Shortly after the release of their initial timepiece, the Carillon Tourbillon, Jean-Claude Biver and his son Pierre are making their debut at Only Watch with the Catharsis. A bold take on the chiming watch, this unique piece has no hands on the dial, but indicates the time with the carillon minute repeater.
The dial is instead decorated with a mixture of gemstones, semi-precious stone marquetry, and guilloché to create an abstract scene depicting the Moon over a seascape. Inside is a variant of the movement as Biver’s first watch, but with an hour hand on the reverse.
The father-and-son duo behind Biver have to be commended for a daring debut at Only Watch, even though the watch will no doubt be polarising. They have gone extremely conceptual with the Catharsis.
The idea of creating a watch with no visible way of telling the time is nothing new, having been done recently by H. Moser & Cie. in 2019 and earlier by Haldimann and Romain Jerome. However, the Catharsis aims to make a statement and chart a course for this newly minted independent brand.
The aesthetics of original Biver repeater model were mixed, so this watch actually addresses that issue in a weird yet logical manner.
The visual focus of the watch is the dial, which is not really a dial but a canvas for elaborate decoration. The 89 sapphires that make up the waves have been invisibly set and create a pleasing effect alongside the meteorite moon, silver obsidian sky and mother of pearl stars.
At first glance, the knurling around the edge of the moon feels like gilding the lily, since the dial already has so much decoration. But the knurled border around the moon is actually a subtle representation of the rays of light emanating from the lunar body, which adds to the abstract nature of the dial.
There is very little data to go off when attempting to judge the accuracy or potential value of the estimate Christie’s has given this watch. The estimate of CHF500,000-700,000 places it at roughly half of what the brand’s prototype watch achieved at auction earlier this year.
While it would be unwise to peg this unique piece to that first production model, it still feels likely that this will surpass its estimate given the goodwill enjoyed by Biver’s eponymous founder, and the simple fact that the Catharsis is different and interesting.
Concept is everything
The concept for the watch came from an artist friend of theirs who asked for a minute repeater “with no hands, no indexes”. The result is a watch that is no doubt impractical but definitely striking.
It should also be noted that the hands and indices are not the only things to be missing from the dial, there is also no branding at all. A shrewd move, allowing the abstract landscape to remain cohesive, and leaving the marque to the case back only.
To realise the idea, the original Biver repeater calibre was rotated 180 degrees, resulting in the crown being on the left and the slide on the right of the case.
The movement appears otherwise to be largely unchanged, which is a good thing given the high quality of finish and construction. The white gold bridges are covered in a fine frosting with what appears to be sharp bevelling and utilises antiquated components such as gold chatons that have become popular with a number of independents.
The only major modification comes in placing a serpentine hour hand on the rear of the dial and extending the motion works via a shaft that is likely penetrating through the barrel arbour, meaning the time can still be set via the crown.
Setting the time being the only reason I can see for the need of an hour hand, although that implies that the eventual owner will ever use it to tell the time.
A small detail that shows thought had been put into this design is the markings around the outside of the crystal on the case back that depict a railroad minute track, this should aid when attempting to either set the watch or read the time from the hour hand.
The case is titanium – an ideal metal for a striking movement – and measures 42 mm across and 13.9 mm thick, not insubstantial dimensions, but acceptable given the complications and 50 m of water resistance, a feat for a repeater with a slide.
Key facts and estimate
Ref. JCB 002-A
Case diameter: 42 mm
Height: 13.9 mm
Water resistance: 50 m
Features: Hours, minute repeater carillon, tourbillon
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 72 hours
Strap: Leather with pin buckle
Limited edition: Unique piece
Availability: At Only Watch 2023 on November 5 in Geneva
Estimate: CHF 500,000 – 700,000
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