In his 15th year in business, a watchmaker that many have come to view as synonymous with hand-finishing has created a watch that takes hand-finishing about as far as any Romain Gauthier timepiece to date. It’s a skeletonized version of Gauthier’s Insight Microrotor with a movement made of natural titanium that has been laboriously hand-finished. It’s available in a 42mm Carbonium-cased version for purchase directly through the manufacture or as a 39.5mm special-order piece in a choice of precious metals or titanium, that can be purchased either through the manufacture or Romain Gauthier’s retail network.
In case you’re wondering what Carbonium is (I did), the material for the manufacture-only edition is a carbon composite made from aerospace-grade carbon fibers that Romain Gauthier is sourcing from a French company called Lavoisier Composites. It’s made using a compression molding process in which epoxy resin and carbon fibers sourced from the aerospace industry are up-cycled into machinable blocks, from which things like watch cases can be made. Though it’s more rigid even than titanium, and also twice as light, machining the material with optimal results required making a case of larger dimensions.
The Insight Micro-Rotor is one of the pillars of Romain Gauthier’s collection of watches, the others being the Logical One and the Prestige HM and Prestige HMS. Gauthier chose the Insight Micro-Rotor as the platform for this skeletonized model because he thought that the structure of the movement would be the most receptive to having elements of its architecture stripped away.
“If you skeletonized my first movement, Prestige HM/HMS, there would be sizable voids leaving little to see except the hair on your wrist, and that’s not ideal. The open architecture of my Logical One means that if you opened it up even more, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to view more of the mechanics than what you can already see. However, my Insight Micro-Rotor jumps out as a natural fit for skeletonisation.”
He chose it because he thought it would be the best option among the movements he’s made to date, not because he thought it would be easy. And it hasn’t been. As in most high-end watches, the plates and bridges of the Insight Micro-Rotor are customarily made from solid brass. But using brass to make a skeletonized version of this movement may not have resulted in the strongest possible components. Using titanium guaranteed the strength of the caliber while also keeping the weight of the movement to just 15.95g. However, it made machining the parts much more difficult and time-consuming, to say nothing of the difficulty and time added to the finishing process.
It takes a Romain Gauthier anglage specialist 250 hours to bevel, soften, and hand-polish the titanium bridges and mainplate of each movement, and once all the various other forms of decorating are factored in, you’re looking at about 350 hours of finishing work per movement. Just because the work is performed on a hard material doesn’t mean that the results are any less stunning than they’d be on a conventional brass movement.
Customers can opt for matte-finished bevels on their bridges if they like. This obviates the need for the hand-polishing stage, though other steps are still required. Looking at the movements below and counting tight interior angles, you can see how much work is involved in the hand polishing of the bevels. The below Special Order piece in platinum features hand-polishing and the red gold version does not.
Even if your tastes tend toward the classic and understated, there is a lot in these watches to appreciate. That each of the hand-polished movements requires 250 hours of anglage is in itself impressive to consider. Assuming one works eight-hour days straight through with no breaks, working even on the weekend, that adds up to more than a month straight on the bench. Opting for titanium movements sure didn’t make things easier on Romain Gauthier or his finishing team.
Just from a sheer cost perspective, I’m not close to being in the market for this watch, but I do think that if I had a chance to own one, it would be one of the Special Order models. Sure, the Carbonium models are themselves pretty interesting and impressive: They don’t provide their water resistance to 50 meters through any kind of case within a case. Instead, Lavoisier Composites injects resin into the micropores on the inside of the case in order to ensure watertightness. Still, it’s a little big for my taste, and part of me can’t help loving the idea of this laboriously finished skeletonized movement being cased up within a super wearable sub-40mm package.
Brand: Romain Gauthier
Model: Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette
Diameter: Carbonium: 42mm; precious metal or titanium 39.5mm
Thickness: Carbonium and Special Orders: 12.9mm
Case Material: Carbonium, 18-karat red gold, 18-karat white gold, 950 platinum, or natural or black DLC Grade 5 titanium.
Dial: Manufacture-Only Carbonium Edition: Carbonium hour-minute dial and small seconds dial (monobloc). Skeletonised hour and minute hands in matte-finished steel. Solid small seconds hand in matte-finished steel. Color of hands and dial accents customizable. Special orders: Oven-fired enamel dial. Skeletonised hour and minute hands. Solid small seconds hand. Finishing of the dial, material of the hands, color of the hands and dial accents customizable
Water Resistance: 50 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Manufacture-Only Carbonium Edition: Natural rubber strap, color customizable, Carbonium pin buckle; special orders: Natural rubber strap or alligator leather strap hand-stitched in Switzerland, color customizable. Pin or deployant buckle. Buckle in material to match case, except for platinum case which is accompanied by 18-karat white gold buckle.
Caliber: Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette
Functions: Off-center hours, minutes and small seconds
Power Reserve: 80 hours
Winding: Automatic winding via 22-karat gold micro-rotor.
Frequency: 28,800 vph
Pricing & Availability
Prices of models featured: Manufacture-Only Carbonium Edition with hand-polished bevels on the bridges: CHF 155,000; Special Order in 950 platinum with hand-polished bevels on the bridges: CHF 148,000; Special Order in 18k red gold with matte-finished bevels on the bridges: CHF 108,000. All prices exclude taxes.
For more, click here.