By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
For some people, a watch is nothing more than a convenient body adornment that comes in handy for not missing the bus or being on time for a business meeting.
For others, it is a precision mechanical instrument that represents a legacy of artistic expression and creative engineering that serves as a personal statement of who the wearer is and what they stand for.
It is for this second select group of horophiles (the proper term for timepiece enthusiasts) that the high-end watch and time-keeping device distributor Attila México presented an exclusive exhibit of Alta Relojería (Precision Timepieces) the last week in August in Mexico City’s upscale Colonia Polanco.
The exhibit included a display of the latest handcrafted luxury clocks and watches by five of Switzerland’s most elite and distinguished clockmakers, each presenting one-of-a-kind masterpieces of chronometric art that ran in value from a modest $20,000 to a don’t-dare-to-wear-this-without-an-army-of-bodyguards $360,000.
Headlining the exhibit, which was shown exclusively to deep-pocketed buyers, collectors and media and included a lavish gourmet wine- and cognac-pairing dinner, were the watches of Greubel Forsey, presented personally by Stephen Forsey, the company’s cofounder and a specialist in the intricacies of timepiece mechanics.
The star of Greubel Forsey’s 2018 collection (the brand is a relative newcomer to the horologic craft, having been founded by Forsey and his partner Robert Greubel in 2004) was the limited edition GMT Earth watch with an angled tourbillion 24 secondes vision and a built-in rotating globe.
This stunning chronometer offers a 360 degree view of the planet as seen from the North Pole as it slowly turns in sync with Earth itself.
Forsay explained that this extraordinary technical feat was accomplished as a result of an original architectural design regarding the watch’s case shape and dimensions and the incorporation of a complex application of sapphire crystals.
No less impressive were the multifaceted timepieces presented by Rolf Van Kleef, sales director of Bovet, one of the grandes dames of time sculptors.
Bovet, which has been around since 1822, was promoting its stately Gran Récital 22 watch, the third and final installment of its Récital collection, which began in 2016 with the Récital 18 Shooting Star Tourbillon, followed by the Récital 20 Astérium last year.
Van Kleef noted that the ultra-precise Gran Récital 22 serves as a horological tellurium, and includes a hemispherical, birds-eye view of Earth at 12 o’clock and a flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock, as well as an orbiting spherical moon that follows a synodic 29.53-day period.
Next up at the Attila exhibit were the latest timekeeping magnum opuses of L’Epeé, whose CEO Arnaud Nicolas was on hand to explain the pieces’ inspirations and inner workings.
Nicolas has taken the L’Epée label and rebranded it with his own quirky style, transforming classic Swiss design clocks into modernesque sci-fi rocket ships, Jules Verne time machines and abstract floating hot air balloons.
Drawing on his childhood fantasies and personal obsession with science fiction, Nicolas has also created several skull-shaped table clocks and a mammoth-sized spider clock for arachnophiles.
And just to appease those traditionalists in the midst, Nicolas included one example of the classic glass and bronze boxed L’Epée clock that has been emblemic of the company since its founding in 1839.
Also among the more bizarre timepieces in the exhibit were some of the robotic and futuristic creations of MB&F, a brand which, having only been around since 2005, represented the newbie on the block.
Julien Rolao, the company’s brand manager in Mexico, readily admitted that these pricey mechanical toys for adults, conceived in a horological lab where basically anything goes when it comes to clockmaking, were tailored to peculiar tastes.
In addition to strangely formed watches (some with tiny Wall-E-like faces, others that looked like miniature pinball machines), there were two jellyfish-shaped table clocks that Rolao said were inspired by Maximilian Büsser’s (the company’s founder) wife’s painful misadventures at a beach.
Interestingly, Rolao pointed out that MB&F sells about 15 watches a year in Mexico, out of a total annual production of just 200 timepieces.
He also mentioned the fact that MB&F donated a special edition watch after Mexico’s devastating Sept. 19 earthquake last year, with all the proceeds – about $40,000 – going to help rebuild a children’s hospital in the south of Mexico City managed by the Duerme Bien Foundation.
Last, but by no means least, of the timepieces displayed at the Attila showroom were the 2018 designs of Zenith, which were presented by the brand’s international commercial director, Nicolas Meda.
Zenith has been producing “haute time” precision watches since 1865, and its premiere watch is the El Primero, incorporating the world’s first integrated, automatic chronograph movement, which balances oscillate at a frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour, allowing it to measure time up to a tenth of a second.
This year, Zenith has introduced the Defy El Primero 21, with a revolutionary monolithic silicon oscillator that moves contrary to the traditional balance wheel, anchor and hairspring that have been responsible for precision timekeeping in wristwatches for centuries.
The Defy Lab also has a case made from aeronith, the world’s lightest aluminum composite material, constituting yet another first for a wristwatch.
All of the watches presented at the Attila exhibit are now available for sale in Mexico (if you are willing to drop a Fort Knox-worthy fortune to purchase them), either directly through the designers or through select distributors, including Attila México.