It’s very rare that I am surprised by a new watch. Every day, I see tens of timepieces all vying for the spotlight with claims of ‘heritage’, ‘history’ or groundbreaking technology. Unsurprisingly, very few such watches are memorable and even fewer actually change the watch industry. Rarest of all, however, are watches which leave me entirely lost for words. Examples of this wonderful phenomenon include the Credor Eichi II and the A. Lange & Söhne 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst. Today, another has been added to this exclusive list: the Atelier de Chronométrie AdC #8.
“So, what’s different about this watch?” I hear you ask. Well, it is (in this journalist’s opinion) nothing less than the finest fusion of the past and present of the high horology industry to make a product of absolute beauty.
Based in Barcelona, Atelier de Chronométrie is a very small company specialising in the creation of modern watches with redesigned, exquisitely decorated and perfectly prepared vintage movements. Previous watches made by the brand have included the Omega cal. 266-powered AdC #88 and the AdC #4 with a rotating cloisonné enamel dial.
Atelier de Chronométrie’s First Chronograph
The most recent release from this brand adds more complication than we are used to: a rattrapante (split-second) chronograph and the first chronograph from this brand. Powered by a Venus 185, a no-doubt luxurious movement produced from the late 1940s until the early 1960s, which is not considerably mechanically improved by Atelier de Chronométrie but instead lavished with spectacular care for both aesthetics and functionality. I’ll come back to this particular point later in the article.
Surrounding the movement is an 18k grey gold case with the most stunning soldered teardrop lugs. Unsurprisingly for a watch with a very classic appearance, the predominant finish is a lustrous polish whilst details such as the sides of the pushers, crown top and lug backs are finely brushed. The dimensions of the case are also augmented by comparison to older chronographs with a 39.8 mm diameter and a 15 mm thickness. The latter measurement is pleasingly neutralised by very aggressively down-turned lugs and a concave bezel to draw allow the case side to be less of an ergonomic worry and more of a work of art. Topping off the package are sapphire crystals on the top and bottom to create a mix of modernity and tradition comparable to a Patek Philippe 3970.
A Dial from the 1940s
Beneath the crystal are a dial and handset to die for. Beginning with the base, this dial features a black, galvanic treatment to give a firm but undeniably elegant colour. The surface features engine-turned concentric rings for the sub-dials and, most pleasingly, some of the most stunning ‘gilt’ silver printing I have seen. As a side note, engine-turned rings on a dial are produced through a much lengthier and more difficult process than stamping and are rather similar to a guilloché dial. To add to all of this, the numerals chosen are Breguet-style Arabic numerals which reflect the curves of the case and are applied to the dial. Most wonderfully, the dial adopts the sectors of many historic chronographs and places the underrated complication of a pulsometer on the outer rim.
Next, let’s take a look at the handset. As with most rattrapante chronographs, the Atelier de Chronométrie AdC #8 features seven hands to display the time, the chronograph timing and one additional second hand for the split-second function. Even so and in spite of its entirely conventional dial arrangement, the AdC #8 continues its creation of an utterly stunning timepiece with finishing to die for.
Curving towards the dial, the grey gold leaf hands of this watch are exquisitely rounded and shaped. To add to the effectiveness of the split-second function and its legibility whilst avoiding all inelegance, the top of the rattrapante hand, usually hidden under the primary second hand, has a flat, brushed top. The effect of this choice is that the hands unite seamlessly as one when used as a conventional chronograph yet are visually differentiated when separated.
Whilst the execution of this watch is genuinely beautiful, let’s not deny that the movement its heart is at least half the appeal. Inside this watch, as stated at the beginning of this article, is a variant of the Venus 185 manual chronograph. Anyone who has previously witnessed the work of the Atelier de Chronométrie will be aware that they specialise in the restoration and improvement of historic movements. In the case of the AdC #8, we see the same story yet, due to this movement’s similarity to the manual chronographs produced by Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin and A. Lange & Söhne, we are given a more direct illustration of the level of finishing offered by this Spanish brand.
With 23 jewels, a beat rate of 18,000 vph and a power reserve of only 36 hours, it is immediately obvious that we are dealing with a rather traditional movement. The execution, however, is entirely modern in its appeal to today’s high expectations of haute horlogerie movement finishing. Interestingly, the Atelier de Chronométrie have added different materials to the construction of their Venus 185 with 18k pink gold and rhodium plating, a steel anchor bridge and a titanium rattrapante wheel which forms the brand’s logo in the middle of the movement.
There is also plenty of traditional work too in the thermally blued screws, rose gold chatons to hold the jewels and a free-sprung balance with six movable weights to regulate the timekeeping. Even so, its the finishing and the overall architecture of the movement which it elevates which makes the view through the exhibition case back so awe-inspiring.
Every movement edge including the very tightest of inside edges has been used to display flawless anglage. It is also important to realise that the number of such edges, courtesy of the complexity of a split-second chronograph, is truly enormous when one accounts for every lever, bridge and even the internal angles of wheel spokes. To top off this veritable feast for the eyes is extensive black polishing and graining to pick out key components of this watch’s complex movement. Altogether, of the 280 components of this movement, 50 pieces are entirely new and have been produced by hand whilst the remaining 230 have been refinished or modified in-house.
The Whole Package
Something to consider is that, whilst this watch is a unique piece produced for a collector over the past two years, this is also a demonstration of what can be achieved by this brand. Indeed, they do not only offer this watch as a rattrapante chronograph but, for €15,000 less, they also offer it as a bicompax chronograph for desiring a more simple timepiece.
In any case, the AdC #8 is a very curious offering. It combines a package closer to a luxury 1940s chronograph than Swiss competitors with the very best of modern quality and finishing. To be perfectly honest, it’s incredibly difficult to think of anything wrong with this chronograph since it not only is a wonderful piece in its own right but is also a bespoke watch. That certainly isn’t something you see from Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin or A. Lange & Söhne.
- Dimensions: 38.9mm x 15mm
- Material: 18k Grey Gold
- Crystal: Domed Sapphire
- Display: Black Galvanic Gilt Dial / Silvered Print / Tricompax Layout with Rattrapante Seconds / Pulsometer / Applied Breguet Arabic Numerals / Engine Turned Sub-Dials
- Water Resistance: 30 m / 100 ft / 3 ATM
- Movement: Base Venus 185: Time & Rattrapante Chronograph / Manually Wound / 280 components (50 unique to this watch) / Column Wheel (double) and Lateral Clutch / 2.5 Hz, 18,000 vph, 4 ticks-per-second / 36-hour power reserve