For its first participation at Only Watch 2023, the young independent watch brand Furlan Marri has teamed up with renowned watchmakers Dominique Renaud and Julien Tixier to create an ultra-simplified, modular secular perpetual calendar. A unique watchmaking achievement that accounts for leap years and secular years.
A single adjustment once every 400 years.
Origins of the Secular Calendar
Rewind: 1996 saw the introduction of the first wristwatch with a secular perpetual calendar. This rare complication encompasses all the variations of our Gregorian calendar, surpassing the classic perpetual calendar in terms of precision. Indeed, the perpetual calendar, though a fascinating complication in its own right, comes with certain limitations. If leap years are taken into account, secular years (one secular year = 100 years) are not. An adjustment is thus necessary to correct for this – every 100 years.
The secular perpetual calendar, on the other hand, accounts for both leap and secular years. The next secular year is 2100. This complication will identify the fact that this is a special year and therefore automatically pass from February 28th, 2100, to March 1st, 2100 – whereas the date change on a classic perpetual calendar would be from February 28th to February 29th, considering it a leap year. The secular perpetual calendar complication, quite complex as its name implies, has until now defied simplification. Furlan Marri took up the challenge and teamed up with Dominique Renaud and Julien Tixier to create a truly special timepiece for the Only Watch 2023 charity auction. This project is undoubtedly the culmination of an amazing adventure in watchmaking. Above all, however, it is a human journey. It is this story, the encounters and the savoir-faire that Andrea Furlan and Hamad Al Marri, the co-founders of Furlan Marri, wish to share.
The Only Watch 2023 Secular Perpetual Calendar
What would have happened if Furlan Marri had met those who inspired the legendary designs of the 40s and 50s? Today, Furlan Marri counts itself fortunate to work hand in hand with the exceptional craftsmen who decided to join the team. That is how the Only Watch adventure began.
“I've always enjoyed rethinking complications,” explains Dominique Renaud.
“Just another challenge,” thought Julien Tixier.
Two years ago, Andrea and Hamad met Luc Pettavino, the founder of Only Watch. This led to the idea of working with Dominique Renaud, master watchmaker, inventor and co-founder of Renaud & Papi, and Julien Tixier, prototype watchmaker, to create a one-off watch for the charity auction. Julien Tixier and Dominique Renaud had met in 2016, when Dominique was giving lectures on his DR01 project. Julien regularly attended his lectures, showing great interest in his research. This in turn led to a friendship and the birth of the 'Tempus Fugit' project.
If Dominique was quite keen to join Andrea and Hamad’s endeavor, and delighted to again collaborate with Andrea Furlan, it was also because Dominique had previously worked on a perpetual calendar with Giulio Papi. Combining their open minds and decades of experience, they had already found technical solutions to simplify a minute repeater. You could say it was a particular forte of theirs. “I met Andrea during the DR01 project, when he was involved in the design, technical aspects and 3D rendering. It was the beginning of a wonderful relationship.”
The perfect blend
The association of Dominique Renaud, with his 40 years of experience, and Julien Tixier, an an independent watchmaker constantly on the lookout for new ideas, was the spark for rethinking the complication – practically from scratch. The result was a balancing act between opting for a classic complication and reinventing it with modern R&D methods.
Defying the laws of the calendar is an exercise both were amply familiar with: together, they had previously developed the exceptional 'Tempus Fugit' timepiece, both poetic in its interpretation of the passage of time and technically accomplished – it calculates time over the next 10,000 years with a secular module containing 51 components; the entire movement comprises 300 components.
The illusion of simplicity
Conceiving and designing a secular perpetual calendar with the idea of simplicity at its core: that is what the whole project is about. A rather complex undertaking, nonetheless. It was in their respective workshops that Julien Tixier and Dominique Renaud would let their imaginations roam and ideas take shape, collaborating on the birth of this piece. In the heart of the Vallée de Joux in the Swiss Jura Mountains, Julien designs his pieces from A to Z, in complete autonomy. The same goes for Dominique, who works from his own atelier, also in the heart of the Vallée.
Dominique carries in him the inventor’s flame: he first puts his ideas down on paper and then turns them into models, the old-fashioned way, as he did in the days of Renaud & Papi, with plexiglass and metal parts. Then it’s the turn of Julien, who, in addition to co-inventing, translates the concepts and ideas into something the computer can understand so that all the parts work together and can be manufactured: the case, the components of the date module, the dial, but also the finishes and various treatments, such as electroplating and titanium treatment.
A simplicity that can be summed up in three points:
Movement: Simplifying the secular perpetual calendar makes assembly and disassembly that much easier, besides improving its reliability. Fewer components, but above all, adjustments that take advantage of the latest technologies to facilitate assembly. For instance, the large rocker, usually located in the middle of classic calendars, now became peripheral; it meant information would be communicated differently, but also more efficiently. A secular module is grafted onto this perpetual calendar, making it accurate over the next 4 centuries, which make up the secular years. Of these 4 centuries, 3 will not be leap years.
“By simplifying the mechanism, we've made it totally modular, allowing us to configure the calendar as we wish. This way, we can switch from a secular calendar to a simple calendar, while keeping the same base and removing components,” explains Julien Tixier.
“The fact that we now have a large peripheral rocker means that we can take information from just about anywhere on the movement and place the elements where we want them. Compared to other perpetual calendars with a fixed rocker and a rocker that passes through the middle of the movement, it's now possible to add or remove elements to make it modular,” Julien adds.
The secular assembly comprises just 5 parts, and the date module a total of 25.
User-friendliness: Simple and safe, it’s the result of extreme simplification, too. This makes the interface very easy to use. Julien Tixier explains: “We decided to move away from conventional push-button correctors. Here, the corrector is in the form of a ring. A single corrector can be used to adjust the entire calendar, in either direction. Like a kind of minute repeater lock, the days and the entire perpetual calendar can be set with a single corrector.”
The date is set by turning the corrector to the right, and the days of the week by turning it to the left. The crown is for adjusting the hours and minutes. The corrector is equipped with a reset mechanism that automatically takes it back to its starting position. Ease of use also shows in the fact that, unlike many other calendars, there is no risk of damage to the movement while the watch is being adjusted.
Legibility: Following through on the concept of simplification, it was obvious to Furlan Marri that the information on the dial should be easy to read. Simplicity lies not only in the movement and its use, but also in its legibility. The months of the year can be read all around the dial, freeing up space in the center. Also, the choice of a cam displaying 12 months of the year instead of a 48-month cam (displaying 48 months) makes for a cleaner dial, affording breathing space for the brand logo at 12 o'clock. Both sub-counters – the one on the left indicating the days of the week, and the one on the right showing the date – are openworked, revealing a plate gilded with 18K yellow gold that echoes the 18K-gold oscillating weight. Furlan Marri thus adds depth to the timepiece while showcasing the kinematics of the components. The central hand, which indicates the months, doubles as a leap year indicator. Here, the central hand features a Maltese cross that completes a rotation in 4 years and indicates leap years. The wheel rotates in 100 years, turning the Maltese cross to count non-leap years and enabling it to count the secular leap year every 400 years.
Hand-finishes of genuine artistry and craftsmanship
The case: The lugs are applied to the case, which is hand-turned as would be a piece of jewelry.
The movement: The secular module was developed by Dominique Renaud and Julien Tixier, based on La Joux-Perret's G100 movement. The movement, made in La-Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, has a power reserve of 68 hours.
The oscillating weight: Cut and beveled by hand by Dominique Renaud – a nod to his beginnings as a chamferer. The entire secular perpetual calendar is machined, adjusted and finished by Julien Tixier. The plate is delicately sandblasted, then electroplated with a coat of 18K gold. The gears are circular-grained and the date cams black polished by hand. The steel springs are straight-grained and beveled by hand, too. The titanium peripheral ring undergoes an anodic oxidation treatment. The steel day and date hands are flame-blued and the hour and minute hands polished; the month hand in polished Titanium bears the leap-year cam indication in the form of a Maltese Cross. The dial is then given an anodic oxidation treatment, resulting in a visually arresting blue-to-gray, birefringent effect. All Julien has to do now is walk down the hall and take the stairs one floor down to bring Coralie Mercier – her workshop is in the same building – the oscillating weight so she can engrave it, by hand of course.
Finally, the bracelet: It’s off to Le Lignon just outside Geneva, where the watch will be matched with a silver Milanese mesh bracelet, entirely handcrafted by Laurent Jolliet, one of the last chainmakers in Europe. No machines are involved in the manufacture of the coils, and assembly and soldering are all by hand. Finally, the clasp, embellished with the craftsman’s stamp, is filed by hand. The result is astonishing: the Milanese mesh bracelet looks as if it is made of the supplest and smoothest cloth, hence its other name, "fabric bracelet".