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Power Watches

A watch is more than the sum of its parts, and the right timepiece signals that you're a force to be reckoned with
Elizabeth Doerr
From the Print Edition:
Tom Selleck, Nov/Dec 2007

(continued from page 1)

The powerful case shapes and stately dimensions of Roger Dubuis's timepieces are matched only by their exquisite mechanical movements and myriad of high complications, and their accessibility to the average consumer is the sheer genius of Dias and his designs. The Excalibur Chronograph illustrates the point perfectly.

Audemars Piguet, one of the oldest brands in this illustrious list of contemporary manufacturers, might have the widest collection to choose from. With complications as difficult and rare as the equation of time—a dial that displays the difference between the current mean time and solar time—and watches that show the amount of torque left in their mainsprings, this company offers timepieces for consumers looking for luxury, rarity and a grand name.

However, it is the Royal Oak that has become a power watch of utmost renown. Going along with the times, it has increased in size and visibility, even gracing the wrists of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who collaborated with the venerable brand to co-design a limited-edition timepiece bearing his name. Although the recently introduced forged carbon fiber version of the chronograph is perhaps the most technically advanced, it's the red-gold and black-rubber version introduced a few years ago that remains a classic power watch.

Panerai has also made a name for itself among financially and physically powerful men. Sylvester Stallone, another Hollywood heavyweight, was involved in this legendary brand's rise to fame in the mid-1990s. Stallone fell for the Panerai Luminor, which at the time was a rare model made by a little-known brand. The brand was soon purchased by the Vendôme Group—now Richemont, the largest luxury watch group in the watch industry—and given a new lease on life. Stallone was so taken with the brand and its long and heroic history (Panerai had supplied watches to the Italian navy in the 1930s) that he ordered a set of watches for himself and friends. This limited-edition Slytech is one of the industry's legendary watches and helped Panerai attain insider status. Thanks to its oversized simplicity, the Radiomir model has also become a name known among the general populace.

Franck Muller was among the first to create watches that could be identified as power watches in a modern sense. Muller was a remarkable watchmaker who came of age in the early 1980s. At the time, his incredible horological feats earned him a reputation like no other among watch connoisseurs in an industry that had been brought to its knees by Japanese quartz offerings. Muller's large watches were Art Deco in style and instantly recognizable during the 1980s and early 1990s. Still large and recognizable, and now famous, Franck Muller's Cintrée Curvex line continues to exude a power all its own.

Three newcomers are also proving their impressive prowess on wrists of men. Hautlence, the product of two young, ambitious and experienced watch industry veterans, is a brand that is powerful and sporty, but has an aura of cerebral mechanics thanks to the unique functions among its watches. (One such function allows an hour disk to be propelled forward by the brand's own "connecting rod," which is set into motion when the minute hand reaches the end of its retrograde arc.) While this brand's first effort was a little more elegant in style, the new version of the HL—called the HLS—is a sportier timepiece in a chunkier case that can hardly be missed. These watches are extremely limited—only 350 have been delivered since the company's founding three years ago—guaranteeing powerful exclusivity.

Another newcomer is Romain Jerome, spearheaded by Yvan Arpa, an industry veteran who became CEO of the three-year-old watchmaker in August. Using "Titanic DNA," as the company calls it, Arpa has produced a sandwich-construction case of masculine size that can look rusty or not, depending on the desired alloy. Alongside the knowledge that this alloy contains metal taken from the sunken Titanic (retrieved by divers in the 1980s), the cool look of this technically demanding timepiece is unbeatable. Romain Jerome's Titanic-based timepieces are limited to 2,012 pieces per model—a number that denotes the hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the ill-fated cruise ship. "You wear a piece of real history on the wrist," Arpa smilingly confirms.

Equally as adventurous are the timepieces created by Bernard Richards, a French designer located outside Paris. Four years ago he founded B.R.M, a sporty line of unusual timepieces that look as if they could speed off your wrist at any moment. The stately size of these watches, with a unique va-va-voom design, has captured the hearts of men looking for something different. While each B.R.M has its own powerful charm, it is the technically demanding Birotor that is the star of the collection.

Cool Elegance
While the above-mentioned watches make an immediate and bold declaration on the wrist, there are power watches that make a less in-your-face statement. These have a bit of understatement more typical of European culture that ensures they never go out of style.

A. Lange & Söhne, a German brand based in the historic watch city of Glashütte, created the Lange 1, an elegant power watch, when it was re-founded in 1994. Though this model has experienced a number of interesting evolutions, it is the original Lange 1 that remains so fascinating with its off-center displays and large double-digit date—one that kicked off a whole new trend in watchmaking. "German watchmaking was in a Sleeping Beauty —like sleep for many years," says Fabian Krone, CEO of A. Lange & Söhne. "It is now a very passionate arm of the art of watchmaking, committed to a very honest type of horology and craftsmanship. In the last 15 years, German watchmaking has been more about craftsmanship, a certain honesty and technical progression, while remaining 'German.'" What Krone explains here is a lot like what people experience when thinking of a German-made automobile. It is the solidity of the chassis, the honed beauty of the overall design that is neither showy nor flashy, and the time-honored quality that becomes tangible upon touching the object.

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