BASELWORLD 2017: Louis Moinet Mobilis – The pull of gravity and the attraction of the void
With the Mobilis model, Maison Louis Moinet has produced a fine piece of haute chronometrie, a fusion "in mobile" of two masterly talents: watchmaking and the graphical arts.
For those of us who need reminding, the brilliant French watchmaker (1768-1853), Louis Moinet, whose works and treatises have served as fodder for generations of watchmakers, is one of a small handful of the finest master craftsmen of his time. At the dawn of the 19th century, he invented an instrument entitled the Compteur de Tierce (Ed's note: considered the first chronograph by Wikipedia and the Guinness Book of Records, before the term even appeared in our vocabulary) (see the Watchonista space devoted to this amazing invention). But while focusing on the mechanical talents of this tireless enthusiast, followers sometimes forget the fact that he was also a much-admired artist.
The case for transparency
It is only natural for someone to want to pay tribute to the memory of this multi-talented man. For Jean-Marie Schaller, founder of the Maison Louis Moinet, the ultimate tribute consisted in combining two of the fundamental facets of this accomplished artist's work within one watch. A stunning feat of technical engineering, this piece, measuring 47.4 mm in diameter and crafted in white gold, with its mesmeric transparency and attention-grabbing views to infinity, celebrates the richness of his art and reveals the true talents of this logician.
But the purpose of the two feather-light flying tourbillons, rotating in opposite directions and mounted atop two ceramic ball bearings, was not just to astonish and astound the fine watchmaking enthusiast. These counter-rotating mechanisms clearly have their own raison d’être and historical significance. Connoisseurs will recognise these organs, originally patented in Paris in 1801 by Breguet (a friend of Louis Moinet), to be a kinetic allegory of the celebrated work conducted on resonance by Breguet and Antide Janvier, which was also not unfamiliar to Louis Moinet. We now know that the two regulating organs will "sympathise" (to use the watchmaking terminology of the time), in other words, they will become less sensitive to the tiny changes in rhythm triggered by brusque movements once their respective frequencies of 21,600 vibrations an hour resonate as one.
A piece of such mind-blowing creativity could almost have been the work of the supreme horological miracle-worker, Charles Oudin, but it is, in fact, an allegory of Louis Moinet's artistic achievements. Indeed, no sooner than you manage to wrench your gaze away from the mind-boggling display of the two flying tourbillon cages, each weighing 0.4 grammes and completing a revolution in one minute, you are immediately arrested by the sight of the off-centred hour dial.
It is not just the two sleek hands boasting a "goutte de rosée" motif(dewdrop in French) that contribute, but also the kaleidoscope effect produced by the finely openworked discs, rotating in opposite directions beneath the elliptical openwork dial. The optical illusion produces an undeniably mesmerising display in which the dial appears to succumb to a gravitational collapse into a point of infinity centred on the hands' axis.
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This incredibly appealing watch is powered by a splendid mechanical calibre with manual winding perfected by Louis Moinet, the central features being its featherweight construction and 56-hour power reserve. Given such a level of autonomy, despite energy losses linked to the need to keep all the mobile parts rotating (the two flying tourbillon cages and the kaleidoscope beneath the dial), a barrel of impressive proportions was obviously required. Nevertheless, and this must have something to do with the hypnotic qualities of the piece, that it cannot be seen through the back is a fact that has gone unnoticed…
With a production limited to just 12 pieces crafted in 18K white gold, Louis Moinet shows, in its inimitable style, that, when it comes to finely tuned mechanisms, creating an aura of magic is the best way to rekindle a market in need of rejuvenation. Thanks to this model, Louis Moinet has found a way of taking the professionals' eye off the ball by inviting them to focus anew on its playfulness.