You’re here, they‘re there. A river is in between. What do you do? Instead of swim or try to cross it on a boat, you decide on a long term solution. You decide to build a bridge, and oh, what a bridge it will be! It will make every bridge that came before it look like a log crossing a stream; like a couple boards spanning a split in the rock; like a few pieces of rope strung from one bank to the other. A genius, they will call you, and it will be a wonder of design and engineering!
It sounds like an arrogant statement but I have a feeling many bridge designers have actually thought those exact thoughts with the amazing, ridiculous, and stupendous bridges that now dot the planet Earth! I absolutely love bridges because they are the most functional objects you can make and in many cases the most permanent of construction tasks. They aren’t designed to become obsolete and need replacing every 18 months. They aren’t designed to fail 3 days after the warranty expires. They aren’t designed to look old in 6 months so you will buy the new model. They are built to last and they are designed to be iconic! For examples just look to the Alamillo Bridge in Seville and it’s brother, the Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam! Look to the Zubizuri Bridge in Bilbao or the Henderson Wave Bridge in Singapore! Gaze at the Gateshead Millenium Bridge in Newcastle or the Helix Bridge also in Singapore! For something different, take a gander at the Magdeburg Water Bridge in Germany!
Bridges are the some of the largest construction projects in the world with millions of lives riding on them every day. Thanks to enthusiastic designers and engineers, they have also become some of the most beautiful things man has made for the distinct purpose of getting from here to there. Bridges make up the architecture of the roadways and rivers, and travel wouldn’t be possible without them. So it should come as no surprise that an element that defines the architecture of a watch movement and is so critical to the stability, longevity, and beauty of a timepiece is named the bridge. The bridges of a movement (and depending on use known also as plates and cocks) determine the visual language of the movement. One of my personal favorites in this regard has to be the beautifully thin and flowing bridges of the Harry Winston Opus 7, designed by the brilliant Andreas Strehler.
Strehler has a history of beautiful bridges with a collection of 3 different pieces bearing his name utilizing graceful curved bridges spanning the entire movement. But my favorite creation of his has to be the Opus 7 he designed for Harry Winston! He took design cues from his Papillon model and morphed them into a new concept with a decidedly awesome outcome. At first glance, it is a beautiful and simple watch, with bridges and wheels taking up the visual space on the dial of the piece. Blue, black and silver, it keeps things simple with only one disc containing numbers. When a viewer notices this, they must become confused, and I become excited!
You see, or don’t see, that the movement is as secretive as a spy, with the information being coded and available only upon request. But how? How could one disc and all those bridges show accurate time? Ahh young Padawan, the secret lies in the stars! Or more accurately the planets. Ok, the secret lies in a planetary gear train, known as a differential, which allows multiple inputs and multiple outputs. A pusher in the crown can be activated to switch between showing the hours, minutes, and power reserve all on the same disc! Heh heh, cool.
With a planetary gear train, the gear ratios and rotational speeds are determined by the input location, the number of gears, and if any are gears are fixed. Now as far as I can tell, this is how the gear train might work. On the rear of the movement, operated via the pusher in the crown, are two levers aimed at two distorted heart shaped cams. They can be in a total of 3 possible positions (I think). Position 1: The center cam is locked via the lower lever and the upper cam is untouched. Position 2: The upper cam is locked via the upper lever and the lower cam is released. Position 3: Both cams are released as the levers move into a neutral position. “But dude, that doesn’t explain anything!” I know, man, I know.
Now in these positions, three things happen in the movement to allow the display of the different information. When a cam is activated, it causes an indicator to snap into view telling whether you are looking at the hours (H), minutes (M), or the power reserve (R). The disc containing the numbers snaps to the corresponding scale. Finally, when the different cams are activated or released, power is allowed to pass through the differential by stopping either the inside or outside gears... or the planetary gears depending on where the power enters the system and what ratios Strehler needed. A deeper look into the movement would be needed in person. When this happens to the differential, the ratio of the differential and the output location changes. This causes the disc to rotate in the appropriate amount for the scale noted giving the viewer hours, minutes, and power reserve.
So how exactly does that work? If a gear in a planetary system is not allowed to move, the other two account for the restriction and move in a different way. Because of this feature, up to 16 different ratios and directions (at least that is all I can think of) can be achieved based on which gear or gears are fixed, and what the rotation direction of said gears is. Check out this video for an overview or head over to my article about the Ochs und Junior Moonphase for another detailed look at planetary systems.
Now watch the video of the piece in action!
So after all of that, what do we have in the Opus 7? Only the most beautiful bridgework and ingenious design that enables a simple and secretive way to tell the time, and a system that forces you to spend time (see what I did there?) looking at the beautiful work behind the piece. You cannot tell the time at a quick glance, you must interact and understand what you are reading, and while you interact the inherent exquisiteness of the movement architecture will grab you once again. Basically, every time you need to check the time, you fall in love all over again! At least I would.
I love the Opus Series by Harry Winston because of what it allows watchmakers to do, to live out their dreams! It lets a talented designer or engineer have free reign to make an idea come to life, for the sake of their fascination and passion. Many people do poorly when not given tight constraints within a project, because constraints are able to narrow focus and eliminate superfluous ideas. The Opus Series has the potential to create too many open ended solutions but the watchmakers tasked with each series addition rise to the task and Andreas Strehler is a perfect example. He took a winning architecture that he had already honed, and put it to use creating something that nobody had seen before or since!
Besides the gorgeous architecture and the incredible mechanism, this timepiece exemplifies simple elegance. The case and the time display, the lack of extra pushers, and the clean typeface make this a watch that may go unnoticed on a person’s wrist but when seen, will draw anybody with a love of mechanics and clean lines in for hours. I did it to me, and it still does six years later. Out of all the Opus watches, of which I pretty much love all of them, this is the piece that I hold highest as a piece I would wear everyday and never grow tired of; it is my desires in gold, my emotions in steel, and my passions in gears! It is, simply, my favorite. If I say that, what else can I say?
Well, how about the BREAKDOWN! DOWN! DOWN! DOWN! DOWN!
Sorry about that echo, I’m typing this in a giant stadium.
- Wowza Factor – 7.25 I personally feel this number should be higher (like 10), but it is an honest assessment of what most people might think. It is awesome but doesn’t jump off the page as much as others might, instead it has that simplistic sleeper quality that makes a great watch better!
- Late Night Lust Appeal – 132.45 gn » 1,298.891 m/s2 More than most bodies could ever sustain, this piece kicks your butt and holds you tight to your chair while your senses go for a ride!
- M.G.R. – 66 Having a differential to display hours, minutes, and power reserve all on the same dial blows my mind, and makes for a veritably geeky movement!
- Added-Functionitis – Moderate The added function of the differential technically does not add to the “Function” of the watch so with the power reserve (still a favorite of mine) being the main complication I would recommend standard strength ‘Gotta-HAVE-That’ cream for the controllable horological swelling.
- Clams Per Pound – $200,000 A little under the original retail but more than the current going prices, I would be happy to shell out $200K to guarantee this watch sees wrist time on yours truly!
- Ouch Outline – 12.5 – Toenail Torn Off By Swingset. A childhood friend had this happen and I remember thinking “thank gosh it wasn’t me!” If I would have known this watch could be mine someday I would have instead been saying “WHY NOT ME?!”
- Mermaid Moment – Seeing the Butterfly. Andreas Strehler has another secret and it flutters by on the wisp of a breeze. You’ll see what I mean…
I really love this piece and I hope you do too! Check out Harry Winston for more on this and the rest of the Opus Series and make sure to see what Andreas Strehler is up to as well! Hint - He recently won the Prix Gaïa in the Artisanat-Création (craftsmanship-creation) category for exceptional achievements in watchmaking!
As usual, I do not own any of the images and all are found freely on the interwebs.
Oh yeah... Have you seen the butterfly yet?
Come back next week for more, have a great day and DFTBA!
Cheers & Happy Watching,