As a new brand, there are simultaneously a lot of choices and not enough choices when it comes to constructors. Doing something entirely yourself is of course out of the question unless you are both a trained watchmaker and have signifiant investment in hardware and tooling; and then you’re looking into the stratosphere when it comes to pricing. This is obviously not really a viable business. At the lower end of the market, there are quite a few suppliers in Switzerland using your choice of movement - Chinese (Seagull etc.), Japanese (Miyota, Seiko etc.) or Swiss (Ronda, ETA, Sellita etc.) and associated cases, dials etc. - and even more in the Far East doing everything from simple rebrands (just add your name to the dial) to ‘catalog specials’ (mix and match your choice of parts from a list) to full on custom. Think about it: there’s simply no way a lot of companies can afford to be profitable selling watches at $200 retail otherwise - especially when European skilled labor costs are running $20-30/hour (or more).
We elected to move up the ladder with our next watch simply because we did not want to be letterboxed into a single category, with the expectations of creating similar products again and again. Whilst we will fill out the 17 line, and the gap between 17 and 19, we needed something special, yet accessible, for the flagship. We needed a partner who would look at the ideas we proposed and find solutions, not tell us it wasn’t possible (or wasn’t possible at our target price point).
Earlier in the year, we toured Switzerland and visited a number of potential partners and private label manufacturers; only two of these had the capabilities and something different movement-wise: Schwarz-Etienne and Vaucher. Schwarz-Etienne is not a new company and has been producing watches for decades, recently developing their own movement and equipped with an impressive level of technical capabilities and facilities. Their after-sales service gives us confidence for ongoing customer support; all 19.01s will be serviced at Schwarz-Etienne in Switzerland. They even make their own hairsprings - and by extension, the hairspring in the 19.01. Their partner company, E2O, develops both precision CNC machines and short-duration lasers for the industry, including of course the hardware used on the 19.01 crystals.
Schwarz-Etienne had two important things over Vaucher that clicked for us: firstly, a unique and less common movement that we were able to customise and had potential for future development (more on this shortly) - and a fantastic team whose philosophies aligned perfectly with our own. I had previously designed several alternatives for 19.01 based on a few different movements - but the fundamental concept (sapphire boxes, gradient transparent dial, interesting semi-skeletonized mechanicals) remained the same. What was intended as a scouting trip turned into a kickoff meeting, and after some pregnant pauses in conversation - 19.01 was born.
For the 19-series, we wanted to stay with the same case as far as possible even for future models. This is because both the aesthetics of the case change significantly when you change the proportions, and because developing a new case for every watch is not very practical - especially when we use a rigid case without spacer rings that’s fitted to the movement, and in the case of the 19-series, as thin as possible given the size of the mechanicals. Schwarz-Etienne’s in-house movement series allows us that possibility - the same base movement is used in multiple iterations, with one barrel replaceable with a microrotor automatic winding train; in other versions it gains date, GMT, tourbillon complications. It’s also a high-torque movement, which means that fundamental timekeeping isn’t going to be affected much by additional load: this is of course important since the primary purpose of any watch is to tell the time. Furthermore, if you look carefully, there’s a lot of space both on the dial side and around the second barrel for other complications: the core going train is actually very compact. Think of it as a basic engine with a lot of potential for tuning…