When it comes to reviving a historical icon, you’re often faced with a creative dilemma. Do you enact an unwaveringly faithful homage, as was the case with Omega’s 60th Anniversary Speedmaster based on the original 1957 CK 2915-1? Think also of Audemars Piguet’s [Re]master01 based on the reference 1533, one of only 307 chronographs made in the brand’s history before 1980. Certainly, in a watch world in the throes of a torrid love affair with all things vintage, this has become the norm.
Or do you deviate and, in the words of American poet Robert Frost, tread “the road not taken”? The latter involves channeling the spirit of the original timepiece but creating something altogether new. Says Bertrand Savary, a man who wears dual hats as president of Arnold & Son and Angelus, both owned by The Citizen Group, “I am often inspired by the daring of the automotive industry. One of my favorite cars is Ferrari’s F12 Tour de France designed by Flavio Manzoni. I love how he channeled the spirit of the 250 GT Tour de France to create one of the world’s most original modern supercars. He was able to forge just the right genetic lineage with its ancestor while designing something completely new and breathtaking.”
For years, Savary and his team had been deluged with requests to revive the iconic Chronodate, to this day still Angelus’ most famous watch. So, he too found himself at this veritable fork in the road.
Angelus Chronodato — The First Full Calendar Chronograph
The Chronodate, as it was named in 1942, the year of its launch, was the world’s first triple calendar chronograph. It preceded even Rolex’s reference 6036 “Jean Claude Killy” by nine years. It was, at the time of its launch, a work of absolute disruptive modernity. Bear in mind that in the context of the early 1940s, a wristwatch chronograph was already an incredibly modern super machine. The idea that you could harness the power of a stopwatch, an instrument that allowed you to time everything, from sporting events to auto races, or help you rapidly calculate heart rate in a miniature wristwatch format was already mind-blowing. At the same time, having an indication for day, date and month was the equivalent of having a super computer strapped to your wrist. So the very idea of combining these two functions represented a mind-blowingly modern timepiece. While it is true that a year before, Patek Philippe had launched the 1518 perpetual calendar chronograph, that was a horological unicorn meant for the very rarefied elite. In contrast, the Angelus Chronodate was a stunningly original everyman’s watch meant to be accessible to a far wider audience.ngular faceted lugs and purposeful square pushers.
The watch, renamed the Chronodato in 1943, was a revelation. With a 38mm steel case, it represented an unusually huge timepiece for the era. It was, from a quality perspective, phenomenal, utilizing an in-house fabricated column wheel activated movement named the Angelus caliber 217 (the triple calendar version of the caliber 215). From a design perspective, the watch was totally unique and beautiful to behold. Beyond its two “Big Eye” counter layout with continuous seconds at nine o’clock and 45-minute chrono counter at three o’clock, it featured a central hand with a red arrow-tipped pointer that indicated the date on a scale printed at the outer edge of the dial. The watch also featured two windows for month at 12 o’clock and day at six o’clock. The hands were a distinctive syringe shape, and indexes featured luminous Arabic markers. The case featured a thin almost non-existent bezel, sharp angular faceted lugs and purposeful square pushers.
It was, simply speaking, one of the most handsome and original sports watches made. In the past few years, the Chronodato has been one of the very last few vintage chronographs that can be purchased at a relatively accessible price.
The New Angelus Chronodate
Says Savary, “We were intensely aware of the demand of the Chronodate and the surging cult of collectibility in recent years, so we were ready to relaunch this model. Of course, there was the temptation to make an exact replica of the 38mm vintage watch. But it would have been inconsistent with the modern identity of Angelus. It might be something we could revive as a small edition in the future but not as something we would make on a regular basis. So the question became how do we make a watch that is immediately identifiable as a Chronodate, yet feels vibrant and contemporary?”
The response was to adapt the multi-part case used by Angelus in their flying tourbillon. Savary continues, “This is one of the most complicated cases in the industry. It uses a waterproof carbon composite center case which the movement is fitted into, then the bezel and the fully skeletonized outer case. The effect is that the movement is isolated from direct impact to the case, protecting it from shock. Altogether there are six main parts to the case: the bezel, the caseback, the center links and the skeletonized flanks.” Savary and his team added to this oversized carbon composite center case rectangular pushers that are printed with their respective functions, while the large crown features a central rubber element for better grip.
Says Savary, “Some of the best designs in watches create a dynamic tension between hyper modern and retro elements. And so, we wanted to create a dial that developed this same type of dynamic tension with the case.” What he means is that it is the dial of the Chronodate that allows this watch to fully develop what has to be said is an incredibly appealing character. It features an aggressively frosted or grené central area, the two signature “Big Eye” counters of the original Chronodate, the syringe-shaped hands, the central pointer with red-tipped arrow and date scale at the perimeter, and the applied Arabic indexes. But it is in the subtle contrast between textures that the dial becomes so vividly expressive. The frosted finish — approaching the texture of a tremblage dial — is contrasted by the ultra fine circular guilloché in the subdials, contrasted by the matte finish in the minute track and contrasted by the circular brushing of the date display, while the applied luminous indexes are amongst the most three-dimensional I’ve ever seen. The overall effect is a dial that positively ripples with electrifying nuance.
But the proverbial elephant in the room when it comes to the new Chronodate is, what happened to the month and day indicators from the vintage watch? Savary’s reply is, “This is the first version of the Chronodate. We wanted to create something with a very strong and distinct identity that was immediately appealing and that was crafted at the highest level we could offer. We wanted to have a watch that took some visual cues like the central date pointer and the oversized ‘Big Eye’ counters with the three-minute hash marks for old coin-operated telephones and combined them with modern elements like our multi- part carbon and skeletonized titanium case. The result, we believe, is a really powerful new design that is the beginning of a family of watches for Angelus.”
Did the absence of the month and day indicators bother me? To be honest, at first yes, but the more I looked at the design of the watch, the more swayed I was by it, as it is just so balanced. Trying to imagine apertures at 12 and six o’clock somehow disrupted the visual harmony. So did the idea of a tachymeter which was present in the original watch. Indeed, the more I looked at the updated Chronodate model, the more I felt it is one of the most visually appealing new automatic chronograph models that I could think of.
At 42.5mm by 14.25mm, the case is proportionally harmonious and not too thick as watches in this category sometimes are. In addition, the extremely short lugs make the watch wear slightly smaller, more like a 41mm watch. I really liked the watch. So much so that I was sorely tempted to purchase one; it was just so different from what I usually wear. But then I got it in my head to try to convince Bertrand Savary to make me my own version of the watch, with a dial color that has become something of a signature for a Revolution limited edition timepiece.
La Vie En Rose
The new Angelus Chronodate is offered in three versions, each a 25-piece limited edition. There are two versions in titanium and carbon cases, with blue and silver dials, and a rose gold and carbon case version with a blue dial. Looking at the frosted finish of the dial, I somehow immediately imagined the watch with an almost rose gold-like salmon dial. I’ve always loved the contrast between this very special hue and the stealthy darker color of titanium.
Also, as you probably know by now, salmon dials are something of an obsession for us here at Revolution. So far we’ve made a Laurent Ferrier Classic with a scientific salmon dial, a Baltic Chronograph with a frosted salmon dial and pulsometer, and a Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Micro-Rotor with a softly nuanced salmon dial inspired by the sunset in Venice. We also have a very beautiful two- tone salmon dial split seconds chronograph with applied Breguet numerals coming up made in collaboration with Maria and Richard Habring, as well as a really cool version of the Frederique Constant Monolithic with a multi-finish salmon dial also with applied Breguet numerals. OK, enough about other projects.
After thinking about it, Savary eventually acquiesced to my request and so, we set about finding just the right hue. What is interesting about “salmon” dials as they are called is that they actually represent a very wide chromatic range — from the warm, almost rose champagne hue that we used in our Laurent Ferrier collaboration to the vivid rose gold tone that I was after here. Indeed, I was inspired by dials from A. Lange & Söhne, such as that used for their Datograph Perpetual Tourbillon, which is crafted from solid pink gold. I immediately knew that I wanted a dial with this character but perhaps without the correspondingly lofty cost. And after some experimenting, we rapidly arrived at a 6N gold plating of the brass dial to achieve what we believe is the perfect color.
Then Savary proposed something rather extraordinary in terms of examining the dial sample and prototype watch in the flesh. He explains, “We are incredibly proud of an association we share with Château Angélus, our namesake and one of the world’s most mythical producers of Grand Cru Bordeaux. Why don’t we take the prototype and examine it in the bucolic conditions of this domain, while sharing a few glasses of their wonderful wine? We can even show the watch to the current head of the vineyard and latest person in her family to oversee it, Stéphanie de Boüard-Rivoal.”
For those of you who might not have heard of it, Château Angélus, or L’Angélus as it was known until 1990, is a Saint-Émilion wine which is ranked as a Grand Cru Classification, the highest karate-dan known in Bordeaux. Since 1909, it has been owned by the Boüard family. The Comte Maurice de Boüard de Laforest expanded it in 1926 by acquiring Clos de L’Angélus, which took its name from the church bells of Saint-Martin de Mazeret. And it is believed that these evocative peals signal one of God’s most majestic acts of transubstantiation, turning grapes into one of the most ethereal elixirs on the planet. Stéphanie’s father, Hubert, is something of a legend in the wine world, introducing modern techniques such as maturation in new oak casks. Anyway, Savary had hardly finished his proposal before I was packed and headed for the door with a freshly minted electronic plane ticket on my phone.
To observe the beauty of the resulting watch in the light of the Gironde was something truly unforgettable. The dial was perfect in tone. At my request, Savary and his team had set about subtly increasing the contrast between all the different areas of the dial. The grené or frosted area is a touch more aggressively textured, to contrast more with the delicate snailing of the subdials, while the circular brushing on the date track is even more assertive than normal.
Says Savary, “We perfectly understood you wanted to see the maximum modulating of textures on the dial, and we optimized every texture so they really come to life in the light.” During our tasting at Château Angélus, we also had time to calmly contemplate the movement driving the Angelus Chronodate, which is the caliber A-500. The movement is made visually distinct by the addition of a column wheel, sandblasted NAC-treated bridges and a proprietary rotor design. It was only at this moment that we realized that Angelus and Revolution both share the star symbol as part our identities, and so we thought it only fitting to lume this element so it would be identifiable in the dark. Also, because the rotor of the A-500 spins very fast in the non-winding direction, we thought this could be an amusing if non-functional detail to the watch… a kind of shooting luminous star.
During our visit to Château Angélus, we discovered that each year, the wine produced is given a nickname. For example, 2014 is called “The Indian” because that year was characterized by an Indian summer which brought forth a rich explosion of intense jammy fruits on the palate. In the process of tasting various vintages, Savary and I found one we believe pairs perfectly with the watch we created, and so we decided that every one of the 25 pieces of our limited edition collaboration should be accompanied by a bottle of that wine. So when you purchase this watch, you will be contacted by my team to determine how you want this bottle of wine sent to you.
During our time in the cellar, we also learned the term “Angels’ Share” which refers to the small amount of wine that evaporates each year the wine is stored. This evaporated portion is, therefore, believed to have ascended to the heavens to be supped on by God’s best angels. But we began to imagine that this wine also found its way to the dial of the watch bestowing it with its signature color and so — as often, we are told, happens in the cellars of this mythical vineyard — inspiration struck and we found the perfect nickname for our watch.
So it is that the Angelus × Revolution Chronodate “Angels’ Share” will be made in 25 examples, and each comes with a bottle of this fabulous elixir made at its namesake in Bordeaux.
Angelus × Revolution Chronodate “Angels’ Share”
Movement: Self-winding caliber A-500; 60-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph and date
Case: 42.5mm; titanium; water resistant to 30m
Dial: Salmon (6N gold plated) with grené or frosted area; Super-LumiNova filled Arabic numerals
Strap: Ballistic gray rubber; titanium folding clasp
Price: CHF 21,300
Availability: Numbered and limited edition of 25 pieces