Watches: Disk Jockey

<< Back to Robb Report, December 2003

There comes a point in every watch devotee’s life when it is time to try something different. Once you reach the decision to wear an unconventional timepiece, you are faced with choices that can range
from the bizarre—even the grotesque—to the merely avant-garde. Among these oddities, the creations of German watchmaker Bernhard Lederer stand out—not for their eccentricity, but for their serenity. The various models released under Lederer’s brand, blu Source du Temps, tap into the beauty of simplicity, but in this case, simple does not mean normal. At first glance, many of his watches appear to be an array of circular forms with no recognizable timekeeping function. But spend a few moments studying the design, and the aesthetic harmony and intuitive qualities of Lederer’s interpretation of watchmaking become readily apparent.

After just a few years of production, blu (an acronym for Bernhard Lederer Uhren—watches in German) is looking to develop export markets, including the United States. The signature Planet line ($6,900 to $43,000) features a small, off-center sub-dial indicating the minutes that orbits around the edge of the dial to show the hour. The real genius of these watches is not the technical complexity (although it requires ingenuity to keep the minutes dial in proper orientation); the quality of the design makes them extraordinary, especially when executed in exotic materials. Mother-of-pearl, diamond accents, even full pavé diamond treatments transform the Planet watches into striking and sometimes surprisingly feminine pieces. But unlike typical jeweled watches, the Planet’s embellished surface is part of the functional display, giving it a certain je ne sais quoi, and giving everyone who notices a pronounced feeling of envy.

Another range, Spheres, utilizes a similarly unorthodox system of concentric disks to indicate the time. On the other hand, Lederer also makes a number of multi-dialed regulator models that appear more conventional—at least they have hands.

What binds all these models together is Lederer’s use of the circle, a form with obvious philo-sophical and astronomical connections to timekeeping. Perhaps it is because the circle is such a common character-istic of traditional watch design that blu watches are able to challenge the imagination without simultaneously assaulting taste.

Like many of today’s best independent watchmakers, Lederer began his career restoring old watches and clocks, evolving his vision from past works. While it is possible to see traces of this training in some of his models, Lederer has a more contemporary and personal interpretation of what a watch should be, and this has contributed to the distinctive appearance of his creations. "My watches are designed to create a sense of equilibrium and calm," he says. "Instead of crossing hands, which can give the impression of conflict, my displays maintain their own harmonious space and hopefully influence the wearer’s frame of mind." Equilibrium and calm are rare commodities indeed outside the realm of traditional watch design. Lederer’s legacy may be his ability to endow his watches with the capacity to stun as well as charm.

blu Source du Temps, +41.32.843.4126

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