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Articles | Interview

Hands of watches


Today, the whole modern world, keeping the time,
watch hands admires amazing works of art in the form of mechanical watches, created by the most experienced watchmakers. In luxury watches each little item and every tiny detail are thought through very carefully. The hands, of course, are not an exception. Especially that many people, who know how to appreciate every moment, value watches rather high, considering them the greatest conductors of the Time. Imagining a watch, every person sees two or three hands, endlessly moving around the dial. Watches without hands are almost useless, if not to take into account the electronic time meters with digital displays, but to talk only about the most interesting watch mechanics.
If we compare the "hand" business of the past and present, we can find out that in 1960s there were a little more than 60 companies, engaged in production of watch hands, in the world, today there are about 6 companies worldwide that provide practically the whole watch industry with the hands. Perhaps, because of such limited number of manufactories or, perhaps, because of peculiarity of the watch hand. But at first, I thought that the modern manufacturers were handicraft masters, who used traditional methods of hands manufacturing, making them in large numbers and putting them into a giant basket. Probing deeper, I realized that I was strongly mistaken. I’ll tell you what I’ve managed to "dig up" in order.

Beginning of hands history

Daniel Quare watchIt's no secret that the very first time meters had only one hand - hour. The situation remained unchanged until 1691, when British watchmaker Daniel Quare managed to place the hour and minute hands on one axis (by the way, British master Quare is better known as the creator of the first repeaters in the watch history, striking hours and quarters of hours). As the antique pocket watches were deprived of protective glasses, and to set the correct time, it was necessary to move the hands with a finger, it was not surprising that the masters had made such massive and bulky hands, which would have been difficult to damage. Those time indexes were deprived of grace, so the aesthetic factor wasn’t considered at all. The advantages of glass for the dial with case, which had to be opened each time to see the time, were highly appreciated by the watchmakers. And in the middle of the XVIII century the hands became "slimmer", lighter and more elegant. More and more options of hands, which were given beautiful names by their creators, appeared. Interestingly, the forms of the first hands are still used in the watch industry to this day.
The most popular "hands" of watches are the following: Bâton (from the French "stick, rod"), Dauphine (one of the most common types of hands), Feuille (Fr. "leaf”), Sword, Spade, Poire (Fr. "pear”), Breguet (the well-known hands with "apple”-tips), Moon, Skeleton (skeletonized hands) and many others. However, today there is such a huge number of hand types that it is impossible to name and describe each of them. The first hands, of course, were made and decorated by hand, but from about 1764 the watchmakers started using a different method. The masters made ebauches of future hands from a piece of metal, using a hammer. And in 1800 the so-called presses for hands making appeared and considerably facilitated and speeded up the production process. Today, when the industry reached a completely new level of development, and the computer replaced the man in many fields, the hands’ production process has also changed. But not every fan or collector of watches knows how these small time indicators come into the world. After all, they sometimes pay too little attention to the hands, although a watch without hands isn’t actually a time meter.

Manufacturers of hands

Isabelle ChillierThe most famous Swiss watchmanufactory of Fiedler SA company companies, making their elite products, often order some details from other independent manufactories. I want to draw your attention to two major companies, involved in manufacturing watch hands. These are “Fiedler SA”, in Geneva, and “Waeber HMS SA” in the Swiss town of Fleurier. Interestingly, if we had not raised the topic of clock hands in our online magazine, the reader might not have learned of the existence of those companies, which at first glance made only "tiny things". Nevertheless, both Swiss manufactories are quite large and have a rich history.
The Swiss company “Fiedler SA”, located in beautiful Geneva, was founded in far 1848, and since that time it has remained an independent company, specializing in the manufacture of hands for Swiss watches of high quality. Over 135 qualified professionals, who perform multiple orders from the most prestigious watch brands, work at the manufactory. The present director of “Fiedler SA” is Isabelle Chillier, who belongs to the fourth generation of Fiedlers, owning the family "hand" business. Isabelle Chillier began her professional career, working as an economist, then she studied art in Paris and worked for some time in that very complex area. Only after that she became attracted by her father’s business – an owner of Fiedler SA. Working with major Swiss watch companies, Fiedler SA remains one of the leading manufacturers of hands for watches in the world.
The company “Waeber HMS SA”, a manufacturer of hands for watches, is founded by Roger Waeber, a former employee of Universo (now Universo is included into Swatch Group). Roger Waeber, Laurent Waeber and Natacha CorazzinRoger Waeber,creating of Waeber HMS SA hands together with his son and daughter, heads the company “Waeber HMS SA”, the building of which is quite an extraordinary sight. This structure is made in an extraordinary futuristic spirit, it seems that this building has come to us from the future. The relatively young company “Waeber HMS SA” manufactures hands for many luxury watch companies, as well as for the manufactories, creating women's and men's watches in mid-range segment. According to the owner of “Waeber HMS SA”, in the near future, in addition to making hands for hours, the company will launch the production of time markings. Buying any Swiss watches, the customer expects the highest quality from his time meter, everything must meet the criteria of «Swiss Made», including the hands. This is what the modern manufacturers of hands trace. I think there is no need to rant about the quality of these two companies, because the figures speak for themselves. Thus, for the time of its existence, “Fiedler SA” received more than 20,000 orders from the watch manufacturers, and the company “Waeber HMS SA” took about 13,500 orders for the last 10 years.


Main stages of production

metal coilsFrom the moment when thePanerai PAM 190 first press for making watch hands was created, a long time has passed, but if you look at the essence of this machine, you can see that great changes haven’t occurred. The machines for the production of hands are designed for each company individually, taking into account the specific features of an enterprise. The variation of the device also depends on the watches the company, co-operating with the "hand" manufactory, produces. “You just can’t buy a machine for making watch hands,” explains Roger Waeber, CEO of Waeber HMS SA. “You have to create it yourself, often with the help of two or three different suppliers.”
The first step in the process of making hands for watches is the metal rolls’ processing. This may be brass, bronze, gold and other materials, "coiled" in rolls, resembling film reels. By the way, the material for the manufacture of hands does not always coincide with the time meter’s case material, and sometimes its color is different too. For example, the men's watch “Panerai PAM 190” has a polished steel case and interesting hands of yellow steel, which creates a rather unusual combination with the metallic color of the case. Or another example – a men's watch can be made, for example, of titanium, and its hands - of gold. But let’s return to the manufacturing process. Each roll is passed through a machine, cutting holes on the metal of necessary size.
The next stage – the lips or, as watchmakers say, “canons”. The lips are also made by a special machine, which presses out the metal around the “guiding” holes. The lips are necessary to put the hand on the pinion, connecting it with the movement. The raw surface of the future hand is treated by diamond polishing. At the stage of lips pressing out there are also some nuances - as there are hands that are so fragile and tiny that the device might damage them. In such cases, the canons are made separately and attached to the ready hand by professional craftsmen’s hands. As it turns out, this is a very laborious and delicate work.
metal coilsThe next step is blanking.creating of hands This is, perhaps, the most important stage of the hand manufacture, because at this stage every time indicator acquires its unique characteristics. Blanking is the process of final cutting the hand of the metal, which passes through a special machine. Each stamp has to be superunique, meeting all requirements of the watch company-client. If the hand is "destined" to glow and it must be covered with the fluorescent substance, then the masters make special grooves in it, passing the workpiece through the machine twice.
The final stage of production is finishing and decorating the finished hand. Today watches are produced in huge quantities, so the manufacturers of hands are trying to keep up with this rapid pace, creating a variety of hand options. There are time indicators of multi-faceted, curved or flat shapes, as well as the hands with a matte, colored and mirror polishing, and many others. The finishing of the hands can also include the step of transfer pressing. The process of transfer pressing is applying a company logo or numerals on a watch dial. Sometimes this technique is used for the decoration of hands to add fine details and patterns on them.
As well as any luxury Swiss watch, the ready-made hands pass strict quality control, during which the experts eliminate about 40% of defective products, leaving only the perfect ones. The selected hands with no flaws are placed in special pockets in cards with the help of tweezers. Then the finished product is delivered to the customer.

Fashion hands

Anonimo Marlin Bronze with luminous handsRapidly changing fashion constantly exerts a great influence on the entire watch industry, including the watch hands. Let us see what the leading expert, director of the Fiedler SA, Isabelle Chillier, says about it. “Watch hands have definitely become bigger and longer, following the trend for bigger watches,” explains Isabelle Chillier. “Technical, sporty looking hands are also popular and we are seeing a return to classic styles.” As for the classics, it is, as we know, ageless. Amazingly beautiful retro-hands of 1950s, which have a noble royal spirit, are more and more popular today. These hands are particularly finished, often made by hand, specific for carved patterns and an abundance of decorative elements.
Today, the watch companies produce enormous number of watches of various colors. Focusing on the "diversity" of modern time meters, the masters paint their hands with different colors. For example, the hands from brass or bronze acquire colors through galvanization. Galvanization is a special method of covering one metal with another by electrolysis. For example, the brass or bronze hands are coated with a layer of pink or yellow gold. Also, as the second metal covering the first, rhodium and ruthenium is often used. The hands become black due to the process of black oxidation. Sport watches and chronographs need bright indicators for better readability of dials, so they are provided with bright hands, coated mostly by hand. This is red, orange or yellow varnishes. This varnish can be applied for painting separate parts of the hand, for example, the tip of the second hand, if required by the customer.
Since we are talking about sport watches, I’ll say a few words about such fashionable coverage, as SuperLumiNova. Today SuperLumiNova is incredibly popular due to its positive characteristics. SuperLumiNova is a special photoluminescent pigment, which, unlike tritium previously used in the watch industry, is not radioactive. This pigment has a long afterglow - about 4-6 hours, it reminds of minibattery, which is sufficient to be charged from the daylight or lamp’s artificial light. SuperLumiNova is applied to the dial of watches, but more often - to the hands for the glow in the dark. The main advantage of SuperLumiNova is that the photoluminescent coating is absolutely not affected by aging. In the manufacture of luminescent hands SuperLumiNova coating is applied to the backside of the indicator, and the front side is left free. The coating can also have any color: the hands can glow with white, green, orange, yellow, blue, or red. Fortunately, the modern achievements in chemistry allow them to paint the hands of watches according to the
customer’s desire. Mostly the luminescent coating is specific for sport chronographs and watches in military style and diver’s models (e.g., the men's wristwatches from Anonimo Firenze, Azimuth, Rolex,blued hands Panerai, Omega, Bell & Ross and many others).
Another "hand" trend, which has gained great popularity today, is the famous "blue" hands. Although such hands can hardly be called a modern design and the latest fashion trend. Such hands have been used by watchmakers for a long time, and in today's watch world they’ve got the "second wind". These hands are created by heating the steel to the highest possible temperature for a certain period of time. In the process of heating the steel does not get the blue color, but changes different shades throughout the heating time - from yellow or orange to pink or purple. Only after the material has passed all stages of "painting", it will receive the noble blue. These hands in the watchmakers’ circles are called hands of blued steel. Many Swiss watch companies supply their luxury watches with such amazing "hands". Thus, the blue (blued) hands present on the men’s watches by Breguet, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Girard-Perregaux, Blancpain, Jaeger-Le-Coultre and many others. Basically, they are great classical models and luxury watches of the category “Grand Complication”. In general, the blued steel hands create a sense of celebration, luxury and grandeur, as the blue is considered to be a royal color for good reason.
We are accustomed to thinking of the watch hands, as a matter of course, but they are an integral part of any watches, so they call for an understanding, a different approach and more attention. What else I can say - without them we would simply not have been able to determine the current time. Of course, it is "no offense" for the movement of a wristwatch, which is an essential element of any model. I just want to encourage our readers to pay attention to the obvious tiny things, the meaning of which is often hidden on the surface.

Hand as a component of the form-factor

The key positions at the global market of wrist time meters are occupied by the largest and most popular companies, which produce women's and men's watches that are recognizable by all fans of horlogerie at first sight. This is one of the most important issues in the watch business - to design its own form-factor, to make its products original, unlike millions of other items. For the uninformed ones I will explain that the form-factor is a certain standard that specifies the dimensions of the product and describes the additional sets of its parameters. So, various elements of the product can create the form-factor: form of the case or dial, additional devices or parts, trade mark. For example, there is not a fan of luxury watches, who would not have known the famous "Oyster" from Rolex or the multifaceted "Royal Oak" from Audemars Piguet. The watch hand can also be considered one of the main components of the form-factor, it may be the main distinguishing feature of the dial, because anyway the hand is always in sight. There are many watch companies, which pay special attention to the hands, regarding them as symbols of eternal time and guides to the future life. They are indeed, after all the hands always show the future. Let's see what future the most famous watch hands in the world will show us.

Breguet "apples"

Breguet ClassiqueLet's start from the most popular watch hands in the world, the history of which began in the late XVIII century. For example, the year of 1783 in the history book of the great Swiss company “Breguet” is known as the year of establishment of the gong spring for watches with repeater. In addition, that year the world-renowned luxury design of the hands, which are now known as "Breguet apples” or “Breguet hands”, was designed. Thus, this manufacture has developed a special type of watch hands, which have become extremely popular and received its unique name. "Breguet apples” are one of the components of the original form-factor, for which the women's and men's watches of Breguet are famous.
These hands have received their unusual name thanks to their interesting shape. They are pretty long, straight, thin indicators, the tips of which are decorated with a circle in an apple-shape. The hands of Breguet are strict time markers, clearly standing out against the background of any dial. Most often these hands are made of blued steel, and therefore, they have a noble royal blue color. Today, the term "Breguet apples” has entered the lexicon of watchmakers around the world, they are used almost by all watch companies in their works. Of course, these hands decorate classic watches or retro-style watches, as well as watches with attractive hints of vintage. For me the blue "Breguet apples” are associated with timeless classics, royal luxury and brilliant magnificence of monarchs. In addition, these hands are extremely convenient as indicators of time due to their length and a bright blue color. Among the collections of Breguet, adorned with magnificent "apples", the following ones can be distinguished: men's wristwatches “Breguet Tradition”, which combine elements of traditional and avant-garde design; watches “Breguet Classique” - strict classical models; men’s watches “Breguet Classique Complication” - these models are complicated with the latest designs in horlogerie; “Breguet Heritage” - watches with barrel-shaped cases; and women's jewelry watches “Breguet Reine de Naples”, which earned the world-wide popularity among the fair sex, becoming one of the key collections by Breguet.

Who does not know Rolex?

The Swiss watchmaker “Rolex”, the name of which has become synonymous with the phrase "the best watches", has also designed its own special watch hands. Any fan of the Swiss watchmaking knows Rolex wristwatches from a distance of several meters, and some fans of the company will determine Rolex even with eyes closed. As for the hands of this Swiss manufactory, I would like to highlight some of the original indicators, which have become the company’s own unique design. You can be sure, the word "design" in relation to the hands doesn’t sound loud, since the creation of a right indicator that corresponds to all parameters and the level of the company is a rather laborious and important work.
First of all, looking through the models by Rolex, it is necessary to draw attention to an interesting fact - the Swiss watch company pays special attention to the second indicator, making the second hand quite bright, distinguished on the background of the dial. Thus, the men's wristwatches from the collection of Rolex “Daytona” have a long second hand of bright red (the watches “Rolex Cosmograph Daytona”, references 116,509 and 116,528). This is not surprising, since these models of chronographs have been designed for the racers, who have every second "worth its weight in gold". Hence, the company pays an increased attention to the second hand.

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona ref. 116509 Rolex Milgauss Rolex Deepsea

Moving on. Let’s pay attention once again to the second hand, presented by the company in a different light. Thus, the men's watch “Rolex Milgauss”, designed for scientists and capable of withstanding the strongest magnetic fields has a unique second hand of bright orange color. The form of this indicator is rather unusual, it resembles a lightning-hand, which incredibly fell into dial from the sky. In motion the second "lightning" looks quite unusual, as if floating above the indexes of dial.
And finally, the hand, which is known to every fan of Rolex - the central hour hand, often with a fluorescent coating. So, many men's wristwatches by Rolex have a big hour indicator, decorated with the letter “Y”, which is enclosed in a small circle. Put simply, this adornment on the hand resembles a well-known icon of the car company "Mercedes". Such index - a brand "perk” of Rolex, recognizable at a glance. This hand is characteristic of the following collections: Swiss watches “Rolex Deepsea”, men's watches “Rolex Explorer”, “Rolex GMT Master”, “Rolex Submariner”, and women's watches “Rolex Yacht-Master”.

Original hands of Ulysse Nardin

The Swiss watchmaker “Ulysse Nardin”, known as the creator of “Grand Complication” watches, as well as a great record-holder, noted in the "Guinness Book of Records" for the magnificent astronomical wristwatch, provides its masterpieces with rather unusual hands that form a unique form-factor of its models. For example, there’s no mistaking the legendary marine chronometers “Ulysse Nardin”, the issue of which goes back to 1861. The present models from “Marine Collection” have undergone some changes, mostly related to the improvement of precise movement, but the concept of watches has remained the same. The dial is decorated with three long hands (usually of noble blued steel). The tip of the hour hand has an "apple" that resembles a hand from Breguet. However, in this case the hand has a figured shape, in contrast to the world famous slim "Breguet apples”. The minute indicator isn’t less original, it is characterized by a sharp tip, which is often described by watchmakers as a "dagger". Such a minute "dagger" is one of the main distinguishing features of the watch dials from “Marine Collection”.

Ulysse Nardin Maxi Marine Chronograph Ulysse Nardin Royal Blue Tourbillon (REF.799-83-8F) Ulysse Nardin Complications GMT Big Date - hand-sword Ulysse Nardin Freak 28'800 V/h Diamond Heart

Not less famous hand, used by Ulysse Nardin, is the so-called "hand-sword": it is noticed on the dials of the following models: men's watch collections “Complications”, “Perpetual Calendars”, “Limited Editions”, “Macho Palladium 950” and others. The "hand-sword" is a widely popular indicator, which is used by many watch companies. The Swiss manufactory “Ulysse Nardin” continues to develop, creating more interesting designs of hands. The latest models by Ulysse Nardin are characterized with skeletonized hands of very unusual form. Thus, the platinum wristwatch “Ulysse Nardin Royal Blue Tourbillon” (REF.799-83-8F) has two three-dimensional skeleton hands, made in the form of, say, "inflated" leaf. Of course, these hands draw attention at first glance, and it is unlikely to forget their extraordinary design.
And finally, I’d like to tell separately about the hands of Ulysse Nardin, which, no doubt, can be classified as "unusual hands" or, as today's youth says, the category of "freaks". Today “freaks” mean people or objects that differ by unusual, extravagant and striking appearance, which deviate from the traditional stereotypes, prevailing in the society. This definition, of course, is appropriate to the men's wristwatch “Ulysse Nardin Freak 28'800 V / h Diamond Heart”, made of platinum. The originality of this model’s hands is that they are a part of the movement. In the carriage, in addition to the balance knot, the one-bridge movement, turned into the minute hand of quite large size, rotates around its axis. The rotation of this hand is an amazing sight: the massive indicator is the main “character” of the dial. Of course, such unique hands could not remain unnoticed, and the popularity of “Ulysse Nardin Freak Diamond Heart” has reached unimaginable heights.

"Grande second" from Jaquet Droz

Jaquet Droz Grande SecondeOne of the oldest Swiss manufactories - Jaquet Droz – is a watch company, which emphasizes the emotional component of its creations, as well as the unique aesthetics of watches. In addition, the emotions and aesthetics are expressed in close interrelation in all time masterpieces of Jaquet Droz. From this point of view the collection of Jaquet Droz “Grande Seconde” presents special interest to us. The Swiss watchmaker “Jaquet Droz” has designed eight so-called aesthetic codes, the first of which is precisely the "Grande second hand". Thus, the manufactory “Jaquet Droz” offers the world a new way of perceiving time and space. The leadership of the company believes that the second hand is an indicator, which shows the given course of centuries-old great Time in tiniest details best of all. The first model of the “Grande Seconde” collection was created by company’s founder Jaquet Droz back in 1785, and since then this Swiss watch has been remaining popular and recognizable by all fans of Haute Horology in the world. Interestingly, the watchmakers of Jaquet Droz, designing this collection, were not so much focused on the latest complications of watches, as on the philosophical element of the time meters. And in particular, on the original concept – enlarging of the second hand, which is being presented by masters as a symbolJaquet Droz Grande Seconde of eternity. Nevertheless, the watches “Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde” are not deprived of unique complications, such as minute repeater and tourbillon.
The grande second hand from Jaquet Droz is, perhaps, the most philosophical time indicator in the world. The women's and men's wristwatches “Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde” have two dials, and none of them can be considered as "additional". The dial showing hours and minutes is located at "12 hours", and the second dial - at "6 hours". At that the latter has a long, thin hand, inexorably counting a second after second. The second hand of watches “Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde” is much longer than its "colleagues" - hour and minute. This concept was first reflected on the time meters of Jaquet Droz, and today “Grande Seconde” is a distinguishing feature of the Swiss manufactory from La Chaux-de-Fonds. In addition, two dials, intersecting, form a figure "8" - another symbol of infinity. A larger second dial is a base for the great eight, and the smaller one - its apex. So, in this case, a unique form-factor of “Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde” is created not so much by a special form of the hand, as by its exclusive significance and importance in general image of time meter with philosophical implication.

"Scissors" by Azimuth

Speaking about the unusual time meters, characterized by unique hands, we cannot but mention the Swiss watch company “Azimuth”, the motto of which is "a combination of exact science and deep philosophy". Working under this philosophy, the manufactory “Azimuth” creates watches that become widely popular and gain the fame of unique time meters at once. The men's watches by Azimuth are models that do not look like the works of any other company thanks to their special design and precise movement, designed by highly qualified specialists of the company. Each of the collections stands out favorably from many models on the global watch market; every watch family deserves special attention of both experienced professionals and amateurs. However, I suppose we dwell on the most unusual (according to most fans of watches) and futuristic collection of watches from Azimuth - the collection “SP-1 Mechanique”. In my opinion, the most interesting ones in this collection from the point of watch hands are three models - men's watches “Azimuth Spaceship” (2010 model), “Azimuth Spaceship PVD”, and “Azimuth Spaceship”. The leadership of Azimuth is proud to announce that these models are the first wristwatches in the world, which are based on a space concept. The Azimuth watches are equipped with the manual-winding movement UNITAS 6497-1, decorated in the style of “Cotes de Geneve”. The watch case of 45 mm diameter is made of stainless steel, the water resistance makes up 30 meters. When looking at these watches, all attention is riveted to the amazing dial of deep dark blue, reminding of an astonishingly beautiful starry sky, at which the owner of the watch looks like from the space. The outline of the planet at "6" hours (the men's watches “Azimuth Spaceship PVD” and “Azimuth Spaceship”) immerses you into outer space even more, and it seems that you surf the Universe in a spaceship.

Azimuth Spaceship (2010 model) Azimuth Spaceship PVD Azimuth Spaceship

So, the hands. When you look at the dial of any watch, it seems that the hands are a scissors, which cut off minute by minute from life. Perhaps, the watchmakers of Azimuth, looking at the watches, have similar feelings. How else can you explain such an unusual three-dimensional structure of the minute hand in the models from the collection “Azimuth SP-1 Mechanique”? The 3D minute hand is made in a form of scissors. At the same time the dial is not loaded with additional hands and indexes, and the time is indicated by a disc with Arabic numerals. It turns out that all the attention is paid to the unique three-dimensional minute "scissors", inexorably cutting off the time, piece by piece. This original design idea, embodied by the specialists from the company “Azimuth”, has become one of the factors that made the men's watches Azimuth unique, original and recognizable around the world.

Hands from Kari Voutilainen

Kari Voutilainen OBSERVATOIRERecently, at the global watchKari Voutilainen Minute Repeater 10 market the men's watches from an independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen are quite popular. The watches of this master earned total recognition thanks to special design decisions, characteristic of only these models, and the latest developments in fine mechanics. In order to be noticed among a huge variety of competitive products, it is necessary to stand out and be special. Watchmaker Kari Voutilainen has certainly succeeded. If our dear reader is not familiar with the works of the master yet, then I’ll say that Voutilainen was born in 1962 in Finland. Frankly, I honestly was surprised by that fact, perhaps, because for me the "watches" are associated exclusively with the word "Switzerland". However, the gifted Finn studied watchmaking in Switzerland a long time, and in 2002 he started his own watch business. All models of wristwatches from Kari Voutilainen are made by hand, so their number is strictly limited. Every watch has its own special technical and aesthetic characteristics, performed at the highest level.
In my opinion, these models have something special, enchanting that attracts admiring glances of the audience. The appearance of the time meter from Kari Voutilainen is unusually strict, clear and understandable - all time indexes, markings, Roman or Arab numerals are arranged in such a way as to constitute a complete picture of the perception of time, without overloading the dial at all. The hands of watches, in my view, are selected most successfully. At first glance you might think that these are the famous “Breguet apples”, but this is not so. The hands by Kari Voutilainen really have large circles, but the tip of the hand is slightly thicker and more massive than the thin indicator of Breguet (e.g., the men's watch “Kari Voutilainen OBSERVATOIRE”, which brought the watchmaker “Grand Prix d'Horology de Geneve”, or the new model “Kari Voutilainen Minute Repeater 10”). Besides, the indicators by Breguet have blued steel familiar to all, unlike the hands by Kari Voutilainen. The genius watchmaker Kari Voutilainen is one of the best watchmakers in the world, and his watches have a surprisingly strong character and, not least, individual bright form-factor.

Retrograde "hands" of watches from Van Cleef & Arpels

So far in this article we’ve been talking about a wide variety of forms of hands, materials for making indicators and their coatings. However, we cannot ignore the so-called retrograde hands, which occupy a separate important niche in the entire "hand" business. In fact, the notion of retrograde hand is easy to understand. This is a hand that moves at its own arc, and reaching the end of the scale, "jumps" back to zero. It would seem that everything is logical, but the well-known Swiss watch company “Van Cleef & Arpels”, in collaboration with great watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht turns the idea of retrogrades "upside down". Thus, the role of the watch hands is given by “Van Cleef & Arpels” manufacturers to completely unexpected elements and details that revolutionized the world of retrograde time indication.

Van Cleef & Aprels Feerie  Van Cleef & Aprels Butterfly Symphony Van Cleef & Aprels Pont des amoureux

 Van Cleef & Aprels From the Earth to the MoonIn one of the most brilliant models Van Cleef & Aprels Five Weeks In a Balloon from Van Cleef & Aprels – the women's wristwatch “Van Cleef & Aprels Feerie” – the indicator’s role is played by the fairy’s hand placed on the dial. Fairy (symbol of the watch company “Van Cleef & Aprels”) holds a stick, which indicates the current hour, and the wing of the graceful figure shows the current minute.
Another model – the watch “Van Cleef & Aprels Pont des amoureux” - is, according to the fans of horlogerie, the most romantic watch creation of the world. Here, on the dial, a unique show is presented: the retrograde minute hand approaches the hour hand in time. It would seem there’s nothing special. The point is that there is no hand on the dial, and the time is showed by two figures – men’s and women’s, which are moving towards each other and meeting sooner or later. The happy end of the "novel" is especially charming, when two loving hearts find each other after all.
It seems that the fantasy of magnificent Jean-Marc Wiederrecht knows no bounds. This is evidenced by another masterpiece - the watch “Van Cleef & Aprels Five Weeks In a Balloon”. The dial is decorated with a big balloon, and the retrograde hands are replaced by a white bird, showing the hours on the left side of the dial, and by an anchor of balloon, pointing to the minutes.
The year of 2011 took its toll for the Swiss manufactory. The company “Van Cleef & Aprels” presented the watch “Butterfly Symphony”, on the dial of which you couldn’t find usual hands. The current time is showed by two butterflies, fluttering around a mighty tree, depicted on the dial. In past 2011, the company created another genius watch “Van Cleef & Aprels From the Earth to the Moon”, performed in a space field, for the auction “Only Watch”. And that time, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht deprived the time meter of ordinary hands, replacing them with a star, showing the hour, and a rocket, moving on a minute scale. All the above-listed models are produced in strictly limited quantities, indicating the high complexity of their performance and expensive materials, used for their manufacture.


In conclusion to the aforesaid, I would like to draw your attention to the philosophical aspect of the hands of any watch. Our personal perception of the time depends on these amazing "hands", stretching the infinite time to us. We can say that even our time depends on the watch hands. For example, the big hand on the big railway station’s clock measures the time passed, but on small wrist models the motion of a miniature hand is almost imperceptible.
As it turns out, many things depend on the position of the hands. Have you ever noticed that many advertising posters show the hands of watches frozen in the same position - approximately at 10 hours 10 minutes? Of course, I assumed that was a pretty good advertising stunt, because in this position the hands did not cover the company’s logo, mostly located in the position of "12 hours" and the possible counters at "3", "6" or "9" hours. This is true. However, I was amazed to find a lot of different explanations for the "magic" time "10:10", which the researchers offer us. The first version is, of course, conspiratorial, related to the end of the world. Why "of course"? Because the expectation and the predictions of the doomsday are so popular recently that people are simply tired of waiting for the apocalypse. Speaking of the end of the world in 2012 - according to some sources, the modern followers of the Mayan, predicted the apocalypse, are, to put it mildly, unhappy with the interpretation of the calendar of their ancestors and claim that there won’t be the end of the world in 2012. So, if you have already taken credits, "hoping" for the collapse of the whole world, quickly give them back. Well, let’s get closer to the hands. There is a version that all watchmakers of the world know the real date of the doomsday and try to hint the population of the planet through the hands of watches, set at "10:10".

watches' hands indicate «10:10»

There is also an anti-fascist version, according to which two hands, stopped at "10:10", form a Latin letter “V”, meaning “Victory”. In addition, the researchers have put forward a medical version (say at 10 am the most dangerous time of day finishes, and the period, when the risk of strokes and heart attacks is the smallest, begins), a banal version (elementary – the photographers’ working day starts at 9:00, plus the time for tea, "talk" with colleagues, and it is already 10 hours), an industrial version (the time "10 hours 10 minutes" is automatically set at all watches on the watch manufactories’ assembly lines), a feminist version (in the position of watch hands at "10:10" the feminists saw the symbol of feminine, "inverted mountain"). And finally, the last version, which proves once again that the watch hands are able to affect a person, his life and his time - a psychological theory. The time "10:10" on the watch dial forms something like a smiley. According to psychologists, this has a very positive effect on the mood of the buyer, and, thus, on his loyalty. In other words, if you see a watch in the store window with the hands at "10:10" and another model, set at, say, "3:55", the customer will certainly buy the first one in obedience to some magical charm. I do not know if there is any truth in this, since I haven’t checked myself.
Of course, these are just interesting assumptions. And one can learn to positively affect his mood by his own. The man is an architect of his own happiness, we can set our own time at the watches, moving the hands backward or forward. But one should remember that it is one thing to move the hands and the time.


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