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Harry Winston - Opus 14 - the beginning of a new era
It was a rare chance to hear Harry Winston CEO and Chair of the Swatch Group board of directors Nayla Hayek speak frankly about the Opus project, the Harry Winston brand and much more besides. Her son Marc, who now spearheads product development at Harry Winston in addition to Blancpain and Breguet, shared his philosophy on the Opus series, while the two watchmakers behind the Opus 14, Johnny Girardet and Frank Orny (Telos watch), were on hand to field some of the more technical questions related to the new piece.
The influence of the Swatch Group on the latest Opus model is clearly there, if not apparent at first sight. The base calibre for the movement, for example, is provided by Blancpain. But more importantly, each individual block of the huge complication module was tested exhaustively in the Blancpain laboratory in order to be homologated by the lab's strict standards. The tests included a simulated five-year wear test, 500g shock tests (with the jukebox complication in operation) as well as 4,200 individual operations of the complication function and 12,000 date and GMT corrections. The Opus 14 is also the first model in the series to enjoy the benefits of a silicon balance spring.
Harry Winston has patented the unique jukebox complication, whose complexity naturally threw up a number of challenge, not least of which the question of energy consumption. In true jukebox style, an indicator on the dial awards the wearer five "credits" to use the complication, which equates to five complete back and forth operations of the jukebox arm. "It could have been ten," explains Frank Orny, "but we preferred to use only the first five turns so that we can use the force of the mainspring to ensure a totally equal duration for all five operations." The fluid movement of the arm comes from the fact that the jukebox complication is always under tension and that a separate escapement governs its operation. Furthermore, just like in the more high-end jukeboxes, the individual "records" are each housed in a separate container for further protection.
Marc A. Hayek revealed that the Opus 15 is already in the pipeline but that the series is unlikely to continue at the rhythm of one per year as in the past. "We want to avoid launching one Opus per year at Basel. You simply cannot pre-programme creativity and it goes against the very idea of the Opus series," he said. The Opus 14 will also remain an exception in the entire Swatch Group product portfolio, since one of its discs is intended specifically for personalization (for example by laser engraving the owner's name or signature on the so-called "aesthetic" disc). Nayla Hayek was quick to stress this during conference, for fear of being submerged with requests from the Middle East and Russia to personalize other timepieces. "Swatch Group does not otherwise do any personalisations," she insisted, "since once you say yes to one, it is difficult to say no to anyone else."
Of the 50 Opus 14 watches that will be produced, number 1/50 was sold the morning after the launch and number 50/50 was reserved (no doubt to two major collectors who were invited to the launch event). Nayla Hayek claimed that five others have been reserved. At 428,000 Swiss francs apiece the proceeds will undoubtedly help to amortise the investment in the project and boost the Swatch Group's bottom line.