#TBT Seconde/Seconde Says It’s Time To Play With Watch Hands
Please, may I order one Croissant central chronograph hand for my Patek and two Sword hour hands for my Rolex watches? Oh, lord, I also need that Pistol hand for my Cartier Tank. Sci-fi? Not at all. The charismatic, creative, and passionate French Romaric André, the brains and soul behind seconde/seconde, pivots his artistry towards unexplored waters.
Besides uniquely fine-tuned vintage watches, seconde/seconde started selling strictly limited runs of daringly creative and carefully manufactured watch hands. Whenever you feel like it, you can install these handsets on the vintage watch of your choice. Will it ruin the design of your vintage watch, or on the contrary, will it make it even the more timeless?
seconde/seconde watch hands
This is not just some trend-backed stunt. For me, Romaric brings a new, precisely formulated, and stylized concept into the watch industry. Think of it as Bamford for vintage watches. But less fancy and more artsy. A few world-renowned collectors have already tried it and loved it. Not many projects starting their pilgrimage in the watch industry get immediate recognition and publicity. Only a few of them, including seconde/seconde, can say that their first-ever customer ever was a heavyweight collector. Romaric modestly says he “just plays with hands on vintage watches”. Well, he does it in an unprecedented way. As was his first sale ever, straight to William Massena.
“I was at Baselworld last year with the first five real watches and dozens of pictures of soon-to-come pieces. A friend introduced me to William, so I pitched him. After a few minutes, I heard him say ‘I’ll take this one’, pointing at ’50s Zenith chrono caliber 143-6 nicknamed Yugoslavian Air Force with the Millennium Falcon watch hand.” It took Romaric a few days to realize what a vouch he just got. He is still in touch with William Massena, who advises and supports him in his endeavor.
Years of thinking
Romaric has loved vintage watches for years, but the first inspiration came three years ago when he started drawing a plain white watch hand on a vintage gold and heavily aged Chronographe Suisse. The contrast struck him. Since that moment his brain was eaten with the idea of how to bring a new, but a structured form of artistry to watch hands. If you look at the seconde/seconde website carefully, you’ll understand that Romaric doesn’t want to be just some funky watch hands supplier for random watch modifications. He respects the design of vintage watches too much to simply disgrace it. Therefore, each hand is individually designed for a particular watch model. A new hand reflects the watch character and tries to enhance the original design with additional artsy experience.
With all due respect
“I wanted to find the purpose of all of this. I wanted to find the link between art, the assumed sacrilege and respectful tribute,” that’s how Romaric explains the core values of his design approach. He is very aware that he challenges a 50+ or 60+ years old aesthetical balance. As a symbol of respect to the original beauty, he never throws away the factory fit hands. He safely and originally stores them and implements them not only into the narrative but also into the packaging. I liked it when Romaric said that he allows “watch hands to swap for indefinite periods of time”. Meaning, that it is always up on watch owner, which hand gets the prime time.
With me, there is no volume, just super limited batches from 1 to 20 pieces.
Romaric’s search of the best product quality for his idea brought him to the door of the only watch hands manufacture left in the French Jura. It is a family-operated business since 1907, now in the hands of the 4th generation. As it traversed various industry crises, it saw all the ups and downs of modern watchmaking. “When the family first heard my requests for custom designs in such low quantities, their first reaction was like Who the f**k is this crazy guy?!”, Romaric describes his first encounter with the manufacturers.
When manufacturing a watch hand, crucial parameters to get right are mass, balance, and inertia. The most important thing is to adjust the design to be technically safe and not to disrupt those guidelines too much. For each caliber they have to identify the length and diameter of the watch hand tube. “We are working at +/-3 microns here. Once the pad-printing is done, you start to test the watch hand on its caliber and monitor the watch on an amplitude, rate, beat error, and power reserve. It’s measured during a full cycle and in different positions, just to be sure the “new” watch hand has zero impact on the way the watch works.”
I was curious to know whether it is a watch-hand idea or “donor” watch first in the process. “No rules. It can happen both ways,” Romaric explains. I can only imagine how time-consuming (and expensive) it has to be source the perfect vintage watches. I am in contact with Romaric for almost a year now and it thus came as no surprise to learn a few weeks ago that he wants to focus much more on watch-hands production in the months to come. Follow the seconde/seconde Instagram and you have a secure stream of stellar creative inspiration. By the way, many times I am speechless at the level of art-direction and elaboration of his posts. It is passion, dedication, and artistry at its best.
Impossible to choose just one
His Croissant hand for the Patek or his recent creation Heart for Heuer with a pulsation dial brought smiles to my face. Romaric also quickly reacted to Eric Wind’s post with his creation of the Fire for the alarm JLC Memovox branded Dunhill. The watch hand I would instantly go for would be the seconde/seconde Pistol for Cartier Tank. Whether it’s selling pre-ready curated watches with new hands or just the watch hands alone, I see bright days ahead for seconde/seconde. I think it is just a matter of time until Romaric also “hand-bombs” some new releases such as the latest Rolex GMT or even the Omega Speedmaster.
There isn’t a single watch in the world Romaric wouldn’t dare to change a hand on. “Since I just replace the watch hands, I don’t feel like I’m being destructive and thus I would dare tweak any watch if I feel like it makes sense.” He already had some customers asking him to do ridiculous handset designs on watches they love. “I will never design a hand that does not make sense for me.”
Great mentors along the way
Twelve years ago, Romaric co-founded a company that enjoyed the honor of having Richard Mille as a Board-member for several years. Romaric appreciated the vision that RM had for his brand. Mille’s experience, and his understanding of the whole high-end watch industry in every aspect, was a great help to the young entrepreneur. “What struck me most was Richard’s strong will not to duplicate what has been done by others. Both in terms of product and the business,” Romaric unveils a bit of the story behind his picture with RM I found online. He learned from the best in the business. And he learned well.
I’ve stopped counting the number of people I told about the seconde/seconde website. The imagery, story-telling narrative, vocabulary, and tonality is an extraordinary example of how it should be done. A few clicks are enough to establish brand aura and attraction. When I was unboxing the Omega Seamaster Cousteau, I was as fascinated as I was almost a year ago when I first learned about seconde/seconde. I literally had to pack the watch back up after I unboxed it, just to have the same experience again. I’ve never done that with any previous watch.
You don’t need fancy materials or leather boxes. Romaric dropped off all the packaging clichés such as brand books and instruction manuals. Using a piece of cardboard, two sheets of paper and a few rivets he crafted a minimalistic, but memorable and “rich” presentation kit.
Omega Seamaster Cousteau
Omega Seamaster 2759-7SC 2761 from 1956 looks like it’s brand new. The aged dial gives it enormous charisma. A slightly smoky effect makes the dial look like a perfectly flat cement wall. If you look closer, you will spot two significantly brighter triangular burns at the ten minutes to six position. I pull out the crown to make the hands turn slowly. When the hands reach the position, the burned spots perfectly copy the hands shape and hide behind them. There is no doubt this Seamaster was kept untouched for years.
The tooling costs, the complicated set-up processes for precise cutting, tube fitting and pad-printing are usually restricted to large volume batches. “With me, there is no volume, just super limited batches from 1 to 20 pieces. I had a hard time explaining to them that I was on the exclusive and artsy side of the industry.”
The 34mm case in diameter is quite massive and surprisingly clean. While you usually see hundreds of tiny scratches, this piece is clean and fresh. What you see is a Seamaster at its most simplistic beauty. I almost feel guilty for even considering whether or not I like bi-metallic designs. The pale gold hands, hour indexes, and applied Omega logo ideally match the steel case, revolver crown, and cold-gray aged dial. And here we come. Burgundy fine leather strap and a replaced second hand in the shape and color of Cousteau cap.
Is it a hand?
That is actually another point. Hands by seconde/seconde as Romaric designs them are often not even hands in the classic sense of the word. It is a new artsy object that crowns the watch and gives it an entirely new depth. Or height in this case, as it sits on top of the hands sandwich. Every single time I checked the time, I was sure that the watch stopped. With the second hand, sorry — “second cap” being so short, you must focus for a few seconds to see it rotating. It doesn’t destroy the original Seamaster elegance for me. It’s the same Seamaster as before, just better.
I was surprised at how precise, voluminous, and richly colored the cap is.
It’s smart, creative, and daring. At the same time, it is gentle and feels humble. It makes me think, it inspires and amuses me. I studied the hand-manufacture details under the loupe many times and was surprised at how precise, voluminous, and richly colored the cap is. I wouldn’t make it a hair bigger, nor smaller. The size is just about right not to get lost or disturbed. Black outlines balance with the black Omega writing above, and the black Seamaster below. All lines are equally thick and central his practically invisible for free look. I just spent two minutes thinking about what would I have done differently. Probably nothing.
If you collect watches long enough, you know that unfortunate hand swaps kill the watch instantly. When you come across an ugly Frankenstein watch you can feel in a second that something is off. What seconde/seconde does is light years away from cheap watch modifications. I believe what Romaric achieved is the ability to preserve the grace of an original design while giving it a new stylistic and contextual level. I’m bought in and it’s just a matter of time until I land one of his creations. Every single design that he introduces keeps me more and more engaged. Wait for a few seconde/seconde successful collaborations with modern brands and if the brand chooses right, two decades from now we might have another Urwerk-kind of story.
Omega Seamaster with a Cousteau beanie / 10 pcs limited edition / €3,400
Rolex Sword Hand / 30 pcs limited edition / €330