Inspired by haute couture
Angus Davies recently visited Alexandre Meerson Altitude Sickness replica watch,‘Maison de Style d’Horlogerie’ and discovered a world of obsessive attention to detail and design prowess which promises a lifetime of ownership delight and peerless wearer comfort.Ironically, it was haute couture which piqued my imagination long before haute horlogerie became the focal point of my obsessive character.
Studying A-levels and maritime studies at Fleetwood Nautical College, I cut a dashing figure in my embroidered waistcoats and block colour clothes. The ritual of visiting the local newsagentand collecting my pre-ordered copy of Harpers & Queen, together with a case of 36 Dime bars, remains a vivid memory indelibly etched on my mind. I often contemplated a career in design, but accepted at an early stage I lacked the necessary talents to ever make it a reality.
I have long since been an admirer of haute couture. This may sound a peculiar admission for a middle-aged heterosexual man to make, but it is true. As a teenager at college, the walls of my student accommodation were adorned with numerous images of incredible male sartorial designs and photographs of dresses cut on the bias.
‘Haute couture’ should never be confused with ‘fashion’. The two are often mentioned in the same breath by the ill-informed but they are two disparate entities.
‘Fashion’ is a disposable commodity which is tossed aside with the arrival of a new season. It is intrinsically obsolete and a marketing tool to encourage repeat purchase. Designs are churned out for the masses and the foolish follow like lemmings, trying to conform to a perceived norm without ever thinking for themselves.
‘Haute couture’ on the other hand is suffused with longevity and individuality. It may evince a classical character or appear avant-garde in nature, but it won’t suffer the indignity of being labelled passé at some future point.
Each magical creation showed the prowess of Christian Dior at accentuating the feminine form and augmenting beauty with clothes which homogeneously fused with the body.A few years ago, I remember attending a Dior exhibition and marvelling at haute couture creations produced for late Audrey Hepburn and Diana, Princess of Wales.
It is the collaborative efforts of the vendeuse, the pattern cutter, the seamstress, the tailor and the designer which results in a matchless garment.The wonder of a ‘haute couture’ is not merely the work of the designer, it is so much more.
The first aspect I noticed when placing an Alexandre Meerson timepiece on my wrist was the fit. This company clearly understands that ‘touch’ and ‘feel’ are of paramount importance. Every aspect of the case design, strap and pin buckle is designed to accord a sublime union with the wrist as if it were a couture creation made exclusively for its wearer. In some respects, that is not far from the truth. Whilst the case design is serially produced, the client, is contacted post purchase and invited for a ‘fitting’ with an optimally sized strap, provided at no extra cost, in a choice of over 30 skins. Indeed, the notion of bespoke is very much part of the Meerson DNA.
Alexandre Meerson and his eponymously named watch replica company clearly understand the notion of haute couture, something he recently eluded to me during our meeting at the company’s Surrey-based headquarters.
During my visit I was like a child in the proverbial ‘candy store’. An extensive array of models were presented to me, many of which engaged with me. Indeed, over the coming months I suspect I will be returning to the maison to sample more of its wares and review further models
The focal point of this ‘hands-on’ steel Alexandre Meerson watch replica review is the Meerson Altitude Officier Small Seconds Reference 101-OEJY, featuring a graphite dial with small seconds display and paired with a titanium case.
The dial canvas is a tasteful, muted shade of grey and provides a delightful adjunct to the hands, numerals and case material.
The hour and minute hands are slender, pointing to the hour markers and railroad minute track with laser-like accuracy. There is no ambiguity, the narrow profile of the hands is eminently logical. However, by making the hands functional, Alexandre Meerson has not eschewed style. Indeed, the hands eloquently communicate with an abundance of seemly style.
The small seconds display residing above 6 o’clock is snailed and completes the inventory of functions presented.
At first glance, the applied rhodium plated hour markers resemble Breguet numerals, however, close examination reveals that this is not actually the case. Meerson is obsessive about details and each numeral has been uniquely designed. Part of the Meerson paradigm is to optimise legibility, not by using a ‘one font fits all’ approach but by creating optimally shaped numerals to aid interpretation.
Alexandre will often sketch ideas in the most unlikely of locations and freely admits to drawing concepts on napkins whilst aboard a plane. His colleague, Laura Aust, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, and Head of Product Development at Alexandre Meerson, distills his ideas and the collaborative duo clearly work well together.
The case is constructed of grade 5 titanium. This premium version of the lightweight material is challenging to polish but the gleaming results speak for themselves. The absence of mass confers greater wearer comfort and the material is hypoallergenic.
The 41mm diameter case should prove appealing to a broad selection of prospective purchasers. It measures a mere 8.59mm in height and sits neatly below the cuff. This latter aspect was of huge importance to the Frenchman. On repeated occasions he would position the cuff of my shirt in such a way as to showcase the lithe profile of the watch. It is this preoccupation with the minutiae that distinguishes Meerson and Aust as obsessive. Indeed, as a sufferer of OCD myself, I felt I had discovered two kindred spirits with their fanatical fussing over the finer points.
Gracing the vertical flank of the knurled crown is the brand’s elaborate logo.
Four screws hold the caseback in position and a pane of sapphire crystal reveals the beautiful movement at work within.
In addition, I feel I have to make mention of the strap gracing the Meerson Altitude Officier small seconds. It bestows a tender caress of the arm and feels unlike anything I have ever witnessed, including watches with six and even seven figure price tags. The chocolate hued Barenia leather strap not only looked magnificent but proffered wonderful tactility.
The Meerson movement, Reference AM-4808-A has been produced by the Swiss company, Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. This company needs little introduction its exalted reputation is legendary within the watchmaking industry and is partly owned by the Sandoz Family Foundation who also own the high-end brand Parmigiani Fleurier.
However, it is the finissage of the movement which makes me smile with delight. The oscillating mass is partially open-worked. Initially, I thought there was a greater aperture on the movement revealing golden text on the bridge beneath, however Meerson has actually affixed a small plate to the rotor, adorned with the brand’s nomenclature in golden text. The outcome of this ingenuity is that the name of the maker is always visible but appears to exploit differing depths to comely effect. It is beautiful.
A further aspect of the movement finish which I especially like is the use of Côtes de Genève rayonnantes. This variation on a theme provides a wonderful alternative to the customary Geneva Stripes.
Alexandre chose Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier as they reassuringly attest that 100% of their movements are Swiss made.
The self-winding movement contains 193 parts, includes 28 jewels and a power reserve of 50 hours. The balance has a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour and the movement incorporates two barrels.
Perhaps most interestingly though is that, similar to a haute couture creation, an Alexandre Meerson timepiece is made to optimally fit its wearer and confer a lifetime of ownership delight. Indeed, it is this ambition which makes the ‘Maison de Style d’Horlogerie’ a remarkable company with a bright future.
I am totally smitten with the incredible timepieces made by this young brand and profoundly impressed with the thoroughness and exactitude it practises with each aspect of its operation. The collection of models is extensive and the ambition of the company would suggest there is much more to follow.
- Model: Alexandre Meerson Altitude Officier small seconds
- Reference: 101-0EJY
- Case: Grade 5 titanium; diameter 41.00mm; height 8.59mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; smalll seconds.
- Movement: AM-4808-A, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve 50 hours.
- Strap: Chocolate Barenia leather strap, presented on a Grade 5 titanium pin buckle.
- Price: £8600 (RRP as at 6.7.2015)
Where Alexandre Meerson replica watch truly excels is in his obsessive approach to design and relentless pursuit of perfection. Chatting to him reveals he pursues absolute perfection with near religious zeal, mindful that it is an aspiration which is unachievable, albeit in my opinion he comes remarkably close.