Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

New & Noteworthy: The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten Piece Unique

By all accounts, Romain Gauthier is one of the finer watchmakers in the world right now. He is in league with other eponymous craftsmen like Journe, Voutilainen, Gronefeld, Halter, and others. These are the individuals and brands that are constantly pushing the limits of horology. Another tradition of these watchmakers is the creation of pièces uniques. These one-off timepieces allow discriminating clientele to have a version unto themselves, or sometimes allow the brand to put a twist on a larger release. The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten celebrates the brand’s 10 years in the upper echelons of watchmaking, and this specific example presents another watch in the grand tradition of one-off timepieces. 

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

History

After years working afterhours noodling at something new and grand, Romain Gauthier—a microengineer with an MBA—established his eponymous brand in 2005. Two years later, his debut piece was released: the time-only Prestige HM, named for its straightforward hour and minutes display. Just three years after, the second model was launched; building off the Prestige HM, the Prestige HMS followed up with an added seconds display. Fast forward five more years to 2015: after 10 years in business, Gauthier sought to celebrate. Despite having launched several models in the interim—including the brand’s most popular, the stunning Logic One—Gauthier opted to revisit the Prestige HMS. Considering the brand’s lineup at the time, the choice makes sense. Limited to ten pieces each in white gold and red gold, the anniversary edition Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten balances the traditional design of the brands earlier pieces with the boldness of the later releases. 

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

It’s worth noting here that Romain Gauthier is not your typical “indie brand” either. Romain only produces about 60 or so timepieces a year under his own name, and about 98% of those watches are entirely manufactured in his own facility. At first glance, that math doesn’t likely make sense, as the multi-million dollar equipment required does not pay itself off with that sort of production schedule. The thing is, the bulk of Gauthier’s work is in componentry—building complex gears, tourbillon cages, and other bits for some of the industry’s biggest names. Officially, those names are not to be disclosed, aside from his work on the Chanel Monsieur jumping hours watch. Unofficially, should you happen to be in Le Sentier and take a tour of his facilities, you might spot some binders labeled with brand names that will come as quite the surprise.

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

Design Details

There are small details and features of watches to which we are so accustomed that their absence leaves us puzzled, if only momentarily. We struggle to immediately pinpoint what is missing but are nonetheless struck with the feeling that something is amiss. That is the effect of the crownless Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten. To be sure, its hallmark (as it was with its predecessor), is its lack of a traditional crown. In this case, there’s no foul play, just genius at work. To increase efficiency and create a more streamlined profile for the 41mm, 18k rose gold case, Gauthier has placed the winding mechanism on the caseback. A small cutout on the caseback allows for easy winding of the polished, serrated winding wheel, which lies flush with the caseback. 

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

No less beautiful than the winding system is innovative, the layered dial is presented in a vibrant blue, unique to this example. Sharing a plane are the offset two-thirds size time dial and the peripheral chapter ring. The time dial features simple rose gold numerals and text with ‘R. Gauthier’ in script at 12 o’clock; solid 18k rose gold leaf hands tell the time. The chapter ring features etched hour markers in rose gold print; as a nice touch, all the indicators point towards the center of the time dial as opposed to the center of the entire watch face. The guilloche dial features two slightly recessed flanks alongside the time dial, with hobnail decoration, while the space they might occupy below the dial is left open to allow a peek at the mechanism. At five o’clock, floating above the time dial and edging over the open-worked portion is a partial seconds track, with a leaf-shaped seconds hand tracing its path 

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
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The watch is polished throughout, with a rounded case and bezel. On the reverse of the individually-attached lugs, one can find the expected hallmarks for a gold watch. The watch is fastened the to the wrist with an alligator leather strap in matching blue, with a branded tang clasp in 18k rose gold. 

Inner Workings

On display through a sapphire caseback, the in-house Caliber HMS 2206 is a testament to Gauthier’s watchmaking talent. The handwound caliber builds off the brand’s original movement, the HM 2206, adding two components to allow for the seconds display—a grand total of 128 parts. The mechanism is rose gold and rhodium, features shock absorption, and has a frequency of 28,800 vph and a power reserve of 60 hours. Impressively, Gauthier produces everything in-house except the mainspring, balance spring, and 22 jewels The choice to control production shows: the exquisite anglage on the Vallée de Joux-style finger bridges, the subtle Côtes de Genève, the s-curve screws, the circular gear arms, curved balance arms—it all evidences an unwillingness to settle for anything but the best. 

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

There are two standouts in this movement. The first is the most obvious: the flat winding mechanism, which reduces the inefficiencies of traditional crown winding by eliminating transfer angles and using a rubber spring and ceramic ball to better handle winding forces. The second is concealed but no less impressive. Recognizing the shortcomings of the traditional Swiss lever escapement, Gauthier developed his own—a triangle escapement. The Gauthier escapement is lighter and more rigid, which increases efficiency and decreases wear. As an added bonus, it allows for higher balance amplitude, which improves isochronism. Adding a bit of charm and suggesting a personal touch, the text engraved on the bridges has a freehand feeling to it, as opposed to the more austere block letters favored by other brands.

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

Versus the Competition

As mentioned above, Romain Gauthier can be compared to other eponymous marques like F.P. Journe and Gronefeld. With a focus on elegance, technical prowess, and superb finishing, these independent brands typically release their watches in small or limited batches, making them both hard to come by and very desirable.

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

An F. P. Journe like the Octa Automatique Reserve in 18k rose gold is an easy contemporary of the Prestige HMS. With a similarly elegant case and equivalent bona fides from one of the foremost modern watchmakers, the Octa lacks the open-worked dial, but adds a few features. In addition to a seconds indicator at 4:30, this Journe model features an automatic movement, a date display, and a power reserve indicator.

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

Personality

When dealing with top tier independent brands, there are a lot of options that are extravagant, inelegant, and sometimes verging on illegible—all things that have their time and place, but perhaps not for the person interested in a piece like the Prestige HMS Ten. The owner of this class of watch values restraint and decorum but is comfortable showing a little skin (or movement, in this case). Further, the owner places importance on having things others do not, but only for those in the know to appreciate. Call it a subtle demonstration of stature. 

Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten
Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten

Final Thoughts

The Romain Gauthier Prestige HMS Ten is likely the best example of the brand’s entire oeuvre, and an exquisite example of the types of timepieces independent watchmakers are producing these days. Add to that the limited nature of the HMS Ten, and the further exclusivity of a pièce unique, and this example is a step above the rest.

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