Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Limited Edition

Celebrating its 15th anniversary, Le Sentier based independent Swiss watch manufacturer Romain Gauthier has created the Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette watch collection.

This special edition from the prestigious Insight Micro-Rotor line is equipped with a stunning, skeletonised, in-house movement featuring superlatively hand-finished mainplate and bridges in ultra-light, natural titanium.

By opening up and stripping down his high-end, time-only automatic calibre, Romain has created a truly contemporary skeleton watch that is a technical and artistic tour de force. Not only do the skeletonised, ultra-light natural titanium bridges and mainplate help to reveal the mesmerising mechanics of the in-house movement, they also provide the perfect platform for the Romain Gauthier anglage specialists to demonstrate their immense skills.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition
Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition

For each Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette movement features as many as 250 hours devoted to anglage alone, that’s to say the bevelling, softening, smoothing and polishing by hand of the bridges and mainplate, in an extraordinary demonstration of watchmaking artistry.

Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette is available in a 42mm case made out of Carbonium®, a cutting-edge carbon composite sourced from aerospace-grade fibres that is light, mechanically resistant and catches the eye with its dynamic veining. This is a customisable “Manufacture Only” edition available exclusively via Manufacture Romain Gauthier.

Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette is also available as customisable 39.5mm precious metal or titanium “Special Orders” through Romain Gauthier or its retail partners. To show the delightful possibilities, Romain has created two Special Order examples, one in 18k red gold and another in 950 platinum.

Skeletonising Insight Micro-Rotor

Insight Micro-Rotor is Romain Gauthier’s high-end, automatic timepiece of which the hour, minute and small second indications are powered by an in-house calibre boasting bidirectional micro-rotor made from 22k solid gold.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition
Caseback of Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition

Visible dial side and through the display back, this oscillating weight turns smoothly between two bridges, each fitted with a friction-minimising, wear-resistant ruby bearing. In whichever direction the micro-rotor swings, it winds a serially operating double mainspring barrel offering 80 hours of power at full wind.

For Romain, the architecture of the arcing bridges, the position of the balance and micro-rotor, and the layout of the gears and barrels meant skeletonising this movement would really add something.

Making the mainplate and bridges in ultra-light, natural titanium

Romain’s design for opening up the Insight Micro-Rotor entailed skeletonising the mainplate and eight bridges that, until now, have been made in solid brass. At the thicknesses he envisaged, going as thin as 0.7mm, skeletonised brass bridges wouldn’t have necessarily held up.

Bridge on the left that has been bevelled by hand c.f. bridge on right that has been bevelled, softened, smoothed and polished by hand - Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium Edition
Bridge on the left that has been bevelled by hand c.f. bridge on right that has been bevelled, softened, smoothed and polished by hand – Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium Edition

Grade 5 titanium, however, offered the requisite strength and a lightness that could reduce the overall weight of the movement to 15.95g, the ability to look good naturally without the need for galvanic deposition, and the ability to be hand-polished. All the same, machining titanium has its challenges.

Off-the-scale hand-finishing drawing on 15 years of savoir-faire

If machining the titanium mainplate and bridges of Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette has its challenges, they pale in comparison to the challenges of hand-finishing them. For this skeletonised movement calls on a particular savoir-faire for which Romain and his team have garnered plenty of acclaims since the brand was founded in 2005: anglage, or the art of bevelling, softening, smoothing and polishing components by hand.

Put simply, anglage beautifies the component by creating a polished bevel between its surface and its flanks, one which catches the light and the eye. The angleur or angleuse creates a bevel using a steel file, then softens and smooths the material, first with degussit stone then using a series of buffs with emery-paper tip gradually going from a coarser to a finer grain, before polishing the bevel using the woody stem of the locally-growing gentian plant with diamond paste. It requires skill, experience and patience, and even relatively simply-shaped bridges made in brass can each take tens of hours to bevel, soften, smooth and polish by hand.

As you can imagine, the skeletonised mainplate and bridges of the Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette tested the talents of the Romain Gauthier anglage team on an entirely new level. One thing was the complexity of the shapes created by the skeletonisation, featuring no fewer than 156 sharp, internal angles that make it tricky for these artisans to access with their handheld tools, while limiting the scope of movement that their hands can make. Another thing was the way in which the titanium behaves.

Softening and smoothing a bridge from the Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette using a buff
Softening and smoothing a bridge from the Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette using a buff

Indeed, it takes one Romain Gauthier anglage specialist no fewer than 250 hours to bevel, soften, smooth and polish by hand the natural titanium mainplate and eight bridges needed for one Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette.

And that’s not even counting the time it takes Sylvie Devaux, Head of Anglage at Manufacture Romain Gauthier and her team to carry out other decorative techniques applied by hand to these components, such as polishing the screw and jewel countersinks using an ebony spindle, satin-finishing the flanks and hand-frosting the flat surfaces.

Sylvie Devaux, Head of Anglage at Manufacture Romain Gauthier
Sylvie Devaux, Head of Anglage at Manufacture Romain Gauthier

In fact, when you add up all the hours devoted to decorating the entire movement by hand or by hand-operated tools – including anglage, hand-frosting, polishing countersinks, circular graining, straight graining and snailing – it comes to over 350 hours of work!

In addition to hand-polished bevels, customers can opt for matte-finished bevels on their Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette, giving a slightly more understated look. The latter removes the need for the hand-polishing stage, but still involves the steps of bevelling, softening and smoothing by hand.

Watchmaker's assembly of the Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette
Watchmaker’s assembly of the Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette

Raising the bar for contemporary skeleton watches

While the superlatively hand-finished, skeletonised mainplate and bridges of the Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette are a spectacle in themselves, opening up the calibre uncovers a raft of fresh details.

Between 1 o’clock and 3 o’clock, the winding and time-setting mechanisms are more visible with a cluster of Romain Gauthier S-slot screws on show. We can now see one of the mainspring barrels, decorated by snailing, at 5 o’clock and, at 7 o’clock, circular-grained gears with circular, bevelled arms. The increased sense of depth created by this skeletonisation makes the balance wheel at 6 o’clock appear as though it is floating, while the snailed micro-rotor at 9 o’clock sways more dramatically than ever between the stripped-down bridges.

The spectacle continues through the display back where the micro-rotor can be seen engaging the visible train of gears, beginning with the reversing gear that gives the mechanism its bidirectionality. The highly-decorated barrels and ratchet wheels are now more exposed, while the sinuous shapes of the bridges are juxtaposed by the straight-grained, linear plaquettes adorning them.

Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition

For his first ever Manufacture-Only edition, Romain has chosen probably his sportiest looking watch to date: An Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette with case, crown, dial and buckle made out of Carbonium®.

Carbonium® is a high-tech, high-performance, carbon fibre composite invented and produced by French company Lavoisier Composites. It is made by employing a special compression-moulding process to ‘upcycle’ the epoxy resin and carbon fibres found in prepreg tapes sourced from the aerospace industry – fibres once earmarked to form part of an airliner wing, fin or fuselage.

To make each of the Carbonium® elements for this timepiece, Lavoisier Composites creates Carbonium® blocks which are then finely shaped on a 5-axis machining centre before being matte-finished for a slightly silky surface appearance. In accordance with Romain’s wishes, Lavoisier chose a long fibre length of 50mm, in their eyes the sweet spot between mouldability, aesthetics and mechanical properties.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition

Indeed, the carbon fibre in Carbonium® is three times more rigid than titanium, yet twice as light. The fully assembled Carbonium® case for Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette weighs in at just 15.36g. So with the cased-up movement weighing 31.31g, it is fair to say this Carbonium® edition feels like a feather on the wrist.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition

What is more, at 42mm in diameter, this case is larger than the Insight Micro-Rotor case in precious metal or titanium (39.5mm). That is because the rigid and fibre-rich nature of Carbonium® means localised increases in case dimensions needed to be made in order to machine it optimally. The extra couple of millimetres only serve to increase the assertive presence of the Carbonium® which bears a striking, organic-looking, veined pattern. As you turn the watch, the veins take it in turns to reflect the light, lending the case a real vivacity.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition

With carbon fibre watches, often the movement is placed in a watertight cylinder within an unwaterproofed case. Romain was keen to avoid this ‘hack’ and instead wanted the skeletonised movement to be protected from humidity by the Carbonium® case itself. To that end, Lavoisier Composites performed a multi-step waterproofing process developed especially for this Romain Gauthier case, that saw resin injected into the micropores – invisible to the naked eye – on the inside of the case to prevent water from entering it.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition

Customisable elements include the final finishing to the bridges and mainplate (hand-polished or matte-finished bevels); colour of the steel hands, dial accents and plaquette engravings; and colour of the natural rubber strap. The example here features hand-polished bevels, Pacific blue and white dial accents, and Pacific blue steel hands and natural rubber strap.

Precious metal or titanium “Special Orders” available through Manufacture Romain Gauthier or its retailers

Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette can also be requested as a “Special Order” in a 39.5mm precious metal or natural or black DLC Grade 5 titanium case, either directly via the brand or through Romain Gauthier retailers. Two Special Order examples are featured here.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Limited Edition 18k Red Gold
Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Limited Edition 18k Red Gold

One is in 18k red gold featuring an oven-fired black enamel dial greyed by hand-frosting with white and gilded dial accents, complemented by 18k red gold hands; mainplate and bridges bevelled, softened and smoothed by hand, then matte-finished; and gilded micro-rotor, plaquettes and balance wheel. It is fitted with a grey, natural rubber strap with 18k red gold pin buckle.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Limited Edition 18k Red Gold 1

The other example is in 950 platinum featuring an oven-fired, satin-blue enamel dial made in house by Romain’s wife Ana Gauthier, with white dial accents, accompanied by 18k white gold hands; bridges and mainplate bevelled, softened, smoothed and polished by hand; and rhodium-treated micro-rotor, plaquettes and balance wheel. It is accompanied by a navy-blue alligator leather strap with 18k white gold pin buckle.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Limited Edition Platinum
Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Limited Edition in Platinum

Elements that collectors or retailers can customise include the material of the case; final finishing to the bridges and mainplate (hand-polished or matte-finished bevels); colour of the dial and dial accents; material and colour of the hands; colour of the plaquettes and their engravings; and the material and colour of the strap.

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Limited Edition

Technical details

Model: Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Manufacture-Only Carbonium® Edition

Features and indications

Off-centre hours, minutes and small seconds
In-house, automatic movement
Superlatively hand-finished, skeletonised mainplate and bridges in natural titanium
22k gold bidirectional micro-rotor
Double mainspring barrel in series giving 80-hour power reserve
42mm Carbonium® case
Available exclusively through Manufacture Romain Gauthier

Dial and hands

Carbonium® hour-minute dial and small seconds dial (monobloc)
Skeletonised hour and minute hands in matte-finished steel
Solid small seconds hand in matte-finished steel
Colour of hands and dial accents customisable

Movement and finishing

Dimensions: 32.1mm x 6.8mm
Power reserve: 80 hours
Number of jewels: 33
Number of components: 206
Balance frequency: 28,800 vph / 4Hz
Components in: 22k gold micro-rotor, titanium, steel, stainless steel, beryllium copper, brass and German silver
Choice of final finishing to the bridges and mainplate(hand-polished or matte-finished bevels)
Colour of plaquette engravings customisable

Case

Material: Carbonium®
Dimensions: 42mm x 12.9mm at highest point
Water resistance: 50m/5atm/170ft
Sapphire crystal with interior anti-reflection coating, front and display back
Carbonium® crown for manual winding and time-setting at 2 o’clock

Strap and buckle

Natural rubber strap, colour customisable
Carbonium® pin buckle

Model: Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette – Special Orders

Features and indications

Off-centre hours, minutes and small seconds
In-house, automatic movement
Superlatively hand-finished, skeletonised mainplate and bridges in natural titanium
22k gold bidirectional micro-rotor
Double mainspring barrel in series giving 80-hour power reserve
39.5mm precious metal or natural or black DLC Grade 5 titanium case
Available through Manufacture Romain Gauthier or its retailers

Dial and hands

Oven-fired enamel dial
Skeletonised hour and minute hands
Solid small seconds hand
Finishing of the dial, material of the hands, colour of the hands and dial accents customisable

Movement and finishing

Dimensions: 32.1mm x 6.8mm
Power reserve: 80 hours
Number of jewels: 33
Number of components: 206
Balance frequency: 28,800 vph / 4Hz
Components in: 22k gold micro-rotor, titanium, steel, stainless steel, beryllium copper, brass and German silver
Choice of final finishing to the bridges and mainplate (hand-polished or matte-finished bevels)
Colour of plaquettes and plaquette engravings customisable

Case

Material: 18k red gold, 18k white gold, 950 platinum or natural or black DLC Grade 5 titanium
Dimensions: 39.5mm x 12.9mm at highest point
Water resistance: 50m/5atm/170ft
Sapphire crystal with interior anti-reflection coating, front and display back
Crown for manual winding and time-setting at 2 o’clock

Strap and buckle

Natural rubber strap or alligator leather strap hand-stitched in Switzerland, colour customisable
Pin or deployant buckle
Buckle in material to match case, except for platinum case which is accompanied by 18k white gold buckle