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Watches: Reconstructive Bridgework

James D. Malcolmson

More than a few eyebrows rose five years ago when Corum introduced a lineup of boldly styled and relatively inexpensive timepieces led by the $2,500 Bubble watch. The watches’ designs and prices indicated that Severin Wunderman, the visionary behind the success of Gucci watches who had just purchased controlling interest in Corum, intended to steer the venerable Swiss brand into familiar fashion territory. This year, however, Corum has taken another turn, back to its traditional watchmaking roots, by creating a revamped version of its celebrated Golden Bridge and two additional complicated models.
 
The original Golden Bridge, with its unusual skeletonized movement suspended between sapphire crystals, caused a sensation when it debuted in 1980. The design was the work of independent maestro Vincent Calabrese, who devised a way to place the winding barrel, balance assembly, and all the wheels of the power train in a thin, elegant line. Unfortunately, the movement was as delicate as it was unorthodox and therefore prone to technical problems; even moderate overwinding could break it.

The 2005 Golden Bridge (starting at approximately $19,000) captures the essence of its precursor and promises improved reliability by utilizing the industry’s most advanced technology. Rather than simply modify the original design, Corum enlisted Parmigiani’s Vaucher Manufacture to reengineer the entire movement. Vaucher, one of the newest contract watch movement manufacturers, endowed the watch with a 40-hour power reserve and a winding stem at 6 o’clock. “Corum has never been a manufacture in the traditional sense,” says Michael Wunderman, Corum president (and Severin’s son). “Instead, we work with the best suppliers and specialists, whose contributions are appreciated by our collectors.”

One of Corum’s longtime collaborators is complicated watch specialist Christophe Claret, who in the late 1990s created the limited edition Mystery Tourbillon for the brand. Corum revisited Claret this year to develop a new timepiece powered by a modified version of the Mystery’s tourbillon/minute repeater movement with its four-gong cathedral strike. The new Classical Tourbillon Cathedral Minute Repeater (approximately $385,000) is the most complicated and expensive timepiece Corum has ever offered. The watch’s reversed movement layout positions the striking mechanism on the dial side of the watch, and a transparent sapphire dial provides a view of the strike-works in action as it chimes the hours, quarter hours, and minutes.
 
Corum has further bolstered its high-watchmaking statement this year by introducing two limited series of enamel-painted jump-hour watches that feature an exclusive module by Dubois-Depráz.

Although Corum management acknowledges its trepidation about taking such a deep dive into technical waters, the company is encouraged by the success of its recent complicated revivals, including the Admiral’s Cup Tides of two years ago. “We had to use pieces like the Bubble watch to jump-start Corum,” explains Severin Wunderman. “But the real value of the brand has always been in the archives. There are a great many possibilities for exclusive and imaginative watches in the future.”

Corum, 949.788.6200, www.corum.ch

Photo by Jim Fets
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