Robert & Fils 1630, one of the companies with the richest tradition in the world of timekeeping, which is currently run by the 11th generation of watchmakers, will be presenting three new extraordinary timepieces at this year’s edition of Baselworld Watch & Jewellery Show that opens on March 8. The first of three models comes from the very special Léopold Robert series that brings one-of-a-kind watches with grand feu enamel dials. The specific trait of the collection is the fact that it has watches with dials decorated with miniature paintings that replicate the works of a famous Swiss artist, Louis Léopold Robert. This time, the painting in question is Two Young Girls at the Fountain. Two other newcomers are equipped with the iconic Valjoux 88 mechanisms which come from the Maurice Robert line of products. These are Grande Complication Wristwatch and Unique Hunting Pocket Watches, each with a grand feu dial that has a delicate miniature painting of different animals.
The Amazing Tale of Eleven Generations of Watchmakers
The Swiss company managed by the eleventh generation of watchmakers from Robert family has a magnificent tradition spanning to almost four centuries in the industry, which can hardly be matched to any other. Though to be fair, the brand itself was not established in 1630 as one could hope from its name. Still, this is a landmark year in the family’s history, because it marks the first major achievement and it marks the grand appearance of the Roberts in the industry. This was the year when Abram Robert got the task to repair the problematic town clock in La Locle, Switzerland. Since in this period the entire activities of the community were guided by this clock, it was very important for it to be accurate. To achieve this, Abram Robert had to manufacture new parts. With this accomplishment began the legend of the watchmaking family.
The next landmark in family’s history came in the 18th century, when Josué Robert gained a prestigious title in 1725 and became Watchmaker to the King of Prussia. The visitors of Baselworld 2012 will be in the opportunity to see Josué’s patented certificate whose fate was uncertain for many years. Josué’s descendant Gilles Robert finally tracked it down in the collection of the La Chaux-de-Fonds’ International Horological Museum, and subsequently took part in its restoration.
Family-Managed Movement Manufacturer Company Founded in the 19th Century
Moving a century forward in time, we come to the point when Jacob Robert opened up the company for the production of fine mechanisms in the Swiss town of Fontainemelon, located in Neuchâtel canton. The firm was opened in 1825 and bore the name Robert et Cie (French for Robert and Co.). The family business was continued by his descendants and the firm became a true industrial powerhouse that launched the multitude of movements all the way to the end of the last century, when it was bought by ETA SA.
Gilles Robert’s Reinterpretation of Watchmaking, and Reestablishment of the Robert Family in the Industry
Gilles Robert that now runs Robert & Fils 1630 brand is the eleventh generation in the proud tradition of famous timekeeping craftsmen that was established by Abram Robert. However, this outcome seemed unlikely in his youth when he had a little interest in the family business. His main preoccupation was traveling around the world. His escapades included crossing Afghanistan on a horseback and hiking across Nepal. The latter country was the place where he became enchanted with precious stones which had a substantial influence on his choice of career.
After this, Robert came back to Switzerland and earned a degree in economics, and then moved to Los Angeles where he studied geology. Subsequently he began trading gems and was associated with industry giants, such as Christie’s, and was later appointed as a manager in Bvlgari. However, Gilles gradually became interested in his family tradition and decided to reopen the watchmaking company with his family name in 2002 in accordance with his view of the craftsmanship. These watches, created for collectors and watch enthusiasts would be made with Robert & Cie movements from the sixties that are redone in five stages. They are first dismantled, and then components are checked, decorated and signed. At the end, the mechanisms from the stock of the brand that hold Gilles’s family name are individually hand tested.
The Sixth Watch from the Léopold Robert Collection – Two Young Girls at the Fountain
After the extensive report on the history of celebrated family with immense horological tradition, let us share more details about the new models they will unveil at Baselworld 2012 show. The first one of them is the Two Young Girls at the Fountain timepiece, the new model from the Léopold Robert series. The collection is named after the famous Swiss romantic painter from the 19th century, Louis Léopold Robert who came from another branch of the Robert family. His father was also a watchmaker, and he started as an engraver of cases before perusing a career as a painter whose works of art eventually earned their way into the collection of the most prestigious museums, including the Louvre.
The timepiece that will be exhibited in Basel depicts Two Young Girls at the Fountain scene and it is the fifth timepiece from the collection. Since the line was launched the brand has been unveiling a single unique piece from the collection every year. Previous products were called The Musicians, The Idyll, The Young Girl and the Fisherman, The Brigand’s Rest and Dance at Capri. Just like the earlier models, the new watch has a dial with a miniature painting in grand feu enamelling. Once again, this demanding and challenging procedure was trusted to the master of enamelling, Jean-Luc Peter. The wonderful dial of the watch is protected by a glare-proof treated sapphire and completed with flame-blued steel hands.
Robert Calibre Redone to Bear the Geneva Seal
The watch is fitted in a subtle 18K rose gold circular case with the diameter of 39 mm that was fluted and finished by hand. Inside the case is an amazing automatic mechanical Robert Calibre mechanism, produced during the sixties by the Fabrique d’Horlogerie of Fontainemelon (which was the new name for Robert et Cie brand that was founded by Jacob Robert). The old movement is then dismantled, checked for eventual damages, decorated and tested. The procedure of reconstruction of the movement includes several stages performed meticulously by hand. As the caliber is prepared for the new Robert & Fils timepiece, stages include decorating, chamfering, circular-graining, brushing, engraving and polishing. The entire process enables the movement to bear the Geneva Seal certificate.
The movement is mechanical and self-winding with 24 jewels. It includes the oscillating weight constructed from 22K rose gold. The balance of the mechanism oscillates 21,600 times per hour (the frequency of 3 Hz). It has a power reserve of 36 hours and displays only hours and minutes, so its amazing dial could be as visible as possible. It is the unique watch, rounded up with a hand-sewn strap made from alligator leather that fastens a rose gold buckle. In order to display all the details on the intricate dial of the watch, the manufacturer will also be displaying the original painting at its stand in Basel which was especially for this occasion lent from the Museum of Fine Arts in Neuchâtel in Switzerland, where it is usually exhibited.
A Tribute to Maurice Robert and Valjoux 88
Two other models that will be presented at Baselowrld 2012 exhibition are coming from the Maurice Robert collection, named after the ninth in the Robert watch dynasty. He started in the family’s workshops in Fontainmelon, and later served as an executive. Besides, Maurice Robert was among the founding members and the vice-president of Ebauches SA. The famed manufacturer of movements Valjoux became a part of Ebauches SA in the mid-1940s when its manager became Denis Robert, a son of Maurice and the father of Gilles Robert. The ninth of Robert watchmakers was also a collector of rare and complex watches, and he mostly wore a timepiece that had Valjoux 88 movement. This watch was inherited by his son, and later by his grandson Gilles who made a few modifications on it. This product that Gilles adjusted was not meant to be sold, but it was the very first horological creation by the current president of Robert & Fils 1630. For all these reasons, it comes as no surprise that the series that pays homage to Maurice Robert includes Valjoux 88 caliber.
Maurice Robert Grande Complication Wristwatch
The first newcomer from the Maurice Robert series is Grande Complication Wristwatch. As it is explained, it is equipped with a column-wheel “Grande Complication” mechanical hand-winding Valjoux 88 movement. As a passionate watch enthusiast probably knows, the movement in question is the iconic caliber, one of the most famous of the last century. It was directly influenced and based by its predecessors, Valjoux 23 and Valjoux 72C. It was originally designed in the third decade of the 20th century. Two decades later, it was first modernized, and then supplied with additional complications. The addition of lunar phases feature to Valjoux 72C in 1947 is considered as the birth of Valjoux 88. The historic column-wheel mechanism features a Côtes de Genève pattern or decorations executed by hand. It runs on 18,000 vibrations per hour (the frequency of 2.5 Hz) and provides a power reserve of 40 hours.
Robert & Fils 1630 Maurice Robert Grande Complication Wristwatch is housed in a round case made of 18K rose gold that is ornate with a circular-grain pattern on each side of the case. The subtle casing has the more traditional smaller diameter of 38 mm. Its dial is safeguarded with a glare-proof sapphire crystal, as it is expected for a watch of such a high class. Sapphire glass is also found on the back of its case, to provide an insight on the functioning of the movement.
The silver-colored dial with applied numerals includes a full calendar, with a day of a week and a month indicated by apertures at the top, and with a date indication on the flange. It also includes three chrono subsidiary dials. On the left part of it, sits the small seconds sub dial, while 30-minute sub dial is visible at the opposite side. The hours chrono indication at the bottom is also the place where the wearer can see the current lunar phase. Its rose-gold hands match the material of the case. This chronograph is paired with a hand-sewn alligator strap that fastens with an 18K rose gold buckle, and it can withstand water pressure to 30 m. It is manufactured in the limited edition of 50 pieces.
Maurice Robert Unique Hunting Pocket Watches
The final of three newcomers is the edition of Unique Hunting Pocket Watches. The amazing timepieces have grand feu enamel dials with hand-executed miniature paintings that depict different animals or, in some cases, mythological creatures. One of the examples includes a tiger on a green background. It is fitted in a yellow gold round case made from 18K yellow gold. The case features a secret compartment that opens by hand and enables the wearer to see the name of the watch, whereas the double case back includes hand-engraved decorations. Apart from the crown that opens the secret compartment, the watch also has two pushers and two correctors for the features activation of its column-wheel Grande Complication movement.
The one-of-the kind pocket watches from the Maurice Robert series have exactly the same movements and functions as the wristwatch. They are paired with 18K yellow gold chains that have security clasps, and come with loupes, correction keys, and leather pouches, fitted in luxurious boxes. Each of them is unique, with a different scene from animal kingdom or with a mythological creature.