Martin Braun’s history reads like almost any other history of talented watchmakers in the current post-quartz crisis era. This master watchmaker born in Karlsruhe, in the southwestern corner of Germany, completed the requirements to become a master watchmaker in 1991. Focusing at first on restoration, he had the brilliant idea for his first innovative complication and the watch that was to finally lead to his breakthrough in the ensuing years.
The first plans for his Eos model originate in 1995 when Braun began in earnest to realize the project, but thanks to some of the sticky elements in calculating the sunrise/sunset and equation of time displays, it took almost six more years to get the watch up to his standards. The reliable base caliber ETA 2892-A2 was modified by Martin Braun’s own module construction to make his unusual equation of time displays possible, although it proved to be quite a challenge for him to fit the display—which he introduced the following year—into the same amount of space.
Then came the big news of 2007: Braun had not only migrated to Switzerland with his workshop, but he had been taken over by one of the big names of watchmaking. The Franck Muller group had purchased 51 percent of his company. Unfortunately, the economic crisis beginning in 2008 was not kind to the group, and Braun sold his remaining shares in 2009 and departed—leaving his name and his astronomical displays in the care of the Geneva-based group.
Braun displayed his dogged love of his vocation by “simply” starting over. First, he set up a workshop to begin working on the many other movement ideas inside his active brain. He named his workshop MHO (Manufacture Horlogère Obwalden), and it now functions in a supplier capacity: a movement manufacturer for those looking for high-quality, complicated movements.
Secondly, he set up shop for his new brand, which he has christened Antoine Martin, combining the first names of Braun and his main investor. Last year, Antoine Martin launched its first timepiece, and it was a big one: a perpetual calendar with a brand-new Braun-designed movement called Caliber AM 39.001 boasting so many cool features that it’s hard to tell where to look first.
First off, Braun has modified the Swiss lever escapement and now calls his version the High Performance Escapement (HPE). By not having to compromise between effectivity and oil retention thanks to the use of silicon components, the HPE boasts more effectiveness according to him and does not need lubrication.
Braun has also changed the originally calculated angles of the escape wheel’s impulse planes; modified the curved shape of the escape wheel teeth; reconfigured the pallets; and optimized the shape of the silicon impulse pin to increase the energy yield. The result of these modifications is an increase in amplitude from 300° to almost 330° in direct comparison to conventional escapement design.
New and old
Braun was insistent that the caliber throw the spotlight on its most mechanically aesthetic component: the balance. Since this era of watchmaking sees chiefly standard balances beating in most watches at higher frequencies—and additionally hidden from view—Braun was insistent about making an extra-large 17.5 mm balance wheel beating at a languid 18,000 bph, whose primary raison d’être is stabilization of amplitude.
The balance itself is crafted in high-tech Grade 5 titanium for lightness. Boasting two little gold screws for fine adjustment, thereby freeing the balance spring from fine regulation by index, it is one of the largest balances ever used in this style of escapement.
This large manually wound movement with six days’ power reserve and 60 jewels measures 39.5 mm x 8 mm, therefore it is only logical that its case also be a large one. In fact, the rose or white gold case—which is also available in black DLC-coated stainless steel—is not shy at a full 45 mm in diameter. Its design is a blend of modern aesthetics that combine to make the perpetual calendar functions extremely legible and clean.
The first addition to the young Antoine Martin brand, debuting this year, is something that Braun has wanted to design and produce for decades: his own tourbillon. Today a standard in a luxury watch collection, this complicated addition to the escapement beautifully showcases a watchmaker’s skill even if it admittedly does not add much to the actual precision.
“This timepiece is the logical progression of our perpetual calendar and completes it perfectly,” Braun explains of the new launch. “Additionally, the idea was to integrate the calendar and thus present a beautiful—even if technically demanding—dial.”