Renaud Tixier Debuts with the Monday Micro-Rotor

An opening act that ticks some boxes.

Already collaborators on several projects, Dominique Renaud, one of the founders of Renaud & Papi, and Julien Tixier, a young watchmaker and constructor, have established Renaud Tixier, a brand backed by investors. The inaugural creation of Renaud Tixier is Monday, a time-only watch with an automatic movement sporting a novel micro-rotor.

Conceived to realise Mr Renaud’s many concepts and inventions, Renaud Tixier also aims to blend the styles of the two watchmakers. Each of the namesake founders comes from a different generation of watchmaking – pre- and post-Quartz Crisis – but the duo enjoy a shared philosophy that have made their past projects a success, something they are hoping to replicate with Renaud Tixier.

Initial thoughts

On a macro level, the Renaud Tixier and its first watch are noteworthy for a few reasons.

One of its main points of appeal, at least initially, is the name, specifically Dominique Renaud. Even though he departed Renaud & Papi (APRP) over 20 years ago, his name still carries weight, particularly since many alumni of APRP, Anthony de Haas of Lange and Carole Forestier of TAG Heuer for instance, speak well of him. The name will certainly help sell the watch, particularly in countries with a strong reverence for creators and history, like Japan for example.

And the fact that it’s a micro-rotor is noteworthy. Though relatively common in high-end watchmaking, micro-rotors are rare amongst independent watchmakers. The most prominent indie maker of such movements is Laurent Ferrier with its Galet Micro-Rotor, but that’s a brand that’s been on a slow downward slide in terms of finishing and execution since its founding, which leaves an opening in the market that Renaud Tixier clearly hopes to fill.

But then there’s the watch itself. On the front, the Monday is plain, perhaps tasteful but slightly uninspiring. The asymmetric layout of the small seconds and aperture offer some intrigue, but fail to create a greater appeal. The generous cut-out on the dial, however, points to the fact that this is movement-oriented timepiece. The plain habillage (the case and dial in other words) of the Monday is, or should be, upstaged by the mechanics within. 

As an aside, Renaud Tixier can be commended for avoiding a Comblemine (or Voutilainen) guilloche dial, which has become the de rigueur choice for startup brands and consequently losing its novelty.

Both Messrs Renaud and Tixier are associated with more elaborate complications, but their opening act is a time-only, automatic movement. The movement is an interesting proposition, particularly since it is signed by one of the most reputed watchmakers of contemporary watchmaking. But somehow the calibre falls a bit short of expectations. The “dancer” flywheel mechanism is interesting and subtle, but not enough to justify building a movement around it. It feels more like a bonus feature rather than the focus of a new calibre.

In terms of style, the movement is constructed with a cohesive design language, which is not always easy to accomplish, though it is not to my taste. It has the same overdone aesthetic that is current fashionable, as is the case with Herve Schlücter’s watches. And the movement is also well finished; though the prototype was not perfect, the brand promises the production version will be much improved and I believe that.

The Monday is an undeniably high quality debut for a new independent, but the movement with its improved winding mechanism is interesting to a degree, rather than revolutionary. It operates on the same principles and is largely an enhancement of efficiency. And the Monday retails for CHF79,000, which feels a bit steep, all things considered. 

That said, the promised philosophy of the brand, which centres on rethinking seven core concepts of watchmaking, remains promising. With their experience in exotic complications and alternative escapements, the namesake pair duo still have six chances left to surprise. I look forward to see what else is in the pipeline.

Dominique Renaud (left), who is 65 this year, and Julien Tixier, who is 31 years old

Flywheel and rotor

According to the brand, it was founded to address seven fundamental principles in modern watchmaking it feels can be revisited and perfected. The first principle is related to micro rotors and their winding efficiency, hence the Monday.

An alternative to full-sized rotors, micro rotors are employed for thinness and better visibility of the movement. Because of its reduced size, the energy generated by a  micro-rotor is generally lower than the average full-sized rotor. The small diameter of a micro-rotor also implies a smaller moment of inertia, so its oscillation can be easily halted by a jolt or shock. This makes micro-rotors comparatively ineffective and their use is mostly restricted to high-horology movements from the likes of Patek Philippe and Lange.

Mr Renaud addresses these issues with the “dancer”, an assembly inserted into in the central hub of the micro rotor, which is a clever utilisation of a space that is otherwise left unused. His invention consists of a platinum flywheel on the same axis as the micro-rotor, which picks up the smaller movements of the wearer’s arm.

This winds the mainspring in situations where the micro-rotor alone would not do the job. Also, the added inertia from the spinning flywheel renders the rotor less susceptible to stopping by external forces. The brand claims an increase of winding efficiency – which is a credible claim – although it admit that metric is not an easily quantifiable.

This auxiliary winding system is equipped with its own ingenious safety system in the form of a spring and clip component, which led to the “dancer” nickname.

When the movement is subject to extreme shock, the spring deforms and releases the clip, which then disengages from the arbour, creating some play in the axis of the flywheel. As soon as the shock dissipates, the flywheel clutches back into position.

The “dancer” with the gold micro-rotor that is mounted with more traditional ball bearings

Apart from the “dancer”, the movement is traditional in construction. The composition, however, is elaborate and layered, with the winding train revealed by open-worked titanium bridges and the going train under a tubular steel bridge.

At the end of the going train, the Swiss lever escapement engages with a large-diameter palladium balance that runs at a leisurely 18,000 beats per hour or 2.5 Hz, which is arguably too low-beat for a modern movement. Surprisingly for a timepiece of this stature, the balance uses a flat hairspring and index regulator, subtly concealed by in the wide, open-worked balance cock. A more price-appropriate setup would be a free-sprung balance with an overcoil hairspring.

Everything is elaborately decorated. If anything, the decoration is too much, making it visually overwhelming. Classical decoration techniques meet modern, angular bridges that are in titanium.

Even the barrel ratchet wheel is engraved and then enamelled with a motif that echoes the “dancer” nicely. And it’s equipped with not one, but two, winding clicks. All of this results in a particular style that is current in vogue with independent watchmakers.

The movement is surprisingly colourful, with red-hued beryllium-copper bushings for the winding mechanism and rose gold chatons for the jewels, amongst a wealth of other details

With the movement being the centrepiece, the case, like the dial, is simple in design, though finished fairly elaborately. The case is made up of a polished bezel, short sloped lugs, and a back secured by screws. However, the flanks are decorated a hand-engraved frosting that extends to the area in between the lugs.

Key Facts

Renaud Tixier Monday
Ref. RTVI2023

Diameter: 40.8 mm
Height: 11 mm
Material: 18k rose or white gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Cal. RTVI2023
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds
Frequency: 18,000 beats per hour (2.5 Hz)
Winding: Automatic, with “dancer” micro rotor
Power reserve: Over 60 hours

Strap: Calfskin or alligator with pin buckle

Limited edition: No, but production is estimated to be 60 a year at most
Direct from Renaud Tixier
CHF79,000 excluding taxes

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