The Alchemists Cu29 is the introductory piece of the trilogy of timepieces from Alchemists Mechanical Healing S.A., an haute-horlogerie company based in Saignelégier in Switzerland.
Cu29 refers to Copper, the chemical element with the atomic value of 29 and represented by the symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum). Since ancient times, Copper has been known for its medicinal properties and its potential to relieve certain ailments. To implement these benefits of copper in high-end watchmaking, the company has developed Cuprum 479, an innovative horological alloy. The Cu29 is an extra-ordinary mechanical watch made from Cuprum 479.
The team Alchemists consists of three creative geniuses: Hervé Schlüchter, Fabrice Thüler and Denis Vipret.
As mentioned above, the Cu29 is the first opus of the total three timepieces proposed by Alchemists. For the trilogy, Alchemists developed three different manufacture movements on a common basis, infusing harmony and a soul for their project.
The Cu29 is the most essential timepiece of the trilogy. It is a horological masterpiece from Hervé Schlüchter following traditional horological art’s methods and savoir-faire, transmitted by Philippe Dufour, the world renowned master watchmaker. It is also a showcase for an innovative horological alloy, Cuprum 479.
The Cu29 highlights a universal heritage of traditional horological arts and crafts. The entire calibre and case are hand finished, with traditionally buffed and polished corners, drilled and hand-polished balance bridge and sweep second cock, escapement wheel on black polished end-stones, rounded and moveable Geneva hairspring stud holder, moulded, ringed and beveled wheel and intermediate wheels, and black-polished and hand-blued screws.
Amongst other techniques, the pivots are traditionally rolled on a lathe roller and the polishing of the pinion’s leaves is made with wooden wheels mounted on a specific machine.
The hours, minutes and seconds hands are rounded by hand and then blued and lacquered. The power reserve and selector dial are made of black-polished steel adorned with a lacquered engraving. The double barrels linked in parallel are beveled and polished by hand. Each caliber leaving the Alchemists’ workshop is then individually numbered.
The Cu29 has numerous specialties, drawing inspiration from horology’s heritage and history.
The regulating organ is held by a titanium bridge on its hairspring’s stud, finished and formed by hand. Its finishing and its curve make it a spectacular piece to behold in the Cu29’s mechanical landscape. The cylindrical hairspring is a tribute to ancient Marine chronometers, which once represented the apogee of horological precision and were constructed with a tridimensional architecture.
Finally, on a more philosophical manner, the Alchemists like to consider the assembly of the regulating organ and the cylindrical hairspring as a representation of spiritual elevation. It is also worth noticing that the escapement wheel is mounted on traditional end-stones.
The energy of the movement comes from the double barrels, this assembly of energy balance is a tribute to a watchmaker who marked history and whose career and philosophy are sources of inspiration for Hervé Schlüchter since years: Sir Georges Daniels. Dividing the energy between the two barrels allows attaining a greater stability in its diffusion; the two springs deliver a stable and linear torque, being the reason why the Cu29 offers a 72 hours chronometrical power reserve.
When carefully observing the double barrels’ assembly, there is one thing that is sure to catch the Cu29 wearer’s attention: the two mustache-shaped pawls. These two pawls are black polished and angled by hand by the Alchemists’ watchmakers. Their design and their location right above the barrels are uncommon and bring an additional charm to the timepiece.
The indirect second is suspended above the barrels and completes the assembly, the elevation of the small second derogates to horological tradition and represented a technical challenge in the conception of the movement, the gears had to be conceived in such manner as to remove potential play between them.
Among the last two displays of the Cu29’s dial are the peripheral rack and the functions selector. The peripheral rack is a rare display in watchmaking. By definition, the display is made along a curve, and the display arm is suspended in a vacuum, reinforcing the lightness and the aerial side of the timepiece’s architecture.
The functions selector is a visual indicator that allows the wearer to permanently know the position of the crown and easily wind or set the timepiece, removing the risks of wrong manipulation.
Finally, the global architecture of the timepiece, composed of a blend of different levels, was inspired by the suspended gardens of Babylon.
The Cu29’s fabrication also calls for particular techniques belonging to arts crafts’ heritage. “Shields”-shaped bridges, visible from the timepiece’s dials are hand decorated and allows for several types of finishing, among which hand-hammering or hand engraving. Both are techniques requiring years of expertise to achieve their perfect realization. The hand engraving of the “shields” also brings forth numerous personalization possibilities in which customers can let their imagination run freely.
The same holds true for the dial’s gemstones which are cut and formed by hand. Extraordinary craftsmanship skills are required and it demands an immense precision when cutting these pure gemstones, which do not require any surface treatment, before being pad printed and installed on a Cuprum 479 base. The dial assembly naturally preserves the beauty and purity of the stone.
The dials made from Grand Feu enamel are true works of art. The process to create enamel not only requires a highly specialized savoir-faire, but also a material base allowing its formation. Indeed, enamel dials can usually only be created on gold or copper bases, but after several months of development, the Alchemists were able to create Grand Feu enamel on a Cuprum 479 base, attesting once more of the purity and quality of this horological alloy.
All the Cu29’s parts thus obtain genuine added value from the watchmaker’s hand. The
Alchemists have no finishing workshop: the watchmaker receives the kit for each watch as a “blank”, meaning non-finished, and must do the hand-finishing him- or herself, as done back in the glory days of fine watchmaking and which very few traditional Maisons still know how to do today.
The skill level and passion required from each watchmaker of the Alchemists are particularly high. Only a small few of craftsmen in Switzerland are still able to hand finish and assemble each of his creations by him- or herself. Each creation of the Alchemists will be the child of a single individual watchmaker, from its assembly and adjusting to its most detailed hand finishing.
The production of Alchemists timepieces is consequently very limited, traditional methods on which their fabrication is based are not compatible with an industrial process. Each timepiece coming from the Alchemists’ workshop will therefore be an exclusive piece, carrying a will to perpetuate ancestral savoir-faire.
The hybrid case of the Cu29, the Alchemists’ signature, is composed of a Cuprum 479 base but most importantly, of a unique “atmospherical” glass.
The glass’ conception has no common measure with the glass-box from yesteryear, for three reasons:
- Shape: It is atmospherical. The base of this atmosphere glass has a smaller diameter than that of its outside edge, meaning that the glass’ diameter gradually expands from the base until it takes on an atmospherical curve at its apex—exactly like the earth’s atmosphere, from whence it gets its name.
- Construction: The Cu29’s atmosphere crystal is pierced by the crown tube, which is usually found in the case middle. Here, it is integrated directly into the atmosphere crystal.
- Casing: This atmosphere glass has forced the Alchemists to perform the casing from above. The movement is thus screwed to the case middle, which is then covered by the atmosphere glass.
Finally, the Cu29 has no bezel or flange, thus enabling the movement to occupy the entire case. By this unique conception, the atmospherical sapphire glass of the Cu29 represents around 65% of the case’s volume, offering his or her wearer an emotional spectacle. It also highlights the 3D architecture of the manufacture movement.
Similar to traditional horology pieces, the Cu29 is constructed towards the notions of volume and symmetry; however the atypical arrangement of the Cu29’s case has led to the total transposition of the movement’s architecture.
Created in-house, the manufacture calibre composed of 362 parts and 56 jewels, is completely inverted compared to the traditional design. This conception allows the display of the hours, minutes and seconds but also the visual spectacle orchestrated by some of the movement’s parts, such as the double barrels linked in parallel extend directly from the winding stem.
In the Cu29, the symmetry of the double barrel at 6 o’clock offers a totally unique visual spectacle during the winding process, which allows to see each spring of the suspended moustache-shaped pawls wind with each click of the ratchet until the timepiece is fully wound.
The Cu29 is a timepiece equipped with a variable inertia balance and a cylindrical hairspring, located at 8 o’clock. Just above, between 10 and 11 o’clock, the power reserve is indicated by a cursor moving along a peripheral gear bar indexed from 0 to 72 hours. On the opposite side, between 2 and 3 o’clock, the selected function is indicated: W (Wind) or S (Set).
The hour dial, made from Grand Feu enamel or gemstone, is placed at 12 o’clock, and displays the hours and minutes. The small second is displayed off-center at 6 o’clock. The ring, calibrated into 60 trailing seconds, covers the two barrels of the Cu29.
The Cu29 can be highly personalized by the integration of dials, offered in different stones, up to the customers’ preferences. The selection of gemstones was guided by their elegance and their purity. In harmony with the spirit of their work, the Alchemists searched for pure gemstones which can be sublimed by hand and without treatment in order to preserve their quality and shine. As of now, Alchemists is offering two versions of the Cu29 timepiece with Lapis Lazuli or Black Jade dial.
Copper has been known across cultures for millennia for its benefits to the body and its potential to soothe certain ailments. Inspired by these beliefs, the Alchemists imagined how a timepiece could capture their essence, which led them to develop the Cuprum 479, a new innovative horological alloy, but also to reflect on its field of expression in their works. In this case, by placing it in contact with the skin thanks to the bottom of the case, made entirely with the alloy, delivering their interpretation of this historical lore.
The case of the Cu29 is crafted exclusively in Cuprum 479. The crown is also made of Cuprum, as well as the pin buckle, bottom plate, dial’s base, hours, minutes and seconds hands as well as the majority of the bridges.
Introduced in : 2019
AC 003 (Alchemists Calibre 003)
Manual-winding mechanical manufacture movement, engraved and hand-bevelled double barrel linked in parallel, suspended “moustache” dual pawl winding. Ébauches in Cuprum 479, titanium and stainless steel. Entire calibre hand-finished, traditionally buffed and polished corners, rounded and hand-polished balance bridge and sweep second cock, escapement wheel, black-polished endstones, rounded and moveable Geneva hairspring stud holder. Moulded, ringed and bevelled wheel and intermediate wheels, black-polished and hand-blued screws, numbered calibre.
Diameter: 38 mm/ 17 lines
Power Reserve: 72h
Frequency: 21600 vib/hour, 3 hz
Balance: Variable inertia balance with weight screw
Balance Spring: Cylindrical, blued
Escapement: Swiss lever, 15 teeth
Number of components: 362
Hours and minutes offset at 12 o’clock, subsidiary seconds at 6 o’clock, power reserve displayed via peripheral gear bar, function selector.
Round with specific “atmosphere”-shaped sapphire crystal
Material: Cuprum 479
Diameter: 44 mm
Total thickness: 15.40 mm, top of crystal
Crown: Cuprum 479
Dual case back: Engraved Cuprum 479
Lug width: 20 mm
Water resistance: 30 metres
Dial hour minute and subsidiary seconds: Cuprum 479 base and rounded litho therapeutic stones.
Power reserve and selector dial: Black-polished steel, lacquered engraving
Hands (hour minute and seconds): Rounded, blued or lacquered
Power reserve indicator: Blued steel shape
Selector hand: Blued flat sword hands
Alligator leather, matt black
Buckle: Cuprum 479, pin buckle