Last year in Basel, during the BaselWorld 2009 show, I was introduced to Jean Dunand by my friend Frank (Monochrome), Suryia Hill (Sparkle) and Ian Skellern. Truth to be told, I had not taken the time to read about Jean Dunand time pieces and boy did I regret that. Luckily, Thierry Oulevay (owner of Jean Dunand Pieces Uniques) had enough patience to explain about Jean Dunand and his exceptional time pieces. The Tourbillon Orbital he showed me was a master piece that was simply stunning. I covered the Tourbillon Orbital Confucius in an article last year (click here) on FW.

Photo courtesy of Jean Dunand. Standing is Thierry Oulevay, sitting behind his desk is Christophe Claret.

This year, Suryia Hill arranged another meeting with Thierry Oulevay of Jean Dunand to show us something even more mind boggling, a time piece called the ‘Palace’. Now, before I am going to write about the Palace, I think it is useful to understand the brand’s name, Jean Dunand. Both founders of Jean Dunand, Christophe Claret and Thierry Oulevay have a fascination for the Art Deco style. Jean Dunand is the name of a Swiss lacquer and even considered to be the greatest lacquer artists of the Art Deco period. Jean Dunand lived from 1877 till 1942 and during this period (1880-1930) he was witness of electricity, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, sky scrapers, the wrist watch and – of course – the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Choosing Jean Dunand’s name for their brand is an homage to one of the greatest craftsman of the Art Deco movement.

Art Deco is characterized by streamlined and geometric shapes. It also utilized modern materials like chrome, stainless steel, and inlaid wood. The Palace time piece makes you relive the period in that very period in which Jean Dunand worked and lived his life. I have never seen a time piece before, reflecting a certain story or era so intensively as The Palace does. Looking at the watch from different angles gives you a glance on the inner workings of this watch (made possible due to sapphire windows), crafted and finished with the highest level of detail possible on such a (relatively) small creation. You will see miniature architectural structures and discover elements from the aforementioned Eiffel Tower, details of gear trains from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and even two oval miniature race tracks, based on the legendary Milwaukee Mile racing circuit. I am very convinced that every time the owner of this time piece will admire his Pieces Unique, he will discover something new about it.

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times

I haven’t seen anything like the Palace before and I consider myself very lucky that I was able to see it at least once in my life. Actually, and I haven’t told anyone before, I really felt the urge to get back to the Jean Dunand booth in Basel to catch another glimpse of this time piece. I hope I am able to share my enthusiasm with you by showing you some of the press photos of the Palace and describing some of the details.

Above you see the dial or better yet, face of the time piece. The sky scraper hands and below, on the left and right side, the two oval racing tracks with the stop sign as indicators. The left track indicating the GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) makes two passes: the disc goes from the top to the bottom of the track using the arrow in the stop sign as an indicator and as soon as it reaches the end, it immediately flies back to the top (retrograde style), the stop sign with the arrow rotates 180 degrees to chart the other scale. The racing track on the right is used as a power reserve indicator, to be able to tell how much is left of the 72 hours in total.

Zooming in on the top of the dial a bit more, we can clearly see how incredibly detailed the finish of this time piece really is. The iron name plate, the chain for the winding mechanism below the 60 minute counter disc of the chronograph and the skyscraper shaped hand… everything has been well-thought trough and engineered with the highest level of detail. What to think about the red lacquer used for the hands and the red colour of the minute indicators match the signs in the racing tracks?

The side of the case, without zooming in on the sapphire ‘windows’ yet, shows you the arches of the Eiffel Tower (as pictured above). The 10 miniature cast iron pillars are clearly visible inside the case and arches. Cool thing is, in my opinion, that you could look at the strap as an extension of these arches. Particularly interesting is the level of detail in the crown, as shown below in the blow-up. The chronograph pusher is integrated in the winding crown.

Finally looking into the sapphire window between the arches you will see the entrance of the Palace, indicated by this minuscule cast-iron name plate. On the left of the name plate, you will discover that Jean Dunand created the stairs in order to enter the Palace properly.

Once inside, you will discover with what great care this movement has been constructed and built by Christopher Claret. The transparent case back of the Palace will enable you to admire the carefully brushed and polished parts of the mechanical movement. The style of finish reflects the era in which Jean Dunand has lived and images of the Modern Times movie comes to mind again.

Although these press photographs are amazing, this Jean Dunand Palace time piece is something you will need to experience yourself to actually believe what you are seeing and to look further than the price tag of 410.000 USD and understand that this is completely justified by this incredible work of art.

I feel lucky that I didn’t see the Palace on the first day of my BaselWorld visit, everything else would have been shoulder shrugging I believe.

As for the details on this time piece, because I am sure you want to know them by now, are as follows:

The Palace has a case diameter of 48.2 x 49.9 mm and measures 16.65mm in height. The material of the watch case as shown in the pictures is titanium and white gold (also available in red gold).

The one-minute flying tourbillon movement is able to display minutes, hours, features a 60 minute chronograph hand, a second time zone via the left racing track and a 72 hour power reserve indicator in the right track. The GMT indicator is being set by a pusher in the case at 6 o’clock. The Palace consists of 703 parts.

And now you know, this was the absolute best of BaselWorld 2010.

More pictures (home made) of the Palace can be found at Ian Skellern’s Facebook page, click here.