Geneva’s Place Bourg de Four, a magnet for the city’s movers and shakers, opens its sidewalk cafés to residents and visitors alike. Just behind, the landmark Saint Pierre cathedral makes itself heard with its 45 bells. The greatest of them is called la Clémence. Hanging in the north tower, it has given its name to a well-known café.
Today, at official celebrations, the voice of La Clémence joins the harmony of five other bells: l’Éveil, L’Espérance, La Collavine, La Bellerive and L’Accord, which call the faithful to prayer every weekend. La Clémence was cast by the Geneva magister campanarum, Guerri de Marclay, and installed in 1407. In those days, the cathedral was yet to become the scene of the spiritual awakening that created the motto, Post Tenebras Spero Lucem (I hope for the light after darkness). The original inscription carved into the rim has thus survived: Vox mea cunctorum est terror doemoniorum (my voice strikes terror in demons).
La Clémence is the name given to Geneva watch brand Spero Lucem’s new 2013 model. Giving such a name to an intriguing minute-repeater with a traditional gong is a fitting tribute to the city from which the brand draws its identity. Yvan Arpa chose to name this gong Saint Pierre (St. Peter) to honour his friend Pierre-Laurent Favre, who developed the movement, as well as in reference to Geneva’s famous cathedral. This remarkable watch also accommodates a one-minute tourbillon and a third complication that has never been seen before: when the repeater starts striking, the hands go completely crazy.
This playful world première is filled with meaning: since the purpose of the minute-repeater’s complex mechanism is to indicate the time by sound, it makes sense to do everything possible so that the user can concentrate on the sound without being tempted to use his eyes to confirm what is heard. But after the magic of sound the miracle of sight suddenly reclaims its rights: a mechanical memory brings the hands of La Clémence to their proper places, in step with time.
The tourbillon cage is inspired by the head of the pastoral key appearing on the Geneva coat-of-arms. The sunburst snailed engraving on the dial echoes the feathers of the imperial eagle’s wing. On the back of La Clémence, the eagle’s crown forms the bridge of the centrifugal governor.
La Clémence by Spero Lucem enjoys the luxury of being in tune with the very reason that gave rise to the repeater: master watchmakers invented the device in the days when their wealthy clients had no light switches. When the candles went out, they had to be able to hear the time.
The presentation case of La Clémence is a perfect match for the object that it protects and displays. Its design is based on organ pipes similar to those in Geneva’s cathedral. The instrument was built in 1965 by Metzler & Fils of Dietikon, Switzerland, and its casing was designed by the architect, Poul-Gerhard Andersen of Copenhagen. Its sound is inspired by that of the baroque north German organs of the late 17th century. It also comprises several stops in French style (cornet and cromorne) and a few stops from the romantic era (1907).
Spero Lucem chooses the most precious materials to make its presentation cases. The tubular design of the box of La Clémence recalls the pipes of great organs. It serves to create outstanding resonance, transcending the discreet strike of the minute repeater.
La Cllémence Caliber SL1
– Minute-repeater, tourbillon, crazy hands.
– Striking on “Saint Pierre” traditional gongs.
– Flying one-minute tourbillon, balance with gold adjustment screws.
– The crazy hands mechanism is activated by the repeater slide at the same time as the strike.
– Time indications: hours and minutes off centre at 12 o’clock.
– Manually wound movement.
– Casing-up diameter: 34.00 mm
– Movement height without module: 6.10 mm
– Total height of movement: 9.80 mm
– Height of movement with hands: 10.55 mm
– Number of parts: 471
– Number of jewels and anti-shock systems: 59
– Power reserve: 90 hours
– Balance frequency: 21,600 vibrations per hour (3 Hertz)
– Tourbillon diameter: 13.60 mm
– Torque: 860 g/mm
– Barrel revolutions: 15
– One barrel revolution in 8 hours
– Escape-wheel: 15 teeth
– Balance inertia: 10 g/cm2
– Repeater slide at 9 o’clock
– Travel of slide: 37°
– Position 1: winding
– Position 2 (crown out): setting the time
– Travel of the winding stem: 0.85 mm
– In common with other horological complications, the minute-repeater mechanism was designed to meet a need: to know the time in the dark in the days when electric lighting was beyond imagination. Fitting the gongs so that they have enough room to resonate to the strike of powerful little hammers in the restricted space of a wristwatch makes it the queen of complications. Today it is the charm and fascination of hours, quarters and minutes being rung that puts this micro-mechanical wonder firmly among the obsessions of those in love with fine watchmaking.
– Flying tourbillion, 13.60 mm diameter, beryllium-copper balance with gold adjustment screws.
– Tourbillon bridge, mirror-polished by hand in the traditional way, on a zinc base.
– 159 parts, all finished by hand, make up the tourbillon.
Crazy hands module
– The crazy hands module keeps track of the passing time, which enables the hands to return to the right time once they have finished performing.
– Placed off-centre at 12 o’clock to give the mechanism and tourbillon maximum exposure, the module also has a centrifugal governor to control the speed of its own barrel.
– The novelty consists of being able to listen to the time without being tempted to look at it.
– All the steel parts are straight-grained with polished chamfers.
– The brass bridges are chamfered, circular-grained, decorated and surfaced before being coloured.
– Every operation is carried out in strict compliance with the requirements of the Geneva hallmark.
– Materials: All 5N gold or all titanium, or with the caseband and crown in titanium and the bezel, caseback and slide in 5N gold. 44 mm diameter, 13.80 mm height
– Machining tool: Numerically controlled, 5 axes
– Finish: circular-brushed caseband, hand-polished bezel and back, brushed lugs with polished flanks
– Material: gold
– Finishes: hand snailing and PVD
– Material: gold
– Finish: polished.
– Material: crocodile leather, large scales above; small scales underneath.
– Finish: hand-sewn.
– Buckle: titanium, logo in 5N gold.