Stéphane von Gunten is not just any watchmaker, and his watch is, by far, not just any watch. Von Gunten, a third-generation watchmaker, spent a combined 14 years at Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux as research and innovation director (after previously holding positions at Franck Muller and Patek Philippe) before setting out to realize his own ideas and identity.
And his debut timepiece is nothing short of breathtaking: the Honoris I not only now holds the record for the longest power reserve for a wristwatch with a single spring barrel (40 days) and a flying tourbillon, it does so in an extremely elegant and wearable manner. Von Gunten crafted this thousand-hour power reserve in honor of his ancestor Irénée Aubry, who patented the iconic eight-day Hebdomas movement back in 1888. But the complicated watch goes further: its hefty mainspring is wound using a 60-facet bezel only once a month. If you think that this element may also have been inspired by some of his previous work at Ulysse Nardin, I may have to agree. Nonetheless the Honoris I’s bezel winding is much more elegant than that of Ulysse Nardin’s Freak up to the von Gunten updates. Combining performance with an elegant silhouette, the Honoris I comes in at just 11.95 mm in height and 42.5 mm in diameter despite all the mechanical goodness within, which is in itself quite a feat.
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Many of the technical elements, including the magnificent spring barrel containing a three-meter-long mainspring and beautifully finished flying tourbillon (6 o’clock), function selector column wheel (2 o’clock), time wheel linking the mainspring with the gear train (center), and long crown stem with pinion for winding (3 o’clock) are visible right from the grand feu enamel dial available in both black (white gold case) and white (yellow gold case) that is framed by an 18-karat gold fluted bezel featuring 60 wide facets. A 1,000-hour power reserve indicator is found on the back.
This unmistakably complicated dress watch throws back to 1888 not only in its homage to Aubry’s achievement, but also in the bold choice of yellow over rose gold for a case variation, adding a hint of bygone charm. It is limited to approximately 10 pieces per year at a price of $164,000.
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