Hervé Schlüchter Debuts his First Watch, L’Essentiel

Movement finishing elevated to an art.

When it comes to fine watchmaking, there is no other craft more vital or definitive of the art than movement finishing, specifically when done through traditional hand-finishing techniques. But what sets the most beautiful watches apart is how finishing is deeply seeded in the process of designing the movement such that each serves to elevate the other to the realm of art. Today, Hervé Schlüchter makes his debut with a watch that exemplifies this synergy to an almost obsessive degree.

Hervé Schlüchter L’Essentiel
Hervé Schlüchter L’Essentiel

Born in the Swiss Jura and received his education at L’École des Métiers Techniques in Porrentruy, Schlüchter spent a decade at Bovet, eventually rising up the ranks of director of Dimier 1738, the manufacturing facility of Bovet. Driven by the desire for autonomy after the loss of his father and birth of his son, he departed the brand and established his own creative laboratory, Hyade-S in 2017, specializing in developing high-concept, mechanics-celebratory movements which included projects for the experimental brand The Alchemists.

However, prior to embarking on the decisive journey to create his own watches, Schlüchter sought to expand his knowledge and expertise in classical watchmaking, finishing, and decoration. To that end, he set his sights on learning from none other than Philippe Dufour. Through the introduction of a mutual friend, Schlüchter had the privilege of meeting Dufour at his esteemed studio in the Vallée de Joux. “Philippe Dufour’s techniques are really special, whether in terms of methods or tools used such as gentian wood. Everything is a succession of details to achieve this absolute level of finish. Traditional tools and methods are simply magical,” Schlüchter remarks.

In March 2022, Schlüchter opened his own workshop at Villa Renfe in Biel/Bienne and recruited two other watchmakers. L’Essential marks the first watch in a trilogy of timepieces that revolves around a generational concept. Each watch within the trilogy, offers a different perspective on the passage of time, starting with the portrayal of time through the eyes of a child, followed by that of a parent, and concludes with the wisdom of a grandparent. L’Essential, thus, offers a childlike perception of time with a distinctive 24-hour disc that doubles as a day and night indicator. What’s impressive is that a majority of components are made in-house with the exception of the case, buckle and minute parts of the movement such as screws, mainspring, pins and jewels.

The watch has a diameter of 39mm and 10.37mm in height. The case is in stainless steel with a contrasting finish; the bezel, top surfaces of the lugs as well as case back ring are highly polished while the flanks are brushed. Inspired by a regulator made by Antide Janvier in the 18th century, the watch is characterized by a regulator style dial with a small seconds at six o’clock, a central minutes and a large semi-circular aperture that displays a 24-hour disc. Immediately apparent is the amount of effort that has been expended on the dial work alone, which is itself made up of five components excluding the hands. The central dial, which is made of German silver, has been engine-turned by Schlüchter himself using a traditional rose engine acquired from master guillocheur Georges Brodbeck. The outer minute track as well as the inlaid small seconds sub-dial are executed in Grand Feu enamel. Their bases were produced by Schlüchter while the enamelling was done by Sophie Cattin Morales, an independent enameller located in Les Barrières. The massive aperture for the 24-hour display is enclosed within a steel frame that is fastened to the dial with screws. This frame exhibits numerous outward and inward angles, the hallmark of hand-applied anglage. The 24-hour disc is crafted from aventurine with the sun and the moon metallized in gold and silver, both pad-printed. The distinctive minute hand is rounded, polished and flame-blued by hand. Each hand is attached to its own hub that are bevelled and highly polished as well.

Hervé Schlüchter L’Essentiel
Consisting of five parts, the dial of the L’Essentiel is notably elaborate featuring a guilloche center in German silver, a minute track and seconds sub-dial in Grand Feu enamel, along with a 24-hour disc crafted from aventurine

The calibre HS-01, visible on the case back, is equally elaborate, to put it mildly. In fact, it appears a lot more dense and complex than a standard time-only movement as the wheels of the going train were made larger and are entirely exposed with each wheel held in place by its own finger bridge. In addition, the exposed stop-seconds lever and the unusual moustache lever escapement all contribute to its visually intricate composition. At the same time, vital components – the barrel and balance wheel – are maximized. As is characteristic of such watches, the movement achieves balance power with use of a massive balance wheel that has a traditional beat rate of 18,000 bph, or 2.5Hz while offering a power reserve of 60 hours on a single barrel.

Calibre HS-01, visible on the case back
The beautifully constructed and finished Calibre HS-01

The vivid contrast of textures also enhances its overall visual complexity. The base plate and bridges for the barrel, escape wheel and balance are made of German silver and were given a frosted finish while the individual bridges that support the gear train are made of steel and are fully rounded and polished, with the bridge for the escape wheel sporting a black polished steel cap. Seemingly, every square nanometre of the movement has been reviewed, designed and brought to the finest possible level of finish.

An anachronistic but highly appealing detail is the wolf’s teeth on the crown wheel, visible under the barrel bridge, which has been meticulously polished by hand. The barrel bridge is beautifully shaped; it accommodates the shape of the third wheel, rising to a pointed edge before dipping and rising like a cresting wave and ultimately culminating in a sharp inward angle.

Mechanically, the most unusual aspect of the watch is the moustache lever escapement. It is a variation of the lever escapement that originated in the 18th century and was commonly used in pocket watches during that time to provide greater balance to the pallet fork. The distinctive shape of the pallet fork resembles a moustache, hence its name. Schlüchter shares that this design offers greater stability in terms of amplitude and the results have been very promising. The balance wheel is free-sprung with four adjustable, circular masses that are reminiscent of the compensation weights found in marine chronometers, along with a pair of smaller, turnable weights for smaller adjustments. With the length of the hairspring being fixed, the curved spring on the balance cock holds under tension a polished top plate that is screwed into the stud support and beat error can be adjusted by simply turning a screw on the left side of the balance cock.

Due to the labour-intensive nature of constructing and finishing a majority of components in-house, Schlüchter will only be producing five watches a year while working on the rest of the trilogy. L’Essential is limited to 25 pieces and at the time of writing, all of which have already been allocated. It remains uncertain if the Essential will ever be produced in other metals in future but a collective persuasive effort could tip the scales.

Tech Specs

Movement: HS-01; hand-wound; power reserve of 60 hours; 2.5Hz or 18,000vph
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds; hacking function
Case: 39mm x 10.37mm; Stainless steel
Dial: German silver decorated with guilloche; minute track and small seconds sub-dial in Grand Feu enamel; flame-blued hands
Price: CHF 78,000
Availability: All sold


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