Romain Gauthier Introduces the Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette

Excellent finishing and a titanium movement.

Romain Gauthier’s latest watch is a skeletonised version of its Insight time-only automatic first introduced three years ago. The Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette retains the same style as the brand’s other watches, but with more elaborate finishing thanks to the open-worked movement.

Initial thoughts

Romain Gauthier excels in finishing and the new watch undoubtedly has even more of the brand’s top-quality work since there are more surfaces to decorate. The skeletonisation also goes well with the movement, accentuating the long curves and sharp points that are typical of Romain Gauthier style.

Importantly, it’s not just a visual upgrade, but also a tangible one – instead of the usual brass, the bridges and base plate of the skeletonised movement are made of titanium. But the titanium parts are finished to the same degree as a standard brass movement, which is quite a feat.

And the basic Insight is already a well-conceived watch in the first place. It avoids some of the impractical features, like button winding and back winding, that Romain Gauthier installed on earlier models just to be different. That said, the skeleton version also suffers from one shortcoming of the standard model, which is the thick, 12.9 mm case. Nonetheless, the Insight skeleton is largely an enhanced version of an already-excellent watch.

The Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette with a carbon-composite case

The only downside is the price – which is no doubt justifiable. The skeleton in an 18k gold case is 50% more expensive than the standard model, and in platinum, the price premium is almost 70%. And then there’s the aggressively modern version with a carbon-composite case that is the most expensive of them all, and it doesn’t quite work visually for me; the finely-finished movement is at odds with the case material and style.

Rationally, the price premium is justified in light of the substantially more extensive finishing done on a substantially more challenging metal. Romain Gauthier says it takes 250 hours to complete just the anglage, or mirror-polished bevels, for the base plate and bridges – and I am sure it is true. But because the standard Insight already has an open dial, the skeleton version looks similar, making it feel expensive, even if it is not.

A raw titanium bridge (left), and after decoration

Open-worked and titanium

The Insight automatic movement is time only but elaborately constructed, with a small-but-thick rotor that winds twin mainsprings, as well as an off-centre time display. Both the style and details of the movement are recognisably Romain Gauthier, like the round spokes of the gears or “S” slot screws.

Almost everything is now revealed on the skeleton version, through artfully formed open-working. The cut-outs on the bridges and base plate echo the movement style, resulting in an easy, natural aesthetic.

The platinum version with a blue enamel sub-dial

Though the movement is modern in design, the skeletonisation is surprising delicate, with some of the bridges trimmed down to just the narrowest of arms.

According to Romain Gauthier, the thinness of the skeletonised parts is why the bridges and base plate are in titanium, instead of the usual brass. The thinnest bridge in the movement is just 0.7 mm high, and titanium’s superior rigidity makes such thin parts viable.

Frosted top surfaces and polished bevels on the bridges

The biggest challenge in finishing the titanium parts was the anglage according to Romain Gauthier. Sylvie Devaux, the head of anglage at Romain Gauthier, was quoted in the announcement for the watch as saying: “Each of the bevelling, softening, smoothing and polishing stages take far longer than working with brass. You have to repeat steps, sometimes twice. Titanium tends to stick to our anglage tools… You also sometimes come across micro-grains in the titanium that detach, leaving tiny spots. The only solution is to go back over the angle all again.”

A finished bridge (left), and one that is fresh out of the CNC mill

Variants

Identical to the standard version in dimensions – the case is 39.5 mm by 12.9 mm – the Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette is customisable in terms of case and dial material, as well as movement finishing to a degree. Options include fired enamel sub-dials as well as frosted, instead of polished, bevels on the movement, along with case material choices of either gold, platinum, or titanium.

And the most exotic and expensive variant is the Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette Carbonium Edition that’s available only direct from Romain Gauthier.

It has a larger, 42 mm case made of Carbonium, a carbon composite made by French materials specialist Lavoisier Composites. Made from offcuts recycled from aerospace manufacturing, Carbonium is the same material used by Ulysse Nardin in several of its watches.

The Carbonium Edition with a Carbonium sub-dial and blued steel hands

The back of the Carbonium Edition


Key facts and price

Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor Squelette

Diameter: 39.5 mm (Carbonium Edition 42 mm)
Height: 12.9 mm
Material: Red gold, white gold, platinum, titanium, or carbon composite
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: Insight Micro-Rotor
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 80 hours

Strap: Rubber or alligator

Availability: From retailers or Romain Gauthier; Carbonium Edition available only from Romain Gauthier
Price: 18k gold – 108,000 Swiss francs; platinum – 148,000 Swiss francs; and Carbonium Edition – 155,000 Swiss francs

For more information, visit Romaingauthier.com.


 

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Hands-On with the Romain Gauthier Insight Micro-Rotor in Black Titanium

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The Awesome Door Handle Built Like a Split-Seconds Mechanism

By Sick Toiz.

Established by a robotics entrepreneur, Sick Toiz specialises in, well, “sick toys” – exceptional objects with a mechanical bent that have been produced with high-end methods and then finished by hand. Amongst its most extraordinary, and preposterous, creations is the Rattrapante Passage Lock, a door lock and handle that functions like a bona fide split-seconds mechanism.

Initial thoughts

The Rattrapante Passage Lock is an ordinarily trivial item – it is in essence a door knob – executed to an excruciatingly high standard. Clearly catered for a niche clientele who have an innate appreciation of engineering, finishing, and machining, the Passage Lock costs US$63,500. It is ridiculous, but also incredible.

Sick Toiz founder Tyler Schilling obviously spared no expense in building an ultra-complex door handle, either in design, manufacturing, or finishing. The components, for instance, are made on a five-axis CNC machine, instead of a four-axis CNC machine, which would have simpler and probably yielded a barely discernible difference. Even the spokes of the split-seconds wheel have bevelled edges.

Something like this is only possible when conceived by someone who genuinely appreciates such things and importantly, someone who can afford to back such a project as a hobby.

An engineer’s eye

The man behind Sick Toiz, Tyler Schilling, is a nerd in the best sense of the word. Having grown up with a father who was mechanically inclined but a doctor by profession, Mr Schilling started his career as a mechanic with an auto racing team, before founding Schilling Robotics in 1985.

The company specialised in remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and robot arms for the offshore oil and gas industry. By the time Mr Schilling sold the company in 2012 – for well over US$200 million to energy-industry engineering giant TechnipFMC – Schilling Robotics was the world leader in underwater robotic arms.

When someone like Mr Schilling builds cool, technical toys, you can be sure they will be no-expense-spared cool.

The Sicktoiz logo

Split-seconds lock

The Rattrapante Passage Lock is basically an ultra-complicated door knob built like a rattrapante, or split-seconds, chronograph mechanism, right down to the column wheel and tension springs for each calliper arm.

Scaled up by about eight times from an actual watch movement, the Passage Lock is not a static metal sculpture, instead it actually functions like a split-seconds mechanism. Lock the door and the callipers halt the split-seconds wheel carrying the handle, preventing the door from unlocking.

This video demonstrates how it works:

 

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The locking lever

The Passage Lock also includes an occupancy flag mechanism linked to the lock, which is a pivoted brass disc that indicates if the room is occupied

But not only is the handle inspired by watchmaking in terms of construction, it is also fabricated and finished like a watch movement. Made of brass and two alloys of steel – types 17-4 and 316 – the components are milled on a five-axis CNC machine, the most complex and expensive type of CNC machine to program and operate.

The resulting parts are then finished as they would be in a watch movement, with techniques like linear and circular graining, black polishing, perlage and anglage.

The split-seconds wheel, for instance, is finished with circular graining on its face , anglage on its inner edges and spokes. And the plate that attaches the mechanism to the door is covered in precisely-spaced perlage, while all of the screws have black polished heads featuring chamfered edges and slots.

Note the extreme precision in the meshing of the teeth

The Passage Lock can be customised in terms of the leather wrap for the handle and the language of the occupancy flag plate

Expensive as it is, the Passage Lock is an incredible piece of work that combines knowledge and appreciation of watchmaking with high-end machining and finishing. It is the probably the most impressive door handle ever.

Beyond the Passage Lock, the Sicktoiz catalogue is oddly diverse yet coherent, reflecting Mr Schilling’s varied interests that are all linked by an appreciation for mechanics and craftsmanship. Amongst its other offerings is a model of the Bugatti Model 100P racing aircraft, hand made from Macassar ebony and Aluminium, as well as a Wing Delete for the Porsche 911 GT2 RS and GT3 RS, which replaces the oversized factory-original wing to give the top-of-the-line 911s a more discreet look.

The Bugatti Model 100P


Key Facts and Price

Rattrapante Passage Lock

Dimensions
Face plate: 15.2 cm by 25.4 cm
Handle protrusion from door: 11.1 cm
Handle overall length: 29.2 cm
Material: Stainless steel and brass

Functions: Occupancy sign

Availability: Direct from Sick Toiz, with delivery three months from date of order
Price: US$63,500

For more, visit Sicktoiz.com.


 

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