A couple of weeks ago at Baselworld I had the chance to sit down with the guys from Romain Jerome and go through their new collections for 2013. In addition to the usual suspects, the Moon Invader, the Titanic DNA and so on, there were two pieces that really caught my attention. One I have written about before – the Spacecraft – whilst the other, known as the Moon Orbiter, I am going to cover in more detail today. Both pieces are quite significant for the brand and represent a level of mechanical and aesthetic complexity not normally associated with Romain Jerome, which is what makes them all the more interesting.
Breaking The Mould
Romain Jerome, under the guidance of Founder and former-CEO Yvan Arpa, first got its big break by creating timepieces that featured unusual materials from historical legends, such as metal salvaged from the Titanic. It was a cool concept and helped the small brand quickly establish a unique selling point in what is already a very crowded market. A number of collections would follow in the same vein, including the Moon Dust DNA and so on, and these still remain in the current line-up today.
The flip-side to this of course was that sometimes the brand struggled to get the attention of higher-end consumers who didn’t perceive them as a serious watchmaker but rather a brand that made good quality products that were cool and fun (and sometimes even a little bit gimmicky). That is all changing now however under the guidance of new-ish CEO Manuel Emch, who has been working hard to dispel these inaccurate myths and prove to the watch world just what Romain Jerome is actually capable of.
The Moon Orbiter is a great example of this new strategy at work. Incredibly complex in both construction and execution this latest addition to the Moon-DNA collection still remains true to the ethos of the brand and incorporates many of the elements we have come to expect from Romain Jerome, albeit in an entirely unexpected fashion.
The Moon Orbiter
Powered by an in-house designed, La Joux-Perret manufacture movement featuring an off-center, rocket-shaped flying tourbillon with three-dimensional architecture, the Moon Orbiter is a celebration of the history of space travel. Housed within an oversized rectangular case – 49mm wide x 45mm long and an impressive 20mm thick – this bold new creation, much like space travel, is not for the faint of heart. Despite its generous proportions however the Moon Orbiter wears quite comfortably on the wrist thanks to the clever use of a specially-designed system of lugs mounted on pneumatic cylinders. You can see how they work in the pictures below but essentially they expand or contract as necessary to ensure as comfortable a fit as possible.
The hours and minutes are shown on an off-center subdial at 3 o’clock, which features red-lacquered, open-worked hands, whilst the 42-hour power reserve is displayed by a lacquered red cursor appearing on a separate subdial between the lugs at 6 o’clock. In keeping with its Moon-DNA heritage the bezel-free case of the Moon Orbiter combines watchmaking steel with elements from Apollo 11 whilst the main dial features “stellar-patterned” engraving complete with actual Moon dust, a signature of the brand. If you use your imagination it almost looks like the rocket tourbillon is flying through space. Almost.
Given that the brand spent so much time on the design and development of this movement it is understandable that they want to show it off. To make this possible the case has effectively been custom built around it and features five shaped sapphire crystals that provide stunning views of every angle of the unique architecture and geometry. Turning the piece over the oscillating weight and the gear trains are visible through the sapphire caseback as is the same constellation motif from the dial, which has been used to decorate the back of the movement.
Fitted on a black alligator leather strap with pin buckle-fastening the Romain Jerome Moon Orbiter is a limited edition of just 25 pieces and will retail for just over US$100,000. Best of all it comes complete with a futuristic, space pod case that automatically slides open at the push of a button. If they could have just found a way to incorporate a miniature dry ice machine in the design so that it looked like a cryogenic container was being unlocked every time you opened it I’d be in Sci-Fi heaven.
The Final Word
The Moon Orbiter is just a really cool watch. It’s unusual looking, incredibly well made and the attention to detail is evident everywhere. What I really like though is that Romain Jerome have worked hard to ensure it reflects their DNA, despite the fact that it is far more complicated and different from anything they would normally produce. It’s a statement piece no doubt, both for the brand and the eventual owners, but it’s not so over the top that you couldn’t actually wear it on a semi-regular basis and let’s face it, what’s the point of buying something this distinctive if you can’t show it off every now and then?