As a bloke who allocates an unhealthy percentage of his waking life to taking photos of mechanical wrist machines, I am often asked: “What’s the dream watch?” Often my instinctive response is “anything from Laurent Ferrier.” The sadness is that the typical response in return is one of bemusement – simply because this small independent watchmaker isn’t widely acknowledged (yet). However, those who know their stuff or work in the industry always smile and nod knowingly.
I had the opportunity last week to spend some time with the Laurent Ferrier team at William & Son in Mayfair (if you’ve not been – go. You’ll thank me later). We were there celebrating William & Son's London Craft Week event - a wonderful showcase of the intricacies behind independent watchmaking with brands from Moritz Grossmann to De Bethune.
For the event, Laurent Ferrier created a special Galet Micro-Rotor ‘Montre Ecole’ which is a special tribute to British craftsmanship. If there are two things Mr Laurent Ferrier appreciates in life it's craftsmanship and automobile racing. When the softly spoken watchmaker was a boy, he was impressed by race cars, not only for their performance but also for their design. He had a poster in his bedroom featuring the Triumph Spitfire racing in Le Mans. Laurent Ferrier recalls: “To me, it was the most beautiful car ever. I wanted to drive it so badly! I was also completely devoted to its shape and of course, the colour was striking.” The British racing green takes its name from the green international motor racing colour of the U.K. which was used up to the end of the '60s when most racing cars were designed and built by incredible craftsmen.
The watch wonderfully references automobile racing. The case is 40mm in stainless steel with a dial that's a deep green lacquer and nods towards what cars used to be. The silver sub-dial draws inspiration from car rims, the leather strap is inspired by the bonnet straps that were common in the '60s and the railroad and hour markers riff on speedometer design.
When it comes to Laurent Ferrier, part of the joy is in the paradox. The watches look wonderfully simple at first glance and you then turn them over and find this metal ecosystem of superlative finishing. Less watch and timekeeping and more art. In addition to a Cote de Genève pattern on the bridges and the circular graining on the mainplate, the flanks are hand-drawn, the wheel spokes are bevelled, the screw heads are polished and the interior angles are hand-crafted. The cars that the watch so beautifully references may have been driven at break-neck speed, but with the 'Montre Ecole' on your wrist, you'll hope that time passes very slowly so you can cherish every moment of it.