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A small watchmaking venture started as an experiment continues to design watches that offer simple solutions and unorthodox displays for complex timekeeping functions.   

By James Henderson

This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of one of the longest running experiments in the watch business. Back in 2006, Ludwig Oechslin (of Ulysse Nardin fame and until 2014 curator of the Musée International d’Horlogerie (MIH) in La Chaux-de-Fonds) and his fellow Ochs und Junior co-founders asked the watch world a contrary question – if you could buy a watch with complications that were distilled down to their most basic level, would you?

Dr. Ludwig Oechslin

Then they took it a few steps further. What if the case was not polished, but somewhat, well, basic?

In other words, what if you could buy a watch conceived by one of the most famous watch creators of recent times, one that possessed marvelous complications that apart from the dial of the watch, remained hidden away beneath a solid caseback?

In a world where watches are meant to be highly polished and eerily similar in look and feel, what if you went a different way?

The famed 39mm Ochs und Junior Annual-Calendar. Check out this video of Ludwig Oechslin explaining the date spiral for his perpetual calendar, which is also relevant for his moon phase watch.

Fast-forward to 2021. While the experiment continues, it appears to be a resounding success with Ludwig Oechslin and Ochs und Junior continuing to swim against the mainstream. Here’s a short, three-part history of the idiosyncratic watchmaker.

The Foundation

 This period involves Ludwig Oechslin, Beat Weinmann and Kurt König (the owner of Embassy, the Lucerne-based jewelry store that Beat Weinmann was working for at the time). Ochs und Junior produced a very small number of esoteric watches. These were known to a small group of collectors.

The Ochs und Junior Two-Timezones Date with rose gold PVD.

The Growth Period

This was when Ulysse Nardin was brought in as a partner and Ochs und Junior set up shop in a studio space, a little bit off the beaten path in Lucerne.

The Ochs Period

In 2019, after a lot of thought and consultation within the family, Kornelia Imesch and Ludwig Oechslin bought all the shares of Ochs und Junior. But it is important to note that this was only done once it was clear that some of the “Junior Ochs” would join the company.  And to that end, it has been agreed that two of the younger Oechslins will be joining the team, which is now based in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

Inside the Ochs und Junior Annual Calendar.

Ochs und Junior today is a family company, led by Dr. Ludwig Oechslin. The rest of the band includes Christian Gafner, who is head of brand and design, Violaine Baudouin, the marketing chief, and Louise Krank (a junior), communication designer. The company’s watchmakers are Jost Schlatter and Masaki Kanazawa, who is a Master Watchmaker for Ludwig Oechslin’s special projects.

Ludwig Oechslin’s ideas will continue to set the tone moving forward, which is really what has made Ochs und Junior what it is today. As the company evolves, it continues to grow through experimentation. Below are some of Ochs und Junior’s most recent designs.

All three Ochs und Junior Calendario Cent’anni models.

The Calendario Cent’anni

This 100-year calendar, designed by Ludwig Oechslin, features a dial with indication of hours, minutes and seconds in addition to correct date, month, leap or non-leap year. The 40mm watch is titanium and is powered by a Ulysse Nardin UN-320 automatic movement. The Arabic character or indices with hour/minute hands are coated with SuperLuminova.

The Calendario Cent’anni (CCAII), a 100-year calendar.

Here’s how it shows the time and date:

  • The dates (28, 29, 30 or 31 days of any month) are visible for 100 years, without needing correction for the length of any month (including February in leap years), and are displayed via a traveling, rectangular dot on the date spiral.
  • The month and leap years are on a central rotating disk. The leap year and the three following years are displayed on a decentralized disc, rotating together with the position of the month-display. Finally, the central hour and minutes with the seconds rotating are seen on a small disk at 6 o’clock.

    The Calendario Cent’anni (CCAI), or 100-year calendar.

Prices begin at CHF 15,230 (approximately $16,600).

The Settimana Limited

This watch is designed to help savor a favorite day of the week, allowing the wearer to set six “standard” days and one “extra special” one. It colorfully indicates hours, minutes and seconds, and all seven weekdays by clockwise rotating dot between 1 o’clock and 7 o’clock.

The trio of Settimana models. They colorfully indicate hours, minutes and seconds, and all seven weekdays by clockwise rotating dot between 1 o’clock and 7 o’clock.

The titanium-cased Settimama measures 36mm in diameter and is powered by a Sellita SW 200-1 automatic movement. The watch is available in three limited color versions of 11 pieces each. Prices start at CHF 3,046, or approximately $3,300.

The new Moonphase Trilogy. All are 39mm and cased in titanium

Ochs und Junior moonphase

This special edition of the Ochs und Junior Moon Phase is available for pre-order in three 39mm variations, and can be purchased as a trio or individually.

The 39mm moonphase Emerald Green model features a lacquered dial with black galvanized moon disk and golden markers and hands. It also features a jade-stone as the sun at the 12 o’clock position.

Option one features a black galvanized dial and red lacquer-coated moon disk with red markers and hands with a case of black PVD-coated titanium. Another option has a red lacquer-coated dial with black galvanized moon disk, black markers and hands in a titanium case. Option number three has an emerald-green lacquer-coated dial with black galvanized moon disk, and gold colored markers and hands. This emerald green watch will feature a jade sun at the 12 o’clock position. The straps are made from red or black textile with a titanium buckle. Prices: CHF 7,400, or approximately $8,100.

The Ochs und Junio Moonphase with black galvanic dial.

And there are more interesting developments to come, but suffice it to say after fifteen years Ochs und Junior is here to stay.

If the design of this watch feels somehow familiar, you won’t be surprised to learn that Detroit Watch co-designers Patrick and Amy Ayoub have once again applied their classical blueprint to their American-based brand.

The Pontchartrain Louis XIV model from the Detroit Watch Pontchartrain collection. A version with a moonphase display is also available.

Two variations of the brand’s new stand-alone Pontchartrain collection are housed in an elegantly stepped 42mm stainless steel case. Both feature automatic ETA Swiss-made movements, one with a sub-second and the other with a choice of silver or gold moon-phase complication.

All the qualities you’d expect in a high-quality, high-value watch are here, including sapphire crystal, exhibition back, superior decoration on the Swiss movement and a calfskin strap, which all come together to make a fine watch. Under the loupe the hands are as superb as the dials, and even the crown looks, feels and functions beautifully.

Those outside the Detroit area might ask why “Pontchartrain” for a Detroit-based brand? The Ayoubs chose this name to recall the historic fort that was built in 1701 and actually ended up applying its name to the city. France’s King Louis XIV commissioned Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit as the first permanent French settlement in the area and as a center for the fur trade and French military power in 1701.

Built along the Detroit River in order to protect the French trade from the British, the fort was named in honor of Louis XIV’s minister of marine and colonies, Louis Phélypeaux de Pontchartrain. Le Detroit, French for ‘the strait’ eventually came to identify Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit and the surrounding area and after 1751, was known simply as Fort Detroit.

The Ponchartrain limited edition Louis XlV.

A nice watch – and a history lesson.

Price: $1,295, available at www.detroitwatchco.com.

Ever since its 1992 debut, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control collection has been the source of many of the watchmaker’s most classically styled complicated watches. At the recent (virtual) Watches & Wonders 2020, Jaeger-LeCoultre refreshed that well-rounded collection with new movements, more contemporary styling and more impressive technical specifications.

The newest Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Calendar.

To do this, the watchmaker has incorporated design cues from many of its most important collections over many decades, most notably the Futurematic, PowerMatic and Memovox designs of the 1950s.

A few of the overall updates and Master Control enhancements include:

— A new 40mm case design that includes models with a new pink gold alloy called Le Grand Rose gold.

–New movements with increased power reserves (up to 70 hours in many of the new calibers). Most prominently, Jaeger-LeCoultre has re-engineered Calibre 899, a pillar of the Master Control collection. The improvements (also incorporated into the entire range of Master Control calibers) include a silicon escapement, a redesigned barrel and various energy-saving enhancements.

The new Caliber 899 inside the latest Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date now features a silicon escapement and pallets made using a slightly modified shape.

–On the dials, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s designers place sunray brushing on a silvery-white background, a blue central seconds hand on some models and blued subdial hands.

— All case-sides will be satin-brushed and complemented by a polished bezel, crowns and lugs. On the back you’ll find bas-relief engravings and a sapphire crystal caseback.

— The collection will now include soft, tan matte-finish Novonappa calf leather straps, made in France through a vegetable-based tanning process. The new straps can be changed without the need for a tool.

Like all Jaeger-LeCoultre timepieces, the Master Control watches carry an eight-year warranty in addition to the 1,000 Hours Control certification.

Master Control Chronograph Calendar

At the top of the new Master Control lineup is this model, set with a newly developed movement, Calibre 759, that combines a chronograph with a triple calendar display and a moonphase display. The new movement features a column-wheel chronograph with a vertical clutch, a moon-phase indicator and a 65-hour power reserve.

The new Jaeger-LeCoutre Master Control Chronograph Calendar, here in a new Le Grand Rose gold case.
Up close on the dial of the Master Control Chronograph Calendar.

A central chronograph seconds hand anchors the watch’s triple calendar, bi-compax display, while a pulsometric scale is marked around the dial flange. Jaeger-LeCoultre also adds rectangular chronograph pushers to the case, which is offered in steel ($14,500) or the new Le Grand Rose gold alloy ($26,000).

Note the new rectangular pushers on the Master Control Chronograph Calendar.
Caseback view of the Master Control Chronograph Calendar, showing Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 759 with a 65-hour power reserve.
Note the pulsometric scale around the dial flange of the Master Control Chronograph Calendar.

Master Control Date

With a thin 8.78mm case and a clean design, this model is directed by the new caliber Calibre 899, which now features a silicon escapement and pallets made using a slightly modified shape. Jaeger-LeCoultre says it has also remade the central-seconds wheel to eliminate shaking while also utilizing titanium for the fixing screws of the oscillating wheel.

The new Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Control Date.

In order to increase the watch’s power reserve to seventy hours, Jaeger-LeCoultre redesigned the barrel to accommodate a stronger and longer mainspring without increasing the 3.3mm height of the movement. Price: $6,700.

Master Control Calendar

Here Jaeger-LeCoultre retains the model’s classical layout with the dates marked around the edge and indicated by a red-tipped hand, the days and months displayed in the upper part of the dial, and the moon-phase set within the small seconds subdial. But now there’s an all-new jumping complication.

Moonphase display on the new Master Control Calendar.

Every month, the date hand makes a 90-degree leap from the 15th to the 16th, which means the hand never obscures the moon-phase display. Available in rose gold ($22,500) and steel ($11,000).

The Master Control Calendar

Master Control Geographic

Now powered by the new-generation Calibre 939 (with a full 70-hour power reserve) the Master Control Geographic retains its familiar layout, with timezone displays balanced by a date subdial and a power reserve indicator. But now Jaeger-LeCoultre has brushed the entire dial in a brushed sunray pattern and added elongated triangular indexes.

The Master Control Geographic retains its familiar layout.

The watch’s unusual world time indication displays the city name relating to the zone, which gives travellers the option of setting the second time by location, rather than needing to calculate the time difference. The new edition is available in a choice of steel ($12,200) or Le Grand Rose gold case ($23,700).

The Master Control Geographic, showing power reserve indicator.

Specifications:

MASTER CONTROL CHRONOGRAPH CALENDAR

Caliber: Automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 759 with a 65-hour power reserve

Functions: Hours/minutes, small seconds, calendar with date, day and month indications, moon phases, chronograph

Case: 40mm x 12.05mm stainless steel or Le Grand Rose gold, satin and polished finishes, sapphire crystal case-back, water-resistance to 50 meters

Dial: Silver sunray finish, applied indexes

Strap: Novonappa calf or alligator

Reference: Q4138420 (stainless steel), Q4132520 (rose gold)

 

MASTER CONTROL DATE

Caliber: Automatic Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 899 (new generation), 70 hours power reserve

Functions: hours/minutes/seconds, date

Case: 40mm x 8.78mm stainless steel, satin and polished finishes, sapphire crystal case-back with 50-meter water resistance

Dial: Silver sunray finish, applied indexes

Strap: Novonappa calf

Reference: Q4018420

 

MASTER CONTROL CALENDAR

Caliber: Automatic mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 866 (new generation)

Functions: hours/minutes, small seconds, day, jumping date, month, moon phases

Power reserve: 70 hours

Case: 40mm x 10.95mm stainless steel or Le Grand Rose gold, satin and polished finishes, sapphire crystal case-back, 50-meters of water resistance

Dial: Silver sunray finish, applied indexes

Strap: Novonappa calf or alligator

Reference: Q4148420 (stainless steel), Q4142520 (rose gold)

 

MASTER CONTROL GEOGRAPHIC

Caliber: automatic mechanical movement, Jaeger-LeCoultre Calibre 939 (new generation), power reserve of 70 hours

Functions: Hours/minutes/seconds, date, second time zone, 24-hour display, 24 time zones, power reserve indication

Case: 40mm x 10.96mm stainless steel or Le Grand Rose gold, satin and polished finishes, sapphire crystal case-back, Water-resistance to 50 meters

Dial: Silver sunray finish, applied indexes

Strap: Novonappa calf or alligator

Reference: Q4128420 (stainless steel), Q4122520 (rose gold)