— The Replica Watches movement, up close and personal. Away with dials and metal: it’s all about transparency, visual delights and majestic mechanics!
When the heart is beautiful, it should be revealed. A movement featuring carefully designed structures, volume and graphic impact simply cannot remain hidden inside a solid metal case-back and beneath a dial that conceals its inner workings. There is definitely a groundswell pushing mechanics outwards, to meet the gaze of its admirers. The watch is more than ever a jewel box framing what is going on inside. There is thus a tendency to set the stage for movements, treating them like actors treading the boards to declaim a script in the bright light of the projectors that bares their very soul…
Glorifying mechanical beauty means transparency. The more special, rare and powerful a movement, the more it deserves to be unveiled as fully as possible. The first step has been firmly taken with transparent sapphire crystals that have become the norm. Stepping things up to the next level involves making the most of different viewpoints, various angles. For example, Jaquet Droz uses a sapphire ‘observatory dome’ affording a broad view of the songbird gracing its Charming Bird model, and also constituting the cage that prevents it from flying off.
Another solution is skeleton working that replaces matter with air. There are indeed several ways of reducing the density of a movement and several means of implementing this technique. The more you streamline and pare down a mechanism to essentials, the more light streams through it. Bovet’s endeavours to produce calibres full of empty spaces are remarkable in this respect, as too are those of Cartier epitomised in its Tank Louis Cartier Skeleton Sapphire.
A third approach involves providing additional openings for the light. Blancpain quickly adopted this idea with its L-Evolution Carrousel Saphir Volant. The entire middle of its case, the ring held between the bezel and the back, is completely made of sapphire – as indeed is the movement baseplate itself. The movement thus floats between two layers of air and can be observed from all directions. Corum uses much the same principle to exalt the beauty of its baguette-type calibre: the Golden Bridge literally turns the spotlights on this all-gold, entirely linear calibre from every angle.
The structural integrity of these watches is nonetheless still based on the rigidity of the steel or gold undergirding, however slender. The movement of these models is viewed through a window. The most luminous architectural creations are on the other hand completely transparent, which is why Richard Mille became the first to introduce an all-sapphire, fully see-through case. The RM 56-01 model offers a 360-degree view of the mechanism. The complex shapes of the brand’s cases transformed this aesthetic objective into a colossal technical challenge, since it takes thousands of hours of machining to cut out the sapphire blocks required for this dramatically theatrical creation.