I am very proud to present the first watch from Cyril Brivet-Naudot because it testifies, like the chronometer from Jean-Baptiste Viot a few years ago, the resurgence of ambitious projects in France in the segment of independent and creative watchmaking. I'm not afraid to write it: Cyril Brivet-Naudot's watch is a real French watch for several reasons. Cyril Brivet-Naudot is French, based in France (and far from the Swiss border) and is the worthy heir, on his mother's side, of a watchmakers' family. And above all the watch is almost exclusively made of French elements and components. We don't need to spend time trying to guess the network of subcontractors which could contribute to this project: Cyril Brivet-Naudot manufactures almost everything in his workshop and without the help of CNC machines. To make a long story short, I find again the Beat Haldimann's spirit in his approach, this desire to come back to the roots of watchmaking and to practice traditional gestures.
It is obviously the educational and professional career of the young French watchmaker that made him want to practice this way. After graduating from the Morteau watchmaking school, he continued his studies at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne to perfect his micro-techniques skills. At the end of his studies, Cyril Brivet-Naudot took advantage of a break to explore Asia and to open up to other cultures. Subsequently, he had the opportunity to make his first professional steps with Luc Monnet, best worker in France ("meilleur ouvrier de France") in the watchmaking field in order to devote himself mainly to the clocks and watches restoration. All the watchmakers will say it: the restoration constitutes a tremendous accelerator of acquisition of knowledge because it is the best way to concretely apprehend the traditional watchmaking and to understand the major technical evolutions which punctuated its history.
Each end of the key is used since the winding and time setting holes are not the same:
Restoring old watches and clocks is a very nice activity but Cyril Brivet-Naudot wanted to go further and especially to make his own work more visible. A personal project only makes sense if it brings something truly new. Fascinated by the work of Pierre Le Roy and by the reading of Charles Gros's book on the escapements of clocks and watches, he quickly became convinced that his future watch would certainly propose a new movement especially featuring a rarely exploited escapement. His choice fell on the "free eccentric escapement" (Echappement Libre Excentrique) which he felt could be very efficient and suitable for a wristwatch. Moreover, the name of the watch, the Eccentricity, partly comes from the name of this escapement.
I had the chance to discover and handle the Eccentricity watch a few days ago. This watch is a marvel because it corresponds perfectly to what I expect from a young creative watchmaker who wants to bring new ideas. The watch is aesthetically interesting because it offers the view on the balance wheel dial side and offers a alternative time display (and in some ways a little confusing). The watch is then technically innovative because animated by an unique mechanism with a specific escapement.
In this position, the key winds the movement:
The free eccentric escapement, invented by Louis Richard in the middle of the 19th century, is an escapement which works like a detent escapement because it operates only one direct impulse by oscillation. However, it is less sensitive to shocks than the detent escapement because Cyril Brivet-Naudot and Luc Monnet have made sure to reinforce its safety by reducing the eccentricity of the small plate (which intervenes in the system of release of the lever) and in particular by balancing the whole lever. The impulse of the escape wheel is direct on the balance what optimizes the energy consumption since there is no anchor intervening in an intermediate way. The free eccentric escapement is thus theoretically more efficient because it consumes less, improves the isochronism of the balance wheel and reduces the need for lubrication due to the absence of friction.
The counterpart of such escapement is the rigor that is required for its design and production. The 19 components of the escapement have been manufactured in a traditional way using classic materials of the watch industry. One of the most delicate parts is for example the hardened gold spring of 3 hundredths of a millimeter thick.
The escapement is observed at the back of the watch in an extremely clear way since the balance and the spiral are positioned on the dial side. The movement thus offers bridge side a show of great originality despite the very classic atmosphere due to the grained finish and blued screws. This originality is due to the architecture of the movement which bans any uniformity. The watch has 9 bridges of which 7 are on the back side: the barrel bridge, center wheel bridge (the second one is located on the dial side), third wheel bridge, fourth wheel bridge, escapement wheel bridge, lever bridge and balance wheel bridge, all together create geometric shapes that beautifully combine with moving parts while providing striking effects of relief and feelings of depth. The movement seems to have been built on several levels and this blend of purity and complexity greatly contributes to the charm of the watch.
It is important at this point to remember that all the parts of the movement were made by Cyril Brivet-Naudot with traditional machines. You will notice the different screw sizes as well as the openings in the wheels. The escapement, thanks to its apparent simplicity, elegantly unveils its wheel, the latter being perfectly made and with spectacular teeth. The engraving of the words "manibus factum" reminds us the way with which the movement was built. From a pure performance point of view, it offers a power reserve of 40 hours for a frequency of 2.5hz.
There is, however, one detail that surprises when we observe the movement: the two holes located on the barrel and on its side. They are used for winding the movement and setting the time thanks to the small two-sided key that comes with the watch. Be careful not to lose this key because, for aesthetic reasons and to draw a clear bridge with traditional watchmaking, the watch is not equipped with a crown! Thus, the winding pleasure is unique. Lay the watch flat on a table and turn carefully the key above the barrel for a very nice experience. Setting the time is more delicate because you have to look at the dial at the same time and this gesture requires practice.
The finish of the dial is homogeneous and coherent with the movement one. The grained finish emphasizes the symmetry between the imposing balance on the left and the sub-dial dedicated to the time display on the right. The balance wheel, because of its low frequency, is really mesmerizing. Its diameter, its four arms, its oscillations are a pure delight for the eyes. The cock is imposing and echoes the center wheel bridge on the right. Disconnected from the other elements of the movement, the balance wheel seems moved by an unknown energy.
The time display is special and adds a mysterious dimension to the watch. The minutes are indicated on a silver ring which rotates next to a fixed index. The small dial of hours, set between the minutes 15 and 20, turns with the silver ring and can be found upside down ... what is disturbing when you discover the watch for the first time. The most important thing to easily read the hours is to find the point which symbolizes noon. Once this trick is understood, time is easy to read, especially since Cyril Brivet-Naudot has set up a system of semi-jumping hours. The hour hand moves only for 5 minutes to position itself at the correct location. Thus, there is no more risk of confusion. In any case, if we had to find a reason in the name of the watch, the time display brings an excellent one! At the top of the dial we find the plate with the name of the watchmaker. This plate will be revised in order that the finish of the engraving corresponds to the same level of quality than the dial one.
From an aesthetic point of view, I really like the Eccentricity because it blends materials (brass, steel, silver) and finish styles to offer a traditional and contemporary atmosphere at the same time. The watch offers very reasonable proportions (39mm diameter for a thickness of 10mm without the glass) and is comfortable to wear thanks to its steel case and its screwed lugs.
I must admit that I was very seduced by Cyril Brivet-Naudot's ambition and project and by his ability to create almost all elements of his watch. In the end, in the movement, only the jewels were bought while the barrel mainspring and the spiral come from a Unitas caliber. The glass and the bracelet are also external parts but the case is indeed "homemade".
The originality of the escapement, the quality of the execution and the seductive and intriguing aesthetic approach of the dial and the movement make the Eccentricity watch really fascinating. This watch is currently an unique piece but Cyril Brivet-Nodot is now in the logic of selling the future pieces that he will achieve with, of course, the ability for the ordering customers to customize the watch, even by being able to add a complication such as the power reserve display. For a watch similar to the Eccentricity, a price of 60,000 euros without taxes will be asked and the client will need to wait during one year more or less. But i would like to end this article on a more personal note. It was for me a big pleasure to get a proof that the French high end watchmaking is still alive!
+ an unique movement featuring a specific escapement
+ the quality of the execution carried out without any involvement of a CNC machine
+ the mesmerizing side of the dial thanks to the imposing low frequency balance wheel
+ a traditional and very contemporary approach
+ the French high end watchmaking is still alive!
- don't lose the key: it is mandatory to wind the movement and set the movement
- time reading is confusing at the beginning