For a watch that truly jumps into action look no further than this technically wondrous number from 4N, a new brand set up by the creator of Louis Vuitton’s Tambour. read on and get lost in a world of spinning time discs.
Haute horlogerie and digital display are two couplings of words seldom to be found knocking around in the same sentence pertaining to the description of the same product, but then when a new watch house describes its first product as “completely original and innovative” there better be some fire with the smoke.
4N is founded by François Quentin, the design talent behind the iconic Tambour timepiece from Louis Vuitton, which was picked out by WatchPro’s Watches of the Year 2011 as a brand to watch.
Other accolades studding his 25-year career as an independent watch designer, during which time he has worked for many of the leading Swiss and French brands, includes co-founding the truly experimental and satisfyingly complicated Hautlence watch brand in 2004.
But Quentin has always been an independent designer and that lone wolf syndrome has led him to strike out on his own again with 4N, albeit with a little help from Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi, which is smoothing the transition of blue-sky ideas into a watch that ticks, or should we say spins.
The timekeeping display of the 4N-MVT01/D01 is a feat never before accomplished in watchmaking or, for all we know, even attempted, and is the crux of this watch brand’s charm and the inspiration for its name.
The display is constructed of four 5.5mm typographic frames that show the time as a character in counter-form, beneath a regular vertical sequence. The 12-hour display is based on an intelligent configuration of intermittent rotating discs; three subgroups of discs kept in cage structures light up to reveal the time according to a jumping display as the minutes pass – four discs for the hour, five for the minutes, and one for the 10 minutes. The device uses a system of jump by constant force, guaranteeing a minimum expenditure of energy whatever the degree of movement.
This mechanical movement has been assembled by hand and the list of challenges the design team has had to overcome to make such a complicated movement possible has been vast. The movement stems from a complex setting of kinematic discs and fitting these discs together to create the correct levels of balance, inertia and just enough friction for optimum movement but a minimum expenditure of energy has been an uphill struggle, but not impossible.
The result is an industrial-looking watch with rectangular face set with flying tourbillion, but the real stars of the show are the numeric discs. While the watch is enticing to look at when static, the real joy comes when it is time for a minute to tick over and the typographic frames spring into action, spinning round into the correct positions to show the updated time.
No number of words can really convey the beauty of this kinetic wonder so the best course of action is to actually go and while away some minutes watching this unique timepiece come alive.
This article was taken from the March 2012 issue of WatchPro magazine. To read a digital version of this issue online click here.