[BaselWorld] Loiseau 1F4 "Back to the future"

«Loiseau, Back to the future»

Contrarily to my habits, I quote the press-kit title literally, as it seems to me to suit perfectly the underlying concept of this new independant brand.

On the WatchOnista database:

In the trade shows, it is set up like a performance, with hostesses, Champagne; And there are flea markets, discovery.
The second to last day, Karsten from «Heritage Watch Manufactory», talks about a watchmaker that works with a «pointer»machine, the old way, without CNC, and who prepares a great complication of the level of the Hybrys Mecanica Jeager leCoultre.
When I arrive, I meet an «old fashioned» Parisian, not a «Bobo», nor a bourgeois from the «16eme arrondissement», but a man who speaks with the Parisian accent of the old fashioned working classes, the Arletti accent.

It was a nice surprise, because after the complete disappearance of the proletariat at the beginning of the 2000’s, I couldn’t imagine meeting a genuine Parisian, worthy of the «Thirty glorious», the type of character found in the great French cinema of the 50’s-60’s-70’s.
Archetype of the genius watchmaker unknown to the public, Dominique Loiseau also teaches at the International Museum of Watchmaking in La Chaux-de-Fonds.
His educational streak probably comes from studies in Philosophy he pursued in Nanterre, right before May ‘68. Events that undoubtedly guided him toward the manual work, rather than an academic career. He pursued a career as a Master watchmaker, while teaching his craft.
His path is a throwback to manual work, a throwback to the past.
He works in partnership with several great brands, amongst which Blancpain, where he creates the 1735, the greatest complication of its time for a wristwatch.
For Omega, he creates the 6 pocket watches «Montres de Sables», with their extra-flat movements and central tourbillons. Then comes the «Rose des temps», an extremely complicated watch.
He becomes one of the inside men in the great watchmaking of the 80’s-90’s, a purely mechanical world, which aims resolutely at the past during the «post-quartz» rebirth.

Anachronistic, «uchronistic», moving into a universe of technical anticipation, Loiseau’s career seems to escape from the space-time continuum, to better serve the watchmakers cause.
He comes back with a work that once again is the most complicated wristwatch in the world.

A revolutionary watch in its conception, but ultra-conventional in its look.
Ultra classic, because the trend is rather to fancy displays, like the Opus XI, to absolute aesthetics, like the De Bethune DB28T, or to ultramodern materials, like the Freak Diavolo.
Ultra classic again, because this very complicated watch is fundamentally a nose thumbing at the advocates of Quartz.
A technology which, with a few developers and a chipset, will always propose more functionalities than that of a watch of great complication ten thousand times more expensive.
The extremely complicated watches are symptomatic of a return to classic watchmaking, a craftsmanship from before the twentieth century.
The Americans have led Swiss horology toward a mass market rhythm of production, only for the Japanese to bring it back to its original vocation, that of an elitist watchmaking.

And now comes Loiseau, who presents an incredibly complicated watch.
The chief interest of this project, which took 6 years to complete, is that it started from a blank slate.
It is also the fact that it features comfort functionalities usually forgotten on this kind of piece.
Fundamentally, it is a timepiece designed to be worn every day.

As usual at this level of complexity, the watch is double-faced (Sky Moon Patek, Calibre 89 Patek, JLC Tryptic Reverso).
The originality of the concept lies with the patented system of lugs reversible via a single button: the case can be turned over at will, depending upon which dial one favors.


Blue face; The dial features an original crenellated pattern, very 90’s, with superb large hands, a valuable characteristic: too often, big watches are fitted with ridiculously small hands.
But the visual aspect is not so important, since the watch is almost entirely customizable, the featured model is only a demonstration.
This blue dial carries the perpetual calendar and Moon phases, while the counter at 10:30 displays the power reserve of the Grande sonnerie complication.

Skeleton face; It opens on an opaline sub-dial, which is a little disappointing: it is like a striptease that would end up with the tights on. But once again, the watch being totally customizable, it doesn’t really matter. Of course it is not the kind of finish I would go for, a little too overused by the watches from China.
By the way, the Chinese productions were strongly inspired in their design by the mechanical works of some Dominique Loiseau, temporal ring…

This face features the conventional time at 12 o’clock, an extra time zone with independent minute hand(!!) at 9 o’clock, the tourbillon 1 minute set at 21600v/h at 6 o’clock (the base 6 frequency as a time paradigm);
The Equation of time sits at 10:30, the power reserve indicator of the striking mechanism at 01:30, and finally the split second chronograph sits at 3 o’clock, this materialized by 2 large bleued hands.
The duality of this timekeeper is interesting in terms of aesthetics: a full dial for the «classic» dimension, a skeleton dial on the other side to enhance the complexity of the mechanism.

What makes this watch most original, apart from its integration of an incredible number of complications in a relatively contained volume (45x16mm), are the automatic winding rotors: no less than 2 (!!), with their gold masses fitted into the bezels; They drive a geared ring, which transmits the torque to the winding barrels through a complicated pinion train. One of the rotors powers the «Grande sonnerie complication», while the other powers the multiple displays.
By the way, with its two dials and its reversible lugs, this watch permanently buries the notion of «caseback» (to the future)!

The «Grande sonnerie» functionality, for hours and quarters, is completed with an automatically started minute repeater: we’re done with the fastidious activation by a pull-tab.
These functionalities can be deactivated, making the watch even more comfortable for daily use.
One regret: the lack of any operation indicator…

The theme of this timepiece is a chess game, which is original in watchmaking.
I see a metaphor of the game in the fact that strategic choices were behind the conception of such a complicated watch.
In fact, the several buttons are as many chess pawns, the clasp is engraved with a checkered pattern and the dials can be customized even further along the theme.
The piece was named «1F4», a reference to the famous E.Bird chess opening (as well as a pun: The Bird = L'oiseau in French )

This stylistic exercise, done by a watchmaker from the 70’s on a watch from the 90’s, all of it in a spirit of independence from the 10’s, is a wonderful piece of anachronism.
At an age when others retire, Loiseau starts his own factory; Manufactured with traditional tools, without the help of CNC, only 2 pieces will be produced a year, understandably…
Because of its rarity, its complexity and the personality of its creator, will this watch go through the roof at auctions in a few decades?

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