Atelier Wen x Revolution Perception ‘Càn’
Our second collaboration with rising independent star Atelier Wen is a sparkling riff of our sold-out first drop with the brand. Presenting Atelier Wen x Revolution Perception ‘Càn,’ featuring a radiant champagne sunray guilloche dial and a grade 5 titanium bracelet with individually polished inner links for a stunning, shimmering effect.
Translated from Mandarin, Càn (粲), means “brightness and splendour, and indeed our second collaboration with Atelier Wen, the independent brand that is tapping on the very best artisanal and watchmaking capabilities of China, is all that.
Similar to our sold-out first collab, Atelier Wen x Revolution Perception ‘Càn’ is based on the brand’s wonderful integrated bracelet, sports chic, 100-meter water resistant watch named Perception, now made even more desirable with two key improvements. Our latest version features a matte brushed and high polished grade 5 titanium case and bracelet with polished inner angles on all the links for a shimmering statement. In place of the striking red dial of its predecessor, Càn features a radiant champagne-coloured sunray flinqué guilloché à main dial individually crafted by Master Cheng Yucai.
As a refreshingly modern showcase of the very best artisanal and watchmaking capabilities of China, this collaboration is testament to how far Atelier Wen has come since its launch five years ago.
More than Just Perception
For those of you who are not already acquainted, Atelier Wen is brainchild of two talented young men Robin Tallendier and Wilfried Buiron, both self-professed Sinophiles. From the very inception of their brand, their goal is to introduce the global watch-loving community to the artistry latent in Chinese watchmaking, one that has long remained under the radar for the general watch-buying publics. Accordingly, their name Atelier Wen was derived from the French word for “workshop” and the Chinese word for “culture” (文),
Tallenier and Buiron aimed high with Atelier Wen, but if anyone could achieve these lofty goals, they could. Two of the finest minds of their generation, both recognized from an early age that the future lay in collaborations between East and West and sought out degrees at Peking University. A horological devotee since the age of 14, Tallendier made such an impact while in China that he was appointed an “Execution Expert” by the Chinese government, which gave him unparalleled access to the legendary Mainland watch companies, including the famous Dandong/Peacock company. He was also a private equity hot shot in Paris until he decided to dedicate his life completely to Atelier Wen.
Buiron, meanwhile, was born and raised in Hong Kong and graduated from not one but two of China’s top universities, Peking University (where he befriended Tallendier) and Tsinghua University. With his flawless command of Mandarin, he is something of a television personality in China. He is also the founder of a successful start-up, Zaapi, which builds digital commerce infrastructure for Southeast Asian MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises).
A Chinese Odyssey
In late 2018, Atelier Wen made its first splash in the watch world with a timepiece named Porcelain Odyssey that showcased the exquisite art of Chinese porcelain for its dials.
Their next launch was the stunning integrated bracelet sports chic Perception, which made watch lovers sit up and take notice. A work of remarkable maturity, Perception is balanced and ergonomic, beautifully constructed and nuanced, as evident in particular in its guilloché à main dials.
These incredibly exquisite dials are the work of Chinese Master Cheng Yucai. Drawn to the traditional English and Swiss decorative technique of rose engine turning, which uses gear reduction driven by the human hand to transform elaborate large scale patterns into extraordinarily complex engraved dials, but unable to access the largely antique machines needed to perform this mimetic act of transubstantiation, Cheng did the seemingly impossible and designed and built his own, and even patented it. It was a stunning breakthrough and achievement after many years of grueling, solitary effort in his workshop in Xinmi, a rural town in Henan province. His dedication to his craft and skill are extraordinary; no effort is spared to create perfection.
For the circular panier design of our first collaboration Xi, for instance, Cheng created 36 separate sections at the edge of the dial, instead of the regular 24. But as these patterns converge at the center, they become so tiny that keeping them distinct is an incredible challenge. Suffice to say that Cheng went through several rounds before he was satisfied with the results.
The dial of Càn, meanwhilem features a flinqué pattern which is somewhat more classic than the circular panier one used on Xi. However, this apparent simplicity is deceptively complex. Tallenier shares, “As it is arranged according to a ‘tunnel’ symmetry, extreme regularity between each section is needed. If a section is even slightly larger or smaller, then the depth-of-field effect will be compromised, and the dial will end up looking like a blurry assembly of lines.”
To ensure that each of the 24 sections making up the guilloché dial look like deep grooves, Master Cheng also had to work with extremely narrow angles between each of the sections, significantly increasing the rejection rate. But the final results were well worth it.
More than mere artistry, Perception represents something unique; it is a truly modern Chinese timepiece. Says Tallendier, “We both lived in Peking and explored as much of China as we were able to. What we see is a vibrant, dynamic and incredibly modern city. So we wanted to make a watch that was similarly modern and that responded to the needs of the contemporary collector yet continued to draw on the city’s impressive traditional roots. This was the impetus for Perception.
“We took inspiration from the shape of ancient pagoda rooftops for the case sides, and from the windows of pagodas for the center links of the bracelet. We were both fascinated about a type of traditional building construction method called Sunmao (榫卯), which doesn’t use nails or cement but uses complex interlocking joinery. Our dial is actually two layers that are 0.5mm and 0.4mm in thickness. The top level is made of the special copper compound and has the guilloché pattern engraved on it. The bottom features the indexes which fit through slots cut into the upper dial. Both levels are locked in place by the chapter ring without using any screws or soldering or glue. We wanted to express what we love about Chinese culture in a more complex way.”
Atelier Wen x Revolution Perception ‘Càn’
Our latest limited edition bears the well-loved hallmarks of its predecessor such as the grade 5 titanium integrated bracelet, this time with individually polished inner angles on all the links, a painstakingly intricate process that is incredibly labor-intensive.
Tallendier shares that the reason why they decided to push for this improved bracelet is because, after delivering the first batches of regular Perception, a major theme that emerged from collectors’ feedback was that a number of them were curious to see how the bracelet would look like with more polishing.
“We are always keen to find ways to make our watches progress, be it improvements or simply stylistic evolutions. What is more, we are generally not fans of repeating the same concepts over again, so adding a layer of novelty to Càn felt like an avenue to make it more attractive and interesting to our eyes.”
This was not an easy journey to say the least. Firstly, by the time we had agreed on those changes, the 100 grade 5 titanium bracelets were already pretty much all made, meaning that it was impossible to change the design to implement flatter angles on the links. This also meant that each bracelet would need to be fully dismantled, very carefully, which, of course, took time. Secondly, and most importantly, each of the angles would need to be polished by hand, one by one. There are six angles on central links and 10 on H ones. A bracelet has 18 of each — meaning that a total of 288 angles needed to be polished on every one of them. That is a grand total of 28,800 angles to polish by hand for the series.
Tallendier adds, “We did not have extra bracelets as buffer, which meant there was no room for mistakes when polishing the angles. That made it all a very tense affair. Imagine having to polish close to 30,000 angles and not being allowed even one single mistake. This was so tough that Mr Liang, our supplier asked to stop the project on a few instances. Perhaps our candid idealism of always bringing in more to achieve our grand vision was what kept him in!”
Other hallmarks include the quick micro-adjustment system that lets you adjust the bracelet with a mere push of the Atelier Wen logo, as well the self-winding extra thin Dandong caliber SL1588 that keeps the thickness of the watch at just 9.4mm.
As with Xi, there are multiple ways of wearing Càn. It comes with an intuitive quick-change system fitted to the spring bars that gives the customer the option of switching to the accompanying additional rubber strap.
As its name suggests, Atelier Wen x Revolution Perception ‘Càn’ shines a brilliant light on the incredible talent and vision behind this upcoming microbrand. The design appeal and the sheer luminous beauty of its handcrafted dial, its strong value proposition for a watch with a grade 5 titanium case and guilloché à main dial and its wonderful ergonomics are a splendid taste of the good things to come.
Atelier Wen x Revolution Perception “Càn”
Movement: Self-winding extra thin Dandong caliber SL1588; 41-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes and seconds
Case: 40mm; grade 5 titanium; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Champagne guilloché with “Sunmao” structure; rhodium plated applied indexes
Strap: Titanium bracelet (upgraded, polished inner angles of centre links) and additional grey rubber strap with folding buckle
Price: USD 3,600, excluding taxes
Availability: Limited to 100 numbered pieces