WPHH 2007 - Franck Muller

Photos and text by Su JiaXian (SJX)
© April 2007 by Su JiaXian and PuristSPro.com

2007 Basel and Geneva fair reports sponsored by Master Watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin.

Franck Muller and the rest of the Franck Muller Watchland Group exhibit at the World Presentation of Haute Horlogerie (WPHH) held at a chateau in Genthod, a quiet neighbourhood on the outskirts of Geneva.

The flagship brand of the group is of course Franck Muller, the brand started by the most successful AHCI member ever. Several years back, a well publicised feud between Franck Muller and his partner, Vartan Sirmakes, took its toll on the brand, but now things have been patched up and business is back to normal.

Each year Franck Muller presents a supercomplication at WPHH. In 2006 it was the Aeternitas, a perpetual calendar programmed to run for 1000 years without adjustment.

The Aeternitas Mega 4

This year the Aeternitas has morphed into the Aeternitas Mega, a series of 4 different ultra-complicated watches. The Aeternitas Mega 1 contains an automatic grande et petite sonnerie with Westminster carillon and tourbillon; the Mega 2 is a rattrapante chronograph with tourbillon; the Mega 3 offers a 1000-year perpetual calendar with tourbillon and 2 additional timezones; and finally the Mega 4 is contains all of the above - grande et petite sonnerie with Westminster carillon, rattrapante chronograph, tourbillon, 2 additional timezones and 1000-year perpetual calendar.

Close-up of the Aeternitas Mega 4

The prototype Aeternitas Mega 4 I examined was not working, but I was told a working watch will be completed in several months. Ordinarily I would be sceptical, but Franck Muller secured the services of the brilliant Pierre-Michel Golay in 2006. Mr Golay, who will soon launch his own brand under the Watchland umbrella, created the automatic grande et petite sonnerie with Westminster carillon for Gerald Genta and looks set to do the same at Franck Muller. Franck Muller itself also has a good track record of creating working supercomplications, the earlier World Premier complications were finished and sold, and they still pop up from time to time at auction.

The Aeternitas Mega 4 compared to a Lange 1

Although I admire the audacity in creating such a complicated watch, the Aeternitas Mega 4 is quite possibly the largest watch I have ever seen, and is completely unwearable except by those with the largest wrists. Then again, I suppose Russian tycoons have big wrists.

Note the height of the watch

I like the tonneau Cintrée Curvex case Franck Muller is famous for, unfortunately it has been expanded beyond sensible proportions in the Aeternitas Mega 4. This ultra-complicated movement might look better in the rectangular Long Island case as the straight lines of the Long Island adapt better to being expanded. For proof, look at what Roger Dubuis has done Too Much of.

Next we see several variations of Franck Muller’s trademark Master Banker triple timezone watch. First, the Master Banker Tourbillon is now available in the Long Island case.

Long Island Master Banker Tourbillon

Also available in the Long Island case is the Master Banker Lunar Date, featuring a date indicator and moonphase in addition to the multiple timezones.

Long Island Master Banker Lunar

Fans of black diamonds who need three timezones will be pleased with the Master Banker Lunar Date in black diamond pavé.

Master Banker Lunar Date in black diamond pavé

Last year Franck Muller unveiled a watch called Magic Hours. In order to read the time, the wearer had to press a button at 9 o’clock, causing the hands to jump to the appropriate time; at all other times both hands remain pointing towards 12 o’clock. This year the watch has been renamed, more appropriately, the Secret Hours.

I like the whimsical nature of the Secret Hours, but it would look much better if the pusher was co-axial with the crown; the pusher at 9 o’clock spoils the lines of the case.

Secret Hours in pink gold

Another version, also in pink gold

Also presented in the Cintrée Curvex case is the Retrograde Hour with Moonphase; a good looking watch, as most Franck Muller watches are.

Retrograde Hour with Moonphase

Aside from the Aeternitas, the most interesting watch showcased was the Sakura Tourbillon. It’s a pint-sized, manually wound tourbillon, possibly the smallest in the world. While the movement inside is truly tiny and quite amazing, the red and pink colours with the cherry blossoms and the heart shaped tourbillon cage look truly awful in my humble opinion - it tries too hard to be cute and looks like some sort of Hello Kitty complication. That being said, the Franck Muller Sakura models are very popular with ladies in Japan.

If this watch were offered in a more serious guise, it would give all the best ladies’ tourbillons, even the Three Gold Bridges, a good run for their money.

Sakura Tourbillon

Franck Muller offers an immense variety of watches, a good deal of which are not to my taste. But many of the watches, especially those in the Cintrée Curvex case, are beautifully designed with excellent dial quality. Although most movements are typically based on run-of-the-mill ETA, Piguet or Lemania calibres (but some complications are from Renaud et Papi), Franck Muller does offers some clever but admittedly pointless complications like the Secret Hours or the Las Vegas roulette watch. They look good on the wrist and are a refreshing departure from the serious and staid world of high horology.

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