Bovet OttantaSei designed by Pininfarina: lightness and transparency
When the Bovet manufacture joined forces with the most famous name in Italian design to implement a watchmaking project, the result was an outstanding collection of timepieces. What follows is a guided trip into a wealth of both stylistic and technological skills, with the latest watch in the saga, the flying tourbillon OttantaSei.
Often, watch design consists merely in integrating an existing movement into a case, so the designer’s scope is limited by the size and architecture of the caliber. This method makes development of a model somewhat easier, however, it does not really allow for any horological innovation. At best, it will have an effect on the finishing or the materials used.
In 2010, the Bovet manufacture and the design firm Pininfarina made a splash by coming out with the Tourbillon Ottanta, their first joint creation that bore the hallmarks of the Italian designer. This legendary timepiece defined the foundation and the esthetic codes of a collection that was later enriched with new collaborations.
From drafting board to integrated design
For their latest opus, the technicians and watchmakers at Bovet 1822 and the Pininfarina designers decided on the term “light” as a point of departure for their conception. The word has two meanings of course, lightweight and light as in luminous, all qualities that remained part and parcel of the timepiece's development.
When holding the flying tourbillon OttantaSei in your hand, the transparency and lightness are immediately noticeable. The case has been reduced to a minimum and has been opened up with a kind of skylight composed of four sapphire crystals. The movement has been skeletonized to the extreme, revealing all the components in a special play of light. Then there is the tourbillon cage that seems to be literally floating at 6 o'clock while mirroring the two dials, one for the hours, one for the minutes and the one that displays the power reserve.
The Bovet OttantaSei reveals all the values defined in the original project in a most unequivocal manner. That is because there were no compromises during the conception stage. On the contrary, many innovations including three that earned specific patents, were implemented in order to make sure the original idea could be maintained. This absolute rigor allowed the makers to integrate the design perfectly, so much so that it impacts all esthetic and technical parameters at the same time. As a result, it is virtually impossible to speak of the design of the middle case separately from the design of the movement because the watch is a visual entity and all parts interdependent.
An integrated manufacture to support the initial mission
This radical approach could be used without being ruined in the process, it was mainly due to the technical competencies and the means of production at the Bovet manufacture. With premises at the Môtiers castle and in Tramelan, Bovet has long regrouped almost all the crafts necessary to produce watches in-house. Having access to its own production tools ensures that the company has total flexibility when it comes to developing models. It's an impressive display of capabilities and ranges from hot-stamping to the production of hairsprings. In addition, there is an engraving workshop that has the necessary know how in terms of finishing and decorations.
The new Bovet OttantaSei can claim to be a stylistic and technical success thanks to the full mastery of the development and manufacturing processes. Instead of adapting the original idea to the available technical realities, the technical office and the watchmakers at the Bovet manufactory kept on pushing the envelope on watchmaking science and offering innovation where others would merely have sought compromise.
This exemplary cycle joining both design and production is so rare in any area of creation that it is well worth highlighting. It is worth noting that behind each legendary and timeless piece that 20th-century design has delivered, one inevitably finds that the designer and the manufacturer have collaborated closely. Let us mention the bentwood chairs by Alvar Aalto or Charles Eames as examples. In the long term, their conception was the result of a genuine development partnership initiated by their respective authors, Artek and Hermann Miller. Innovation in design derives from the joint willingness of pushing technology for the benefit of the planned object without getting too far from the original functions.
A timepiece to wear
We had the opportunity to test the titanium version of the Bovet OttantaSei tourbillon for several days. You can best comprehend how an object performs its functions to the fullest extent when the said object is actually in use. The real accuracy of a timekeeper can therefore only be revealed when it is on your wrist. Made of less than sixteen grams of grade 5 titanium, the case seems to have been reduced to its simplest elements with just enough material, but not anything more, to be able to install the two curved lateral sapphire crystals as well as the ones on the front and back. What made the streamlining possible was an ingenious system allowing encasement through the back of the watch.
The crown at 12 o’clock is very accessible, making the watch easy to set and rewind. The Caliber 17BM03 has a ten-day power reserve and an arming system composed of a patented spherical differential that lets the user wind up the movement twice as fast. One characteristic trait of the Bovet timekeepers is the crown integrated in the hinged ring without any visible lugs, the way one would do with a pocket watch. The elements of the middle case end in a rubber strap with alcantara leather lining, which prolongs the feeling of lightness and adds a sportive touch to the whole thing. This kind of design means that the watch is comfortable to wear irrespective of the case diameter and the dimension of the lugs. Thanks to these ergonomics, the watch can fit anyone’s wrist, large or small.
As mentioned above, the readability of the displays (hours, minutes and power reserve) is perfect. The two dials contrast color-wise with the other components. The next thing to draw the eye is the patented double-sided flying tourbillon. Never has a tourbillon seemed so free in its cage, thanks to the single bridge and the particular arrangement of the escapement and hairspring on both sides of the central attachment…
After uncovering what amounts to the very essence of this timekeeper, namely its functionalities, the wearer will by and by have the privilege of noticing some of the architectural subtleties and the outstanding care given to the finishing:shot blasting, rolling, perlage, côtes de Genève, hand-chamfering... it's a list of separate operations that looks like a full inventory of competencies, because each part is subjected to a specific treatment. In spite of this enormous care, the watch as a whole exudes a deep feeling of sobriety. When it comes to colors, it’s the grays that appear in an enlarged spectrum: thirty-four different hues in all, from almost black to almost white.
The flying tourbillon OttantaSei is available in three versions, pink gold, titanium and DLC black titanium and a limited number of eighty-six pieces in total. The titanium versions have a slightly more sportive look, but by contrast, the pink gold ones have a different energy, more radical even instinctual.
Transparency and lightness? These were the specifications at the start. By investing so much in following the two initial guidelines, the teams at the Bovet manufacture and Pininfarina pooled their energies and created an exceptional timepiece that combines rigor and performance.
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