Genus Wins the 2019 GPHP with the GNS 1 White Gold
When a timepiece becomes an object of incomparable design, that reinterprets and pushes the boundaries of how time is told by a watch face – and also opens a new chapter in the enduring story of watchmaking – that is the singularity of Genus. It resides in the unique manner by which time is displayed in a choreography of mobile elements. Telling time becomes captivating, its fleeting quality all the more evident.
Genus believes in small production numbers. In this niche workshop, it’s not about economies of scale. This expression of beauty in mechanical form, with an uncompromising quality of finish is aimed at enthusiasts, amateurs, collectors – in short, true aficionados.
A decade of research, two inventions and three years of development went into the making of this watch. Two patents establish the basic principles of its free-floating time display. Extensively tested on the wrist, it is extremely reliable and accurate. Avant-garde yet unwaveringly faithful to the principles of haute horlogerie, and true to the watchmaking tradition of exquisite finishing, Genus sets its own course. No dial, no hands: The time-telling elements of its intriguing display complication move. The mechanics offer a spectacle: The hours dance and the minutes follow in an endless procession.
Revisiting How Time Is Told
Watchmaking is traditionally based on a system of fixed elements driven by gears. By introducing a new time display complication that deconstructs conventional systems, Genus defines new principles for telling time. They require initiation. Indeed, it shakes-up the foundations of what has been unquestioningly accepted for centuries: How should time be told?
Hours: There are 12 satellites, one for each hour. They each make a complete revolution every 12 hours around the periphery, flush with the crystal. The current hour is indicated by the white stationary fixed arrow on the left, in front of which the satellites pass. They remain aligned in the reading direction, by rotating 90° every three hours, i.e. four times on their 12-hour journey. The numerals affixed to the hour satellites are luminous and the result of meticulous design and artisanship.
Minutes: Minutes are precisely broken down into 10 and single digits and are not indicated as an approximation. The white stationary arrow on the right, near the crown, points to the precise minute digit on a skeletonized rotary dial that is graduated from 0 to 9. In the center of the timepiece, two large counter-rotating wheels are graduated in increments of 10 minutes by cut-out numbers that seem to float in space. The two minutes wheels drive a procession of lozenge-shaped pieces that travel freely from one orbit to the other. The way they progress in single file to express the passage of time in a large 8, symbol of infinity is the genesis of the time display concept of this watch. The first element of the procession, indicates the tens-of-minutes. This is the lead indicator, called the Genus. It is followed by 11 Genera (the plural of Genus) which evoke a trailing memory of the elapsed minutes.
A rosette forms on the watch face every 15 and 45 minutes, alternating between the upper- and lower-minute wheels as the procession of the Genus and Genera progresses. This corollary mechanism draws the eye, ever so subtly, and gives the timepiece an ever-changing face. In it, some see an analemma, the figure eight drawn in the sky by recording the different positions of the sun, at the same time and from the same location during a calendar year – a most compelling representation of the passage of time. For enhanced legibility in low light conditions, the elements providing time information are treated with a luminescent coating.
An Inner Journey
The manufacture movement – entirely designed, developed and assembled at the Geneva workshop – combines the functions of energy storage (winding and barrel), transmission (gear box) and time regulation (balance wheel, hairspring and escapement). A single large-diameter barrel stores enough energy to ensure a power reserve of approximately 50 hours, which is considerable given the complexity of the caliber and the time indication components that need to be kept in motion. This hand-wound movement operates at 18,000 vibrations per hour or 2.5 Hz. Regulation is assured by a traditional Swiss anchor escapement, coupled with a balance hairspring and variable inertia balance wheel.
A contrast of styles under perfect control. Avant-garde from the front, the movement seen from the back appears to be more classic, reminiscent of pocket watch movements. Although the layout may be seen as traditional, the actual construction is quite unusual. That is because the movement is made in two parts that separate power storage and transmission (cylinder & counter gear) from power distribution and regulation (escapement & hairspring). The benefit is that the fluidity of each complication can be optimally verified and adjusted, by simply removing the power distribution and regulation part of the movement if additional adjustment steps are needed. A ruthenium treatment visually distinguishes the ‘separation of powers’ underscoring this aspect of the design with contrasting finishes and color choices.
The distinctive time display complication, being at the nexus of tradition, innovation and creative renewal, epitomizes the cornerstone of Genus' singularity: The arched bridges, the shape of the of steel components (springs, scales) and wheels create a sophisticated style with contrasting points and curves. These inflection points create zones of variation in light giving added effect – the pleasing result of aesthetic choices combined with an extremely high level of finish. This ingenious, complex, and meticulously finished mechanism animates the passage of time in what we might describe as a fractioned manner. If the analemma traced by the Genera is a figure 8, intimately linked to the nature of the project, it is by no means the only one that could be envisaged. This versatile complication, which not only tracks time but also tells its story, presages new interpretations and iterations for the future.
It Starts with the Finishes
The GNS is instantly recognizable. Thanks to a sophisticated construction, the indices and Genera move with fluidity, precision, and reliability. The impression of the whole is that of an architectural object animated by moving elements that each play a role in indicating the passage of time. Distilling the essence of the concept is the hypnotic display of 10 of minutes, like a kinetic sculpture. The generous aperture of the watch face and domed crystal, sitting flush with the edge of the case, together provide optimal visibility for appreciation of the intricacies of the time-telling complication.
The choice of 18-karat gold for building this watch is driven by a double ambition. Firstly, the nobility of Genus resides in its watchmaking substance and legitimacy. It is therefore logical for it to be crafted in a noble material. Secondly, besides being synonymous with high value and exclusivity, 18-karat gold offers other advantages. It is largely immune to the detrimental influence of magnetic fields on a timepiece movement, and it is extremely suitable for high levels of finishing and decoration.
All components have been designed and hand-worked in Genus’ Geneva workshop, in accordance with the exacting standards of haute horlogerie. The gears, main plate and bridges are all hand-beveled, angled, and straight-grained by hand and most steel parts are mirror-polished.
In haute horlogerie, the mirror polish – also called black polish – represents the highest level of finish achievable on steel components. For each GNS1.2 WG, steel parts are skillfully and delicately polished by hand in a circular pattern using diamantine powder on a zinc plate. The result is a perfectly pristine surface without the slightest hint of a mark, even under high magnification. More than four hours of painstaking polishing and attention to detail are dedicated to achieve such a high-quality finish on components of such small dimensions - not counting the work that goes into hand-beveling the sides. Each GNS1.2 WG has 12 different, individually finished, steel components.
The manufacture movement comes with the same high standard of finishing. Meticulous care is taken at every step. The ratchet is snailed, the click spring is satin finished, the plate and four bridges are micro-blasted, creating a matte effect that gives more depth whilst allowing those parts that are polished to a shine, to stand out. All edges are hand-chamfered and polished by a demanding and uncompromising watchmaker.
Principles of Design
From first glance, the aesthetic impact incites a feeling, rousing emotions that are unique to each beholder. Being acutely aware of the intrinsic limitations of the conceptual watches upon which he worked throughout his career, Sébastien, made a central design principle for Genus that each timepiece be would be ergonomically comfortable and wearable on a daily basis. The perfectly balanced GNS1.2 WG espouses a beautifully contemporary line.
Significant emphasis has been placed on the case design whose dimensions are dictated by the needs of the movement – 43mm in diameter and 13.1mm in thickness. The search for the ideal balance in terms of case style, resulted in a subtle, downturned form. Sculpted in 18-karat gold, the design is distinctive yet understated. Stable and very comfortable, it naturally follows the curves of the wrist.
Like a jewelry display case, the minimalist cladding unobtrusively protects and at the same time showcases the inner workings of the GNS1.2 WG architecture. The seamless integration of the domed sapphire crystal offers a spectacular and deep view into the lace-like intricacy of the time display complication.
Ethical Gold Shine Brighter
As ever, Genus remains committed to sustainable development and suppliers are individually selected with environmental and social impact in mind. Genus is dedicated to promoting the global standards of responsibility for its sector.
The case, movement main plate, bridges, and buckle are made of ethical 18-karat gold, certified by the Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC). The leather strap is sourced from a supply chain with certified traceability.
One World Premiere, Two Inventions
The innovations introduced by this GNS model, imagined by Geneva watchmaker Sébastien Billières, stem from his passion, his expertise, his skill and abundant creativity. Behind this distinctive approach to telling time resides a series of challenges.
First, the two main characteristics that distinguish the GNS are the subject of two patent applications. The procession of the Genera around the orbits was a major challenge. Indeed, whilst they must be held in place, they must also be able to move untethered. Solidly anchored and yet mobile, they travel from one section of the figure 8-shaped display to the other, smoothly crossing the tangent of the two large wheels. This ‘changing of the guard’, as it were, occurs as the eleven Genera advance in single file, without the risk of friction damage to the blued finish of the wheels. The Genus and trailing Genera are completely independent and unattached and follow each other without touching.
Second, the gear that guides each hour satellite is one of the largest designed. Its teeth are located on the inner edge. This ring must remain perfectly flat, even after the extreme precision wire-cut EDM process – erosion wire cutting – and its finishing. Finally, work on the reduction of friction has been affected to guarantee a running time compatible with current standards, while feeding energy to a particularly high number of moving parts.