Chronographs are particularly uncommon among independent watchmakers thanks to their inherent complexity and the high standards to which this band of watchmakers hold themselves to. So when they do undertake the challenge of creating a chronograph, the results have been consistently remarkable, as exemplified by the MB&F Sequential EVO and the Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf last year. Today, Petermann Bédat has unveiled its first chronograph.
Petermann Bédat was founded by a pair of now-31-year-old watchmakers, Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat, who met at watchmaking school in Geneva and spent their formative years at A. Lange & Söhne. In 2017, they established a workshop in Renens, right next to Renaud et Papi, the renowned technical powerhouse now owned by Audemars Piguet. In 2020, the pair unveiled the 1967 Deadbeat Seconds, one of the most visually impressive deadbeat watches on the market that features a double-sided anchor to control the locking and unlocking of both escape wheels, creating a dramatic yet elegant motion.
The Petermann Bédat Ref. 2941 is not just any chronograph; it is a single-pusher rattrapante with an instantaneous minute counter and has been finished to an exceptional degree. While the movement is traditionally designed with a horizontal clutch and features many classically elaborate elements such as slender, sinuous levers and black-polished steel caps, it has an unusual construction in that the split seconds mechanism is located on the dial side of the movement while the back showcases just the chronograph works.
As a result, the column wheel for the split seconds is visible through a semi-open dial at 12 o’clock. Produced by Comblémine, the dial factory owned by Kari Voutilainen, the dial plates are made of platinum and has a fine, frosted finish. It has a bi-compax layout with the instantaneous minute counter at three o’clock and the running seconds counter at nine, which has an aperture that reveals a black-polished cap for the escape wheel.
Shaped and finished by hand, the main hour, minutes and running seconds as well as the rattrapante hands are in blued steel while the hands for the chronograph seconds and minutes are distinguished in gold. A minor quirk arising from incorporating the split-seconds mechanism on the dial side is that the chronograph hand is positioned above the split seconds hand, contrary to the conventional arrangement. As such, the split hand, which is the more delicate hand, is executed in blued steel rather than gold.
The case is made of platinum and measures 38.6mm in diameter with a thickness of 13.7mm. The monopusher in the crown at three o’clock starts, stops, and resets the chronograph while the pusher at eight o’clock starts and stops the split-seconds hand.
The movement is remarkably beautiful with tremendous attention paid to the aesthetics of every minute detail as well as their relationship to each other. The base plate and bridges are made from German silver, which imparts a soft golden hue, enabling the steel components to stand out. The wheel train, beginning with the mainspring barrel that has a massive top jewel visible on the case back, is laid out in an anti-clockwise direction with the great wheel located at 11 o’clock rather than the centre to reduce thickness. The chronograph drive wheel, escape wheel, chronograph seconds and minute wheels are held in place by individual bridges that are beautifully shaped; the boundary between the bridge for the chronograph seconds and the bridge for the minutes accommodates the minute ratchet wheel, enable the ratcheting to be observed.
The column wheel is located at 12 o’clock and controls several slim and elegant levers. The coupling lever is particularly elaborate and beautiful; it is fully support in that it pivots over the drive wheel and has a C-shaped tail that ends in two sharp outward angles. To the right, there are two slender and sinuous levers that intertwine around the barrel’s arbor jewel, displaying the meticulous consideration given to the visual harmony between the components. The lever furthermost to the right is the reset lever while the lever on its left is designed to isolate the ratchet minute wheel so that it be freely reset. This lever is only necessary in chronographs with an instantaneous minute counter.
Chronograph wristwatches with instantaneous, jumping minutes are particularly rare in watchmaking. One of the pioneering examples was the Longines 13.33Z, which made its debut in 1913. However, as a result of cost-cutting measures, the less sophisticated dragging, or semi-instantaneous indicator became the prevalent standard for mass-produced chronograph movements. Following the Quartz crisis, the A. Lange & Söhne Datograph was the first chronograph wristwatch to reintroduce a jumping minutes mechanism. The Patek Philippe ref. 5170 soon followed suit. Today, it is exceptionally rare to find such chronographs outside of these two brands, with just two examples being the Grönefeld 1941 Grönograaf and Agengraphe.
The instantaneous minute mechanism consists of a lever with a ratchet hook, a snail cam positioned on the chronograph seconds axis and a spring. The minute lever and spring are supported by the same bridge that holds the chronograph seconds wheel. The snail cam rotates along with the chronograph wheel and every minute when the peak of the snail cam comes into contact with the beak of the lever, it pushes the latter towards the ratchet wheel, pulling it forward by one tooth. This action is facilitated by a spring which also ensures that it exerts less tension and ratchet smoothly. The isolating lever mentioned earlier pivots on the minute lever and prevents it from engaging with the minute wheel when the chronograph is reset.
While implementing the split seconds mechanism on the dial side results in a top plate that is visually less dense compared to a standard split seconds chronograph, it enables the components and their finishing to be more easily visible and appreciated.
On the movement’s dial side, held in place by a bridge at eight o’clock is an intermediate drive wheel for the main minute hand as the great wheel is located at 11 o’clock. The column wheel and split seconds mechanism are arranged right down the middle of the movement. The heart cam of the chronograph seconds wheel is located on this plate underneath the split seconds wheel. When the chronograph is activated, a spring-loaded lever affixed to the split wheel acts on the heart cam, allowing both wheel to rotate together. When the split is activated, a pair of clamp lever grips the split wheel, immobilizing it and the heart cam lifts the spring-loaded lever away from the centre of the wheel. Evident at this point is that there is no isolator to prevent friction caused by the lever dragging over the heart cam. Thus, the movement parts had to be constructed with utmost precision and finely finished.
At the top right, there’s a curious ratchet wheel that is part of a security system. Resetting the chronograph when the rattrapante has yet to catch up with the chronograph seconds hand can damage the movement as the rattrapante wheel is still being locked by clamp levers. Hence, a security system was installed to release the clamp levers in this scenario. When the chronograph is reset, a ratchet hook on the command lever pushes this security wheel with ratchet teeth which in turn will push a security finger. Meanwhile the column wheel is designed with milled teeth such that if the clamp levers are open, the finger will turn under a milled tooth but if the clamp levers are locked, it will push a solid tooth and the clamp levers will release the split wheel for reset.
Perhaps more so than any other chronograph, the movement was designed from the ground up with aesthetics in mind, with every component shaped and arranged to exhibit an exceptional degree of finishing. The numerous snaking levers and springs have been mirror-polished on their top surfaces and polished, bevelled along their edges, with an abundance of sharp inwards and outward angles. The massive jewels and screws sit in wide, mirror-polished countersinks on both sides of the movement. The pivot jewels for the drive wheel and escape wheel are secured by black-polished steel caps while the balance assembly retains a traditional design found in pocket watches, with a wide black-polished circular hub that is held in place by two screws to retain the cap jewel and a swan’s neck regulator index. The hairspring is attached to traditional kidney-shaped stud piton that is finished to the nines like the rest of the movement. Even the wheels are finely finished with polished, bevelled spokes and sharp corners. This degree of finishing extends to even the dial. The platinum seconds track and central dial plate are meticulously finished with a finely frosted top surface and wide, distinctly polished bevels.
All told, the watch is simply a knockout, and particularly in terms of the amount of effort devoted to aesthetics, encompassing both design and finishing, it is hard to beat. It’s limited to 10 pieces, and deliveries are scheduled to commence this autumn.
Petermann Bedat Monopusher Split-Seconds Chronograph with Instantaneous Minutes Ref. 2941
Movement: Hand-wound in-house Calibre 202; power reserve of 48 hours; 2.5Hz or 18,000vph
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, rattrapante chronograph with instantaneous minutes
Case: 38.6mm x 13.7mm; platinum
Dial: Platinum with frosted finish and hand-polished bevels
Strap: Alligator leather with platinum pin buckle
Availability: Limited to 10 pieces
Price: CHF 243,000 before taxes