At a glance, you may see in the Harry Winston Opus 12 a conventional watch and wonder what you’re spending your $270,300 for, but a closer inspection reveals an ingenious time display—a hallmark of Opus models—with a nod to Copernicus. Launched in 2000, Winston’s Opus collection pairs visionary independent watchmakers with the brand’s substantial resources to produce innovative and imaginative limited-edition watches that captivate elite collectors. “The Opus timepieces represent the essence of contemporary high-end watchmaking with an amazing mix of daring technological challenges and deeply rooted emotions,” says Frédéric de Narp, the brand’s president and CEO, who acknowledges Opus’s role in building Winston’s horological street cred.
This year’s model is the brainchild of Emmanuel Bouchet, who collaborated with designer Augustin Nussbaum, and Winston’s team. Bouchet drew inspiration from the Copernican theory that the earth orbits the sun while spinning on its own axis. Rather than using traditional hands mounted on a central axis, Opus 12 displays the time with 12 pairs of peripheral hands that are blued on one side. Each long hand, which indicates five-minute intervals, rotates on its axis, while a short hand that indicates the hour orbits the long hand appearing either above or beneath it depending on the time. Each hand is connected to a driving wheel that is activated by two toothed crown wheels turning around the dial—causing the hands to pivot to their blue sides to display the current time.
A retrograde hand, synchronized with the main minutes hand, counts down the-five minute intervals, then flies back to its starting position while the designated five-minutes hand simultaneously pivots to its neutral side as the next flips to blue. But the real show happens with the turning of each hour, when the hour hands revolve around the five-minute hands in rapid succession, creating a parade of blue flashes around the dial in a spectacle reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower’s hourly light show.
“One of the biggest challenges was the synchronization of the 24 hands and the reduction of the energy requirements,” explains de Narp, who adds that the piece was in development for more than two years. “I was absolutely blown away when I finally saw this timepiece go into action.”