated with watching the magic of physics. The “winch” was inspired by yacht-building and fascinating functionality of purpose-built machinery and fits perfectly within the RJ collection. Indeed, when idle moments present themselves, the “winch” provides a portable meditative pastime in its own right. Go see for yourself.

The watch is available in six variants, one each for the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Antarctic and Arctic oceans and a sixth, dubbed the “41°43’ 55’’ N and 49°56’ 45” W –the site of the Titanic’s shipwreck.

The six interpretations can be identified by the colour of the metals they are made from - copper for the Indian Ocean, vermeil for the Antarctic, bronze for the Pacific, silver for the Atlantic, charcoal gray for the glacial expanse of the Arctic Ocean and finally deep (3,840 meters deep to be exact) black for the 41°43’ 55’’ N and 49°56’ 45’’ W timepiece.

Each RJ made with parts of the Titanic by Cabestan CL 001.1 RJ movement is characterised by its third wheel based on the design of the large wheels in the main transmission shaft of the Titanic’s engine.

The clear cover on these timepieces reveals a movement flanked by bronze plates and copper tubes sunk into the base plate. The nautical decorations are reminiscent of the machinery and piping used in the construction of liners from the period!

Last but certainly no less desirable than the Day&Night; or vertical Cabestan Tourbillon is a pen – in fact it’s somewhere between a pen and a work of art, and borrows the material, colours, and signature elements of the Titanic-inspired timepieces.

The sculpted instrument has a detailed form incorporating the shape of the famous vessel’s ventilator cowls, and a cap whose clip is shaped like one of the Titanic’s elegent staircase handrails. Its opening is covered with a sapphire crystal, revealing an 18-carat-gold fountain pen nib, artfully engraved with the image of the Titanic. The barrel of the object bears a ring of oxidized steel, born of the fusion between rusted steel from the wreck of the Titanic and steel supplied by the Harland & Wolff shipyards, where the great ship was built almost a century ago. There’s also a propeller resembling the secondary propeller of the Titanic, an ink reservoir fitted with a piston discernable through a porthole, a miniature replica of the ship’s wheelhouse mechanism on the base and steel and/or diamond rivets highlighting the instrument’s lines.

Completing the ensemble is a blown-glass inkpot filled with cuttlefish ink, formulated using a classic recipe of eras past.

The wheelhouse steering gear at the object’s base is engaged by a toothed wheel which, in turn, rotates the propeller, which moves the piston upwards, thus letting the ink be drawn into the pen nib.

Yvan Arpa, in artistic collaboration with Jean-Pierre Lépine and his son, Benjamin Lépine, brought this most uncommon writing instrument into existence, albeit in a limited edition of just 88 units.

Romain Jerome has been around just a few years. Its first watch was created in 2006 to provide well-heeled golfers with the ability to keep track of their golf score on their timepiece along the course. Quite naturally, with such an optimistic perspective on life, the watch was called the ‘Hole in One Golf Counter.’

In a time frame which mocks the centuries-old tradition of Swiss watchmaking, the company’s first and subsequent offerings have created a globally recognised brand that offers irrefutable proof that mechanical watchmaking represents a field of exploration that is still open to ingenious minds.

We applaud the company’s audacious approach and look forward to just what it might do next!

Mike Hanlon

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