Imagine building a complicated mechanical wristwatch completely by hand to enter a competition of artisanal crafts. Your competitor? Cheese! That is the story of Sylvain Pinaud in a VERY exaggerated nutshell, but we’ll elaborate on that. The result of his efforts is impressive though: a very modern-looking, hand-built monopusher chronograph. We had time to meet the maker himself and go hands-on with Sylvain Pinaud’s Chronograph Monopoussoir.
The competition needs a little explaining, but the statement that he was competing against cheese is true, in a way. Every four years, since its conception in 1924, the best artisanal craftsmen of France are eligible to compete for the title of “Un des Meilleurs Ouvriers de France” (Editor’s note: This competition, translated as “One of the Best Craftsmen of France” covers a vast range of crafts including clothing, leather, pottery, glasswork, marquetry, cheese and precision techniques.) In May of this year, Mr Sylvain Pinaud was awarded the top prize in the ‘precision techniques’ category.
Sylvain Pinaud, son of a clockmaker was born in France but only recently made the move to Sainte-Croix, Switzerland. His goal is to establish himself as an independent watchmaker, and by the look of his first watch, he knows what he is doing! His father specialised in the restoration of antique clocks, so Sylvain has the right kind of upbringing to back up his ambition. Couple that with his work as a restorer of watches at Domonique Mouret and prototyping projects for the watch industry, it’s only natural to eventually start your own brand.
Sylvain’s first creation is as intriguing as it is complicated: a mostly hand-built Chronograph Monopoussoir in a very contemporary titanium case. The watch uses the geartrain and escapement of a familiar friend, the ETA 6497. This manually wound movement is not overly impressive of course, so turning it into this is no small feat! The competition for which Sylvain made this Chronograph Monopoussoir dictates that only artisanal crafts can be utilised, so except for a very few parts, everything is done by hand.
Considering that the ETA 6497 movement is a long way from being a chronograph movement, Sylvain had his work cut out for him. A total of 98 new parts were made, most of which were made by hand and only a small number with the help of a CNC machine. The construction of the chronograph needed 55 specially handcrafted parts, including a traditional horizontal clutch with column wheel. The chronograph is entirely visible on the dial side of the watch. Sapphire sub-dials obscure the movement as little as possible, with all the handmade and finished parts in full view. Chamfering, polishing, tempering and blueing are all done by hand by Sylvain. Other finishing techniques include hand-bevelled edges, mirror polishing, circular graining on the wheels, straight graining on the upper bridge, and more.
The unusual construction of the case allows for a close look into the movement so there’s no hiding mistakes or shortcuts. The case is made of a caseback which includes the lugs, and the screwed-down bezel. Four screws sandwich a sapphire caseband in between the bezel and the back. This unusual design gives it a sense of openness far beyond a regular skeletonized watch. Touches like the contrast between hands, running gear and bridges and plates, or even the aligned slots in the screws make it a very appealing watch to handle.
Time is indicated on the sub-dial at 12 o’clock, with the hours and minutes, and the running seconds on the small sapphire disc at 9 o’clock. The chronograph is indicated through the centrally mounted hand-blued seconds counter and the 45 minute counter displayed on the sapphire sub-dial at 3 o’clock.
The movement will run for about 45 hours on a full wind through the crown at 3 o’clock. This crown also includes the single pusher for the chronograph. Pushing this will set in motion the levers, gears and wheels for the chronograph. The layout is inspired by marine chronometers, with the chronograph complication constructed in the bottom half of the movement. The balance wheel, beating at a 2.5Hz frequency (18,000 vibrations per hour), is visible through an aperture in the caseback. In the pictures, this caseback is exempt of any engraving, as the competition it was created for dictates no visible sign to a maker or a brand. It is about the product and the product only. The production version, produced in very limited numbers, will include some engraving on the back and “Sylvain Pinaud” on the dial side of the watch.
The Sylvain Pinaud Monopoussoir Chronograph is an extraordinary watch, which displays Sylvain’s talent very well. Admittedly, the unusual design of the watch is not for everyone but taking into consideration the story behind it, it is exceptional and positively different. It will be produced in very limited quantities, only two or three per year will be built, a consequence of the amount of labour going into each one. Additionally, personalisation is possible. The price for the Sylvain Pinaud Monopoussoir Chronograph is CHF 78,000 in titanium and CHF 88,000 in gold.
For more information, please visit Sylvain-Pinaud.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.