Raúl Pagès Introduces the Régulateur à détente RP1

A fine movement with a detent escapement.

Independent watchmaker Raúl Pagès is best known for the Soberly Onyx, which housed a highly-decorated movement that was originally a humble Cyma. His latest creation however, marks a significant step forward – a movement he developed and largely manufactures himself.

A time-only watch with some fascinating details, the Régulateur à détente RP1 serves as a strong testament to Mr Pagès’ capabilities: it has a regulator display while the movement has a detent escapement of his own design. And of course, it is finished to the same high standard as his earlier work – or perhaps even better.

Initial thoughts

The RP1 is intriguing in many ways. It is well-executed both in terms of technical features and finish. The most obvious element that sets it apart is the detent escapement.

Due to the technical quirks in implementation, the detent escapement is an uncommon regulation mechanism that contrasts with the Swiss lever escapement that is ubiquitous even at the highest end of watchmaking. It is clear that Mr Pagès designed the movement around the escapement, as the movement bridges expose enough to proudly showcase the mechanism.

But the RP1 isn’t only about the movement, as its qualities appear all-encompassing, as demonstrated by the equally well-finished dial. Despite the simple appearance at a glance, the regulator dial is replete with fine finishing details. While the colour scheme may be too quirky for some, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Pages accedes to requests for custom dial colours.

The price of CHF85,000 however, is a little hard to stomach for a time-only watch – the competition is strong especially from more established independents such as Kari Voutilainen and Akrivia. That said, it may be justified by the comprehensive, artisanal finishing and unusual escapement, along with the fact that the competition enjoys such tremendous demand there’s essentially nothing available.

A clean regulator

The regulator dial appears simple, but has surprising depth thanks to its construction. The hours at 12 o’clock have a raised hour ring that’s brushed with polished chamfers, which contrasts the recessed seconds sub-dial at six.

Beside both sub-dials are the dial screws, which loosely resemble those found on the dials of regulator clock. Additionally, the minute track is a raised ring with grooves to represent the minutes, which fits onto the periphery of the dial.

To complement the dial, the hands are substantial – thick and rounded with chamfering along the seconds hand counterweight and bosses of the centre of the hands. However, the dial construction might be a reason for the overall thickness of the watch – while the steel case is a modest 38.5 mm wide, it is 10.2 mm high. The Soberly Onyx on the other hand, was proportionally thinner at 40 mm by 9.3 mm.

But of course, the highlight is the movement – it is Mr Pagès’ first foray into an in-house movement and it is a success. The calibre isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, it is technically interesting.

Proudly visible next to the balance wheel is the exposed detent lever mechanism – a regulation method that in theory has better timekeeping than the common Swiss lever escapement.

This is because the detent lever has a direct impulse onto the balance wheel, which reduces the amount of sliding friction that’s unavoidable in the Swiss lever design. Having direct impulse is an ideal that’s emulated in more complex escapements, such as the double wheel escapement. That said, the only downside to the detent escapement is that it isn’t self-starting: even when the movement is fully wound, the movement will not start until it is given a gentle shake to get the balance going.

By design, detent levers are asymmetrical – they only release the escape wheel once every two beats, instead of one as in a Swiss lever escapement. Thus, despite running at 2.5 Hz, or 18,000 beats per hour, the seconds hand only advances 2.5 times every second – half the rate of a comparable movement with a lever escapement.

Clearly intended as the showcase Mr Pages’ decoration techniques, the bridges were designed to expose as much of the escapement as possible. Even the detent lever has its own black-polished steel cock, which is also skeletonised with inner angles. The steel detent lever itself is elaborately finished, complete with black polish and anglage throughout its length, and complemented by a gold counterweight on its end.

To further remove visual clutter around the escapement, the fourth wheel has been hidden away on the other side of the main plate – placing it under the dial – creating the illusion that the escape wheel is mechanically disconnected from the rest of the going train.

One innovation of Mr Pagès’ own is the safety feature for the escapement, which he has patented.

A safety roller is installed onto the balance wheel staff, which prevents a shock causing the unintentional release of the detent lever, which will cause the escape wheel to abruptly rotate with disastrous consequences.

As with the Soberly Onyx, the movement of the RP1 is finished to a high standard – the frosted bridges have even, rounded anglage that incorporates sharp inward and outward angles, which is complemented by equally wide countersinks for the jewels and screw holes.

A notable upgrade over its predecessor however, are the steel parts within the RP1. The balance wheel and detent lever are supported by black-polished steel bridges that are skeletonised, creating four inward angles within each bridge while exposing as much as possible of the components below.

Furthermore, the exposed crown and ratchet wheels have been improved in their execution, with a black polish on all their flat surfaces along with individually polished teeth – not to mention the fully bevelled winding click and click spring.


Key facts and price

Raul Pages Régulateur à détente RP1

Diameter: 38.5 mm
Height: 10.2 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Features: Hours, minutes and seconds
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Manual
Power reserve: 47 hours

Strap: Leather strap

Availability: Direct from Raul Pages, with production of 5-6 pieces a year and a lead time of 12-15 months
Price: CHF85,000 without taxes

For more, visit Pageswatches.com.


 

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Seiko Revives the King Seiko

More affordable, less grand.

Introduced just over a year ago, the King Seiko KSK “44KS” Re-creation SJE083 was the surprise comeback of the King Seiko label that had been dormant for decades.

Though it was a limited edition, the SJE083 hinted at the possibility of King Seiko returning as a regular production offering. Perhaps quicker than expected, that has happened with the introduction of the King Seiko.

A single model that’s in four variants, the new King Seiko is effectively vintage in both size and style, being modelled on the original KSK of 1965.

The original King Seiko KSK of 1965

Initial thoughts

Sitting in between Grand Seiko and the Seiko Presage in both price and positioning, King Seiko is the brand’s affordable entry into vintage-inspired design – while incorporating Grand Seiko vibes – with its sharply faceted case and, for the first time, a bracelet.

The bracelet gives the new King Seiko something of an integrated-bracelet feel, which puts it in competition with more modern offerings, including the Citizen Series 8.

But the new King Seiko stands out for its old-school design that’s faithful to the original. The strict adherence to historical design is the norm for Seiko remakes, although most of the brand’s remakes have been limited editions. Because King Seiko a regular production offering, it is far more accessible, both in terms of price and availability.

It does away with the date, unlike the earlier SJE083

The only possible drawback is repositioning of King Seiko, which now sits lower in the Seiko brand hierarchy than the vintage original.

While King Seiko was originally conceived as a rival to Grand Seiko – and it was in the 1960s -today’s King Seiko is far more entry level. It’s powered by the 6R31 movement, a basic workhorse that’s also found in watches that cost far less like the Presage and Prospex.

That said, it makes sense to debut a mid-range line up so the 6R31 movement is inevitable, but it’s also possible that higher-end models will be introduced later on.

New faces for an old look

Though the King Seiko is vintage in design, it is available with five different dials, including the classic, “sunray” silver that’s straight out of the 1965 KSK. The rest are striking, contemporary colours, including brown or red.

The modern colours are clearly an important aspect of the King Seiko as Seiko has built a strap simulator that allows for experimenting with various strap and dial combinations for the King Seiko – a plus for potential owners as this does look good with a leather band.

The “aged” leather strap that’s fitted with a vintage-style buckle

Faceted from end to end

At a glance, the case of the new King Seiko is almost identical to that of the original, save for subtle differences. One being the lugs, which flow outwards more smoothly from the case band, endowing it with a more organic form. In contrast, on the vintage original the lugs are wider and straighter.

The steel case isn’t finished with Zaratsu – a technique of flat polishing – meaning it will not have the same shine as Grand Seiko cases, but fair considering the price

But the King Seiko is still appealing for its compact format, as the 37 mm size is uncommon for a modern Seiko.

That said, the real highlight is arguably the bracelet, an unusual, faceted construction that’s five links wide and evidently vintage inspired.

It is perhaps a first for a modern-day Seiko. In comparison to the case, the bracelet is more interesting because it’s different from Seiko’s other offerings, which helps the King Seiko’s value proposition.

The back is relief-engraved with the vintage King Seiko emblem


Key Facts and Price

Seiko King Seiko Collection
Ref. SPB279 (silver)
Ref. SPB281 (light grey)
Ref. SPB283 (charcoal grey)
Ref. SPB285 (brown)
Ref. SPB287 (red)

Diameter: 37 mm
Height: 12.1 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. 6R31
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Bracelet

Limited edition: No
Availability:
At boutiques and authorised retailers
Price
: US$1,700, or 198,000 Japanese yen including taxes

For more, visit Seikowatches.com.


 

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