Geneva Watch Days has become one of the most important events on the watchmaking calendar, and Revolution has all the latest news and releases. Find our expert coverage and more here on the site, on Instagram and Youtube.
Creating a “new” watch is a most daunting enterprise, not least for the challenge of achieving true innovation within a space that is often tinier than a postage stamp. There are watches without number that sport round cases, there are only so many ways a timing bezel can be marked or unmarked, and as for hands, three is the usual number and one has also to consider if the consumer desires something that isn’t baton, sword or leaf. A watch shouldn’t catch a snarky “homage” label just for looking like a watch; yet innovate we must. New independent watch company Byrne looks to have struck on a new idea that is as clever as it is appealing. Rather than going to town on something radical — cases, hands, dials that track far from the norm — why not have a dial that changes its looks at the stroke of 12?
In a conventional watch with date complication, a window is cut in the dial through which a number on the date wheel underneath peeks through. This is supposed to happen at midnight, though in most cases, the change can drag over a few hours. On the Byrne GyroDial, the company’s first creation, there is no date window, but four apertures cut into the dial at the cardinal points. At midnight, a quartet of rotating blocks the dial swaps out the four hour markers. The watch can autonomously switch between Roman numerals, Arabic, or indeed custom markings from day to day; alternatively the change can also be effected manually as one sets the date in other watches. By changing the quarter-hour markers on the dial, the entire look and mood of the watch face undergoes a dramatic change… it’s a switcheroo not unlike a protagonist stepping into a washroom and walking out with a different cut and colour to his hair, only the GyroDial has four unique looks up its sleeve at any one time.
At least two significant technical challenges had to be surmounted to achieve the quality that founders John and Claire Byrne required of their inaugural watch: unlike in date changes that can drag on for hours, the dial switch has to be quick — and that is why the company motto is “Change your mind in a flash”. In addition, the rotating hour markers cannot be set back from the dial (as windowed date displays do): as part of the dial, they must sit perfectly flush. Significant energy is required for the face-jumps, and great precision required in having the switching hour markers sit precisely where they are supposed to, a feat made even more challenging by the vertical brushing of the dial — executing a backflip repeatedly without error lays an immense load for the movement to bear. A new one had to be developed to achieve this, for which Byrne turned to Le Temps Manufacture in Fleurier. The result is the caliber 5555, with 60 hours of power reserve. It took four years of development to create the GyroDial.
The rest of the watch is a credit to John Byrne’s design background. At 41.7mm in diameter and 14.8mm, the GyroDial is by no means petite. Yet for its grade 5 titanium construction, the watch weighs next to nothing, and its size is also somewhat muted by its smooth, organic lines that hug the wrist.
Movement: Self-winding caliber 5555, power reserve of 60 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, switching hour markers
Case: 41.7mm x 14.8mm; grade 5 titanium; sapphire box and display back; water resistant to 50m
Strap: Rubber or alligator leather with titanium buckle
Price: CHF 16,000