Quirky Watch Brand Meets Genius Watchmaker

A rather unusual specimen has come from the workshops of Romain Jerome. Called the Spacecraft, well, because it looks like one, it tells time in two dimensions. A linear retrograde hour display moves laterally on the trapeze-shaped case, while topside the black rotating disc with a red indicator transferred on the sapphire crystal shows the minutes. The watch really looks like an intergalactic vessel with its PVD-coated titanium sheath.

The Spacecraft has an interesting pedigree. CEO Manuel Emch brought on mechanical mastermind Jean-Marc Wiedderecht to make the module driven by a robust ETA movement. If it is technically challenging and unique, Wiedderecht and his company Agenhor want to get involved. Wiedderecht is the guy who first brought Van Cleef & Arpel’s poetic complications to life, starting with the fairy and including the award winning “Make a Wish” at the Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix. Some other examples of his talents are seen in the Hermes Arceau Le Temps Suspendu that can suspend time while still keeping it, Harry Winston Opus IX, and MB&F Horological Machine No. 3, among others.

Although Wiedderecht is often pegged as the go-to guy for retrograde complications, he thinks of himself as a specialist in perpetual calendars. Perhaps because he told me in Geneva this is his favorite complication. You’d be surprised how many haute horlogerie companies who say they do everything “in-house” employ him for that. That’s not to say Wiedderecht’s not a master of the retrograde, he certainly is. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Wiedderecht is that rare all around player. He can work at all levels, from the stratosphere to more reasonable price points like the Spacecraft—without sacrificing quality or technique.

We mustn’t forget the cool design of the Spacecraft. Emch sought out Eric Giroud, the darling of the watch world. He can bounce from completely modern creations from MB&F and also tap into more conservative and modern sensibilities with the Heritage watch collection.  The trio worked together and the Spacecraft took form.

Romain Jerome burst on the scene in 2004 and their concept polarized the watch community. Some loved the bold and cheeky designs as seen in the Titanic, while others turned their noses up at a watch brand purporting to play in the haute horlogerie category that shunned the idea of history. Well, RJ had too since there wasn’t any history. Romain Jerome didn’t have a legacy to draw upon and this gave the opportunity to define a new and modern path.

Under the savvy leadership of Emch the RJ concept has crystallized into a strong one: Legends and Capsules. Watches in the Legends category relate to Air, Earth and Sea; Capsules refer to cultural legends that aren’t physical material like contemporary art and gaming (think the Space Invader watches). The Spacecraft falls under the Air in the Legends category though it does puncture through the air into space. Emch explains in our interview how he transitioned from traditional watch brand Jaquet Droz to pilot nouveau Romain Jerome—and why it’s the perfect fit.

Of all the models in Romain Jerome’s repertoire, we think the Spacecraft is the most interesting one yet and suspect it will land quickly on wrists. Better get a move on because it’s comes in a limited edition of 99.

Here’s a video produced by Romain Jerome on the Spacecraft.

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