2008 Private Preview: Time Machine

  • The Vulcania biaxial tourbillon explores new frontiers in watch design.
<< Back to Robb Report, October 2007
  • Laurie Kahle

Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea captured the imagination of Fabrice

Gonet, who read the novel

as a boy at his grandfather’s home in

Switzerland. Years later, Gonet recalled

Verne’s fantastical undersea

adventures and imaginary inventions as he conceived

his second

timepiece for HD3 Complication, the watch company that Gonet, Jorg

Hysek, and Valérie Ursenbacher formed in 2004.

Gonet’s Vulcania,

named for the mysterious island that was

Captain Nemo’s home port,

evolved from a concept piece into a functioning watch

last summer. The

leap occurred after a young watchmaker at BNB, the complication


that collaborated on the Vulcania, stayed up all night coaxing the

mechanism’s biaxial tourbillon to pirouette. "It was a huge effort over


years to transform the drawing into a real and mechanically viable

piece," says

the 30-year-old Gonet, who was invigorated by the

partnership with BNB, where

the watchmakers’ average age is in the

mid-20s. "When we saw the movement in

action for the first time, it was

such an extraordinary and magical moment."

Aesthetically, the piece

references ships and submarines. A

spinning cylinder, visible through a

lateral porthole at 9 o’clock, indicates

the hours, and another

porthole in the dial reveals the winding mechanism.

Minutes are

presented on a disk that resembles a ship’s Chadburn telegraph (the

device links the pilothouse with the engine room), and the 80-hour

power reserve

indicator recalls a sextant.

The spherical biaxial

tourbillon, which rotates on two axes

both horizontally and vertically,

required an extremely thick case to provide

enough space for the

rotation. Despite its girth, however, the watch is

comfortable to


"The tourbillon is a nice complication, but the gyrotourbillon

is candy for the eyes—you can’t stop looking at it," says John

Simonian, U.S.

distributor for HD3 Complication and president of Los

Angeles retailer Westime,

which already has sold all 11 of the $375,000

Vulcanias that will be produced

over the course of the next


Verne’s influence extended beyond the watch’s name and design.

Gonet conjured an elaborate narrative about the timepiece, which, in


context, serves as the guide to locating Vulcania and the

Nautilus, Nemo’s

submarine. Engraved on the clear sapphire caseback is

a chart showing the island

and its coordinates, like a secret treasure

map that speaks to the childhood

fantasies of the watch’s wearer.


HD3 Complication, 310.205.5555, www­.hd3complication.com

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