The Master of Skeletons – Claude Meylan
With BaselWorld around the corner, the industry is awash with speculation. How will the famous fair fare? Following the sudden, shock-inducing departure of The Swatch Group, uncertainty circles around how the show can remain relevant to the market.
Personally, I can’t wait to see it all unfold. BW has just released the floor plans. With a strategic reworking of Hall 1.0’s (the main hall) layout to fill the void, the stage is now perfectly primed for a whole hoard of Independents to step into the starring role. Among them highlighted in the recent BW news is Claude Meylan, who has been solidly mastering its artistry since the 80s and is ready to show the world their true colours.
The name of this brand has its roots in the earliest days of watchmaking. The Meylan family was reputedly one of the first four to bring watchmaking to the Jura region. The provenance is clearly there. Reestablished in 1988, the brand that bore the name of one of horology’s most influential families needed a new identity, something to set it apart from the crowd, something to honour the legacy that the original Meylans had left behind.
Key to establishing a company that is able to thrive in the 21st century is having the right person to steer the ship. CEO Philippe Belais brings a huge amount of industry experience to the brand. Following a four-year tenure leading Dunhill, he served as managing director for Van Cleef & Arpels, one of the greatest haute horlogerie/joaillerie crossover brands in existence.
Ours is a noisy industry. A bit of peace and quiet is always welcome, but it’s hard to find. Often, serenity comes with clarity, and that’s exactly what Claude Meylan has when it comes to the brand’s own identity.
This is not a brand dressed up in the Emperor’s New Clothes. Rather, it is a brand that knows who and what it is. If you’re one of those watch lovers who just can’t get enough of the movement and its graceful mechanics, this may be the brand for you. One of the hardest things to do is define a brand in a single sentence. With this brand, you can probably get away with just three words (spoiler alert – the first two are the brand name).
Claude Meylan skeletonises
Having mastered their own identity, Claude Meylan turned their attention to mastering what it was that would define the brand: The art of removing as much material as possible from a movement without sacrificing its performance and, purposefully, adding to its aesthetic appeal.
Skeletonisation is not for everyone. But divisiveness is no bad thing in the watchmaking industry. If you’re doing something pure – just as the Claude Meylan brand is – then you will find an audience.
The unfortunate thing for those fans of skeletonisation – especially when it is done to the level of proficiency that the craftsmen of Claude Meylan routinely achieve – is that it is normally crazily expensive and out of reach for most of us.
Refreshingly, Claude Meylan is offering timepieces that are within reach. Most models are priced between €2,000 and €8,000, which is a remarkable value proposition considering the level of care and attention that has gone into each movement. Many of the movements’ architectures are based on those of old school Unitas movements, popular in pocket watches and watchmaking schools around the world for their simple, robust character, and a generous amount of real estate for customisation.
A firm proponent of the brand is none other than the highly respected Peter Speake-Marin, who spent time deconstructing the movement used in the Tortue de Joux on his fascinating website The Naked Watchmaker. As a master watchmaker, Peter has the authority to offer us undisputed insights into the technical achievement and craftsmanship of the watch. Here we get to observe each component that has been transformed into a miniature work of art (my favourite being the upper crown wheel, with small flashes of the screw countersink still visible at the tips of the five tendrilous spokes that flow towards the centre of the wheel).
This almost organic aesthetic is on full display in the model. The special coloured plate (or “brace” as Claude Meylan calls it) that accents and outlines the moving components of the movement, held in situ between the baseplate and the bridges and highlights the numeral at 7 o’clock. For the seven rainbow colours give this special collection seven iterations and its name: The Tortue Rainbow.
The Rainbow is a sporty rendition in the Tortue family that styles super well with smart casual, sports luxe and streetwear. The case is crafted in stainless steel and blackened by a PVD-coating. It is 40 mm wide, boasts front and back sapphire crystals, a rubber strap, and 30 metres water resistance. The hand-winding base movement is carved out to mimic the sunray effect, totally skeletonised and enlivened by a coloured ‘brace’. The seven models retail at €4,412 excl. VAT.
The coloration of the skeletonised decoration plate is a typical flash of joie de vie within a serious example of artisanal ability. Thankfully, this fusion of skill and flair will be the main talking point at this year’s Baselworld.
With both Les Ateliers and The Watch Incubator making their debut in the main Hall 1.0, independent watchmaking will be the focus of the BaselWorld fair in its 102nd year. Having pedigreed indie brands like Claude Meylan now rubbing shoulders with Rolex and Patek Philippe, it has never been more obvious how important having your own individual voice is in an ever more saturated marketplace.
More information via Claude Meylan online.