If the Fonz wore an Opus, then this is that Opus: a watch that mimics a the action of a jukebox. Zany it may be, but it’s gloriously inventive, and shows there’s plenty of life in the Opus project yet
To say there was a sense of anticipation around the unveiling of Opus 14, the latest in a line of horological marvels from Harry Winston, is to rather underplay matters. Luckily, those unable to be at its launch this week in Baden Baden (still not quite sure why it was there) will have the opportunity to see it at SalonQP in a fortnight’s time – this will be its first public outing.
You’ll certainly be familiar with the Opus phenomenon, so the question was, would the first Opus since Harry Winston was acquired by the Swatch Group be up to muster, or would the project shrivel in corporate air? It’s fair to say Opus 14 makes that question almost embarrassingly irrelevant.
What we have here is the most anarchic, playful and thematically extravagant entry in the roll-call yet. No less extravagant is the price: £327,800 for one of 50 models being produced. Like many of its predecessors, it uses dazzling mechanical invention to give us a new way of displaying time. Unlike them, it brings the spirit of rock-n-roll – and specifically, a mechanism whimsically aping a jukebox – to the wrist. Didn’t see that one coming.
So what does it do? In simple turns, it offers you the chance of flicking between different displays (home-time, GMT, date) as though selecting records on an old jukebox. And it does so in a design that screams with kitsch, star-spangled motifs from the age of rock’n’roll.
As an Opus should be, the watch is technically adventurous and a showcase for independent talent – in this case Franck Orny and Johnny Girardin, of Montblanc Metamorphosis fame. But Opus has never previously reflected where Harry Winston hails from – it is, after all, the quintessential New York luxury brand – let alone attracted words like cute and cool. Describing the watch a “jukebox automaton time zone” doesn’t do justice to the fun that watchmakers Orny and Girardin have injected into this. And whoever would have thought to find inspiration for a watch movement in the workings of a jukebox? There’s a nice irony here in that these machines were always considered as far, far beyond the pale by the sort of audiophiles most likely to love this watch.
Funny to think now that the first Opus watch – from a whippersnapper named FP Journe – was a mere 38mm in diameter. Its fourteenth descendent is a 54.7mm brute, its display sitting beneath a huge crystal with a circular extrusion.
That extrusion houses what one might call a stack of records: four disks resembling vinyl (right down to a grooved finish). Home-time remains on show at the top of the pile, with the hour highlighted at the top and the minutes indicated against a retrograde red scale. Disks for GMT, date and a Hollywood Walk of Fame-style star can be selected, whereupon a robotic arm appears to pick it up and move it to a platform, mimicking the motion of a jukebox selector, and the display spins up.
It’s gloriously daft, but naturally in a very clever way. As with Orny and Girardin’s Metamorphosis for Montblanc, the ingenuity here is not just the automaton complication itself, but the beautiful precision and smoothness with which the movement occurs. It is sexy. Enabling it is a movement of no fewer than 1,066 component.
As with many complex watches these days, the Opus 14 uses two distinct power reserves. One provides 68 hours of normal timekeeping; the other guarantees up to five back-and-forth disk movements. These have a shared winding mechanism from the crown, while nifty pushers in the 12 o’clock lugs enable correction of the GMT and date.
Harry Winston might officially be a cog in the Swatch Group’s corporate gears, but it has also become a deeply personal project for Nayla and Marc Hayek – both present for the launch. They are clearly determined to go beyond, lifting Opus rather than merely continuing it. When Opus 15 appears, and what it will be, could be anyone’s guess. But one might hope that it will be at least as exuberant and nuanced as this. The story goes on…
Harry Winston’s Opus 14 is limited to 50 models, at £327,800 each. For more information, visit Harry Winston’s Opus website here.