Artime is an all-new watch brand making its debut at this year’s Geneva Watch Days. Founded by a team of six watchmaking experts – in design, management, engineering, manufacturing and sales – the brand’s inaugural model, ART01, also doubles as its manifesto.
Both technically and visually appealing, ART01 is a twenty-piece limited edition featuring an in-house calibre in white gold, a tourbillon with a double balance spring and an innovative crown. The case is constructed using titanium and transparent sapphire in a manner that makes them appear commingled.
Artime was founded in 2021 in Les Brenets, a village in the Neuchatel Canton of Switzerland. The brand’s six founders have all worked together at some point in their illustrious careers, at some of the most renowned talent nurseries of the Swiss watchmaking industry.
Fabrice Deschanel, who helmed Renaud&Papi for more than 25 years, is Artime’s Managing Director. Claude Emmenegger, the designer, has twice held the position of Artistic Director at Audemars Piguet. Manuel Thomas, with experience in Renaud&Papi and several other brands, focuses on manufacturing and finishing. Stéphane Maturel, also a graduate of Renaud&Papi, manages the technical department. Emmanuel Jutier, who oversees marketing, has fostered close relations with collectors during his time F.P.Journe and Greubel Forsey.
However, the team’s first watch, ART01, bears the name of just one founding member. Didier Bretin, the brand’s watchmaker-constructor is considered “an inspirer who is a little more equal than the others in the team” by his colleagues. His experience in conceiving the movement and in developing the technical and visual identity of a watch was critical to the overall vision of ART01, and by extension, the Artime brand itself.
The ART01 is a wristwatch with a case alternating between transparent sapphire and titanium. Its round shape with monobloc lugs houses a white gold movement. It is 42 mm in diameter, 11.4 mm high and mounted on a black-grained calfskin strap with a titanium folding clasp.
The hour track is an integral part of the sapphire block. It is punctuated by large round hour markers with black borders, and decorated with a white luminescent substance that emits a blue glow. The hands are black, open and finished with a hexagon-shaped tip of the same hue as the hour markers. The hexagonal shape, in the form of a cartouche, provides the setting for Artime’s brand signature.
The case back, bridges, gear train, plate, dial, bezel, glass, and case middle – usually superimposed in a very distinct stack – seem to merge. The calibre has no plate, not even an open-worked one. The titanium bridges are directly fixed in the case middle. The round, very thin bezel is set on the sapphire, which is itself set on the case middle. This patented architecture also fulfils an aesthetic purpose – creating a sense of lightness that belie the ART01’s dimensions.
This sense of “lightness” is achieved through the appearance of the surfaces, their reflections, their finishes, the chamfering, and the way matte surfaces alternate with polished ones. “As much as we wanted transparency, we wanted to preserve elegance. So, our approach was to highlight, rather than to go for total transparency,” reads a statement by the team. “An all-sapphire solution might have been more ‘today’, but not necessarily exceptional. In addition, there is a certain challenge and complexity to combining metal with sapphire.”
This is why white gold was chosen as the primary material for the calibre. It makes extensive finishing – sandblasting, stretching, trottoir profiling, chamfering – truly stand out. The dominant grey scale of the watch comes from a combination of white gold, titanium and a few steel parts. However, they are modulated by the light brought by the flat or bevelled sapphire. Subtle points of emphasis underline the movement’s essential structural elements – the bezels of eight rubies, out of a total of 25, and the anchor wheel are in red gold.
The titanium bridges are arched with a subtle curvature. They are nested with their bases cut like blocks shaped to fit together as in cyclopean masonry. This requires precise machining and alignment. The tourbillon’s cage, between the upper and lower bridge, is built without pillars. Instead, it has a three-armed support, with each stem flaring out like a stylized flower. The openwork characterizing the bridges extends to the confines of the cage, creating a new visual focal point. This three-armed shape with open ends is echoed throughout the entire gear train, including the barrel at noon.
The side anchor wheel is in gold, as are some of the other parts of the mechanism. The escapement operates at three hertz with a variable inertia balance fitted with gold regulating screws. Two balance springs are linked to its centre, installed concentrically and operate in phase opposition. The double-balance spring arrangement ensures improved inertia and concentricity of the regulating spring. The result is less stress on the pivots and consequently greater operating precision.
One of the most discreet and sophisticated features of the ART01 is its unconventional crown. Its three positions – neutral, winding, and setting – are selected by pressing on the crown. The current position can be read from a satellite indicator, which circulates under the three sapphire inserts of the functions – N for normal operation, R for ‘remontage’ or winding, and H for ‘heure’ or setting the time. This system is not new, but it so happens that Artime’s founding members are its original inventors.
In addition, this function selector incorporates a unique mechanism consisting of a dual-function column wheel and a vertical clutch, visible at four o’clock. The upper cam controls the display of the function via the small satellite. It is closely linked to the second, one level below, which operates with the function rocker.
The ART01 is a very elaborate mechanical system, the magnitude of which only becomes perceptible on the wrist and after careful examination, inside and out. Only then do movement and exterior, form and function, invention and use reveal themselves in their true nature.