Chronoswiss came to life on a wing and a prayer in 1983 when former TAG Heuer master watchmaker Gerd-Rüdiger Lang took watch movements in lieu of pay and, together with his wife created a truly impressive independent manufacture. This was at a time when many well respected watch brands were going out of business due to the quartz watch crisis, which very nearly succeeded in closing down the Swiss watch industry. With Gerd Lang having worked with the likes of Steve McQueen in the glory days of creating the TAG Heuer Monaco for the movie Le Mans, to find himself forced out of a job and to start up a wholly mechanical watchmaking concern took courage and guts of Le Mans proportions.
Today, although Munich based Chronoswiss is still a family concern, and fiercely independent, since February 2012, the brand has been under the ownership and guidance of the Ebstein family from Lucerne, Switzerland, while Herr Lang serves as a consultant.
Gerd Lang built the impeccable reputation of Chronoswiss with a range of styles and distinctive watches with complications including Chronographs and Rattrapante, the Chronoscope, the Delphis, (a watch featuring retrograde minutes and a digital hour display), and then the highly regarded Régulateur Tourbillon and Chronoswiss Sauterelle. This year the brand also celebrated 30 years of the Chronoswiss Régulateur with a special 30th year limited edition.
In 2013, for the first time, Chronoswiss had the honour of being asked to create a one off time piece for the highly regarded Only Watch auction which is held annually at the same time as the Monaco Boat Show. It’s a charity event that sells high-end one-off time pieces to the highest bidder at auction so as to help in the fight against muscular dystrophy.
Not only was it the first time the brand had been invited to participate, it was also the first time they created a unique piece entirely in house employing a trio of highly specialised arts and crafts.
Because handicrafts are something of a passion for CEO Oliver Ebstein, workmanship of this nature for a unique Chronoswiss watch seemed like a natural choice. The manufacture chose as its one off timepiece the famous theme of the three monkeys – or three apes – ‘See no evil, hear no evil speak no evil.’ The rationale behind this depiction is to represent the idea of living in denial, as in denial about the disease of muscular dystrophy. The arts and crafts involved in the making of the watch included guilloche main, skeletonisation and feu enamel; highly specialised skills that only a few artisans still practice.
Each craft taken individually would be sufficient for many fine watches, but Chronoswiss pushed the envelope still further by incorporating three specialist techniques in the one watch. Because some of these crafts have all but vanished from modern day watchmaking , it was necessary to work using some vintage tools and machinery including a 1924 built antique rose engine.
The guilloche work on the dial of the watch is simply superb. The three apes have a three dimensional depth to them aided by the transparent enamel fired enamel glazing on the dial.
The 44mm watch was made entirely by hand. The dial as the “face” of the watch is undoubtedly magnificent, but it is of course the caseback that reveals the complex inner working of the timepiece. The movement is an ETA 6498, manually wound, with a 40-hour power reserve.
A lavish and carefully considered work of art, the watch is ornately decorated with a goldsmiths’ saw and file. The bridges and plates are embellished with guilloché décor, and then there is the breathtakingly ornate skeletonisation.
The watch still displays some unmistakeable Chronoswiss signatures including the crown which is a solid knurled onionshape. The casing is constructed as a 21-part case in 18 carat red gold and is water resistant to 30 metres, not that you would ever want to take such a watch for a swim. The watch definitely has more than a little of the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art look and feel about it, and it sold for an impressively Vacheron style price at auction.
The pre-auction estimate was €22,000, but it actually fetched €42,000. (www.chronoswiss.com)