What happens when you take Louis Cottier’s world time complication, add a dose of refined Singaporean taste and passion for craftsmanship and entrust the project to a venerable master independent watchmaker like Svend Andersen? The answer is this delightful Celestial Voyager with a cloisonné dial inspired by the flight of hot air balloons over Cappadocia. Marking the second chapter of BCHH and Andersen Genève’s Celestial Voyager of 2021, the latest world time watch is an anthology of exquisite mechanics, sophisticated artisanal crafts and the soaring imagination of Benjamin Chee. Limited to 10 pieces and lavishly decorated and finished by hand, each watch is a unique miniature work of art.
One man, three brands
You might not be familiar with his name, but Benjamin Chee, the reputed Singaporean vintage watch collector turned entrepreneur is the man behind three different watch brands. Chee’s appetite for fine watches has resulted in the foundation of three brands with three very different proposals. Celadon, founded in 2012, is the Chinese representative of Chee’s three brands. Milléchron, founded in 2018, has a mix of Art Deco-inspired models and dressy sports watches, and Benjamin Chee Haute Horlogerie (BCHH), his flagship brand founded in 2019, is home to models like the stunning BCHH x Andersen Genève Celestial Voyager with a cloisonné enamel dial released last year. His flagship BCHH is based in Switzerland, where Chee has teamed up with the Danish master watchmaker Svend Andersen to create another edition of the beautiful BCHH Celestial Voyager, “Sunset over Cappadocia”.
Master watchmaker Svend Andersen co-founded the AHCI – Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants – in 1985, an association to support the art of independent watch and clock makers. Instrumental in helping a new generation of indie watchmakers develop their own brands, just about every name we associate with the indie scene is a proud member of the AHCI. Andersen Genève, founded by Svend in 1980 after a nine-year stint at Patek Philippe, has recruited and trained some of the biggest names in watchmaking today and welcomes collectors to make their dream watch come true. While working at Patek’s Atelier des Grandes Complications, Sven Andersen became familiar with the world time complication developed by Louis Cottier in 1930 and paid tribute to the master with his first world time watch in 1989.
To make some of his dreams for BCHH come true, Benjamin Chee turned to Andersen Genève. The result, the Celestial Voyager, also marked a first for Andersen Genève with its cloisonné enamel dial and first-ever world timer with a city ring made of aventurine.
Sunset over Cappadocia
Cappadocia, located in Central Anatolia, is famous for its surreal landscape of fairy chimneys, underground cities and caves and temples carved into the rock. The incredible landscape is a major tourist attraction in Turkey, and hot air balloon rides are a wonderful way of viewing the scenery in Cappadocia.
Before looking at the extensive enamelling work on the dials, it’s worth mentioning that the case is identical in size, proportion and finishings to the earlier edition. Made of platinum with graceful arching “ailes d’aigle” (eagle wings) lugs soldered onto the case, the case has a diameter of 37.7mm and a slim height of 10.1mm (including the sapphire crystal). Finished by hand, the case displays satin brushing on the sides and a polished bezel and lugs. Following the twin-crown architecture found on Svend Andersen’s Mundus world time watch, the crown at 9 o’clock with the BCHH seal is to adjust the city ring, the one at 3 o’clock, with the Andersen logo, is used to set the time.
Given the handcrafted cloisonné enamelling decorating the dial and the different background colours of the scenery and patterns on the balloons, each of the ten watches produced is unique. Cloisonné enamelling is a complex three-part process. First, the flat gold strips, cut from more than a metre of gold wire, are used to outline the image and have to be soldered onto the surface of the dial, creating the miniature cells. As you can see from the photographs, the artist has a minimal space to work on, roughly the size of a ½ franc Swiss coin (18mm diameter). Once the outline has been created, the artist has to select a colour palette and apply any of the 20 different vitreous enamel colours into the tiny cells with the help of a thin natural bristle brush. Handcrafted in La Chaux-de-Fonds, the dial is then fired up to 20 times in the kiln and polished to achieve a smooth, uniform texture.
The nine balloons floating over Cappadocia in the centre of the dial are surrounded by a rotating 24-hour ring with a gold Sun and Moon and a scintillating aventurine city ring with Cappadocia picked out in rose gold. To ensure the hands do not obstruct the beautiful central cloisonné disc, the gold leaf-style hands with a cream finish are skeletonised.
Svend Andersen’s dexterity with the world time complication has materialised in five separate editions – Communication, Christopher Columbus, Mundus, 1884, and Tempus Terrae –and details of these models have been incorporated inside the BCHH Celestial Voyager. For example, the BlueGold engine-turned guilloché rotor is drawn from the Tempus Terrae, and the embedded symmetrical crowns are drawn from the Mundus, the thinnest world time watch in history.
Like the first edition, the BCHH Celestial Voyager is equipped with a vintage movement and fitted with a proprietary world time module. Lovingly restored and hand-decorated by Andersen Genève, the base movement is a calibre AS 1876 sourced from a company named A. Schild S.A., which was active until the 1970s. The automatic movement runs at 3Hz and delivers a power supply of 40 hours. The decorative touches include the 21k BlueGold rotor with a guilloché scale pattern. Since the blue colour is obtained by heating the gold in an oven, no two rotors will ever be identical. Another distinctive feature is the mother-of-pearl caseback ring engraved with “Benjamin Chee Haute Horlogerie by Andersen Genève”.
Hand-finishings abound in the movement, including anglage and Geneva stripes. The ratchet and crown wheels are also hand-chamfered and mirror-polished, while all the visible surfaces of the wheels are decorated with snailing and circular graining.
Availability & Price
There are three colour options for this edition, Jubilant (the one we have photographed), Romantic and Serene. In addition, practically every aspect of the watch can be customised, from the city names to the image on the enamel dial and the guilloché pattern on the rotor. The BCHH x Andersen Genève Celestial Voyager “Sunset over Cappadocia” is a limited edition of 10 watches. Each watch comes with a hand-stitched alligator leather strap with a platinum buckle and retails for CHF 58,800.
More information at bchh.ch.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.