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Baselworld 2017 Baselworld is the world's biggest exhibition dedicated to watches and jewellery. It is held annually at the exhibition centre in the Swiss city of Basel, which borders directly with France and Germany.

Fabergé - Visionnaire Chronograph

Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph

Quite simply the chronograph redefined.

After winning the Ladies’ High-Mech watch prize at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2015 for its Lady Compliquée Peacock, then the Travel Watch prize last year with the Visionnaire DTZ, the recently revived watchmaking arm of Fabergé has set its horological benchmark very high. With its latest model, however, Fabergé sets a new standard that is unlikely to be beaten for a number of years. The Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph quite simply redefines the chronograph movement.

Although the design development of this new watch dates back just three years, the movement itself has been 10 years in the making and predates the Visionnaire DTZ models. This is because Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, the owner of Agenhor, the independent movement maker who has been responsible for all of Fabergé’s high-end complications, had this project on the back burner for a decade. To finally bring the project to fruition has required three years of intensive work, the last six months of which required all hands on deck and a fair amount of overtime, according to Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. Fabergé knew that they wanted this chronograph as soon as they started working with Agenhor, since the surprise in the Fabergé Egg was found at the centre, so the surprise in a Fabergé watch must also be found in the centre.


Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph

The surprise in the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph is found in the centre.

The innovation in the new AGH 6361 movement is not to be underestimated and consists of two major new patented components. The first is the AgenEmbr patented horizontal clutch. This may seem counter-intuitive, since many brands prefer vertical clutches because one of the main disadvantages of the horizontal clutches are that there can either be not enough or too much play between the teeth as the main seconds wheel engages with the chronograph seconds wheel, leading to a visible disturbance in the chronograph seconds counter. To eradicate this, Agenhor came up with a simple but audacious solution: simply remove the teeth from the wheels! Those who appreciate the finer point of mechanical watches will realize this has its own drawbacks, since a minimum amount of friction is required for one gear wheel to engage the other. The answer came from an unlikely, but Swiss Made, source: the famous Swiss Army knife! Many such knives come with a handy metal nail file that has an abrasive surface. Agenhor have simply applied this very same surface coating, called “Dianip” to both wheels to form an abrasive surface. A separate pair of toothed wheels mounted on the same axes as these two wheels act as an anti-shock system. The entire clutch pivots about its central axis, actioned by a tulip-shaped spring, with a platinum screw on the opposing end to the gear wheels acting as a counterweight.

The second innovation is the central chronograph module. This was designed from the outset to solve several problems with traditional chronographs: the small size and poor legibility of the counters, as well as the relatively high amount of energy required to power the counters (around 1.5 seconds’ worth of energy is taken from the movement every minute just to move the minute counter forward one increment). The patented AgenGraphe module solves all these problems very elegantly by placing everything at the centre of the watch. The hour, minute and seconds counters are all displayed from the same central axis (the running hour and minutes are displayed around the edge of the dial using hidden discs, as is already familiar from the Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ).

Furthermore, since the chronograph is driven by a snail cam for the seconds, the energy is accumulated constantly and is transmitted down through the chronograph module in layers, first to another snail cam for the minutes and ultimately to a wheel to count the elapsed hours. A welcome benefit of this construction is an instantaneous jump of the minute and hour counters – so instantaneous, in fact, that you can actually see the minute counter jump immediately after 60 seconds, with the seconds hand taking a fraction of a second to catch up. At each elapsed hour, the minute and hour hands both advance simultaneously. Furthermore, because of the energy optimization, the movement offers an impressive 60 hours of power reserve, even if the chronograph is left in continuous operation.

Few movements in my view are more appealing to look at through a transparent case back than a chronograph. But in a self-winding chronograph the oscillating mass ruins this view. Thanks to the patented AgenPal bearing block, however, this is not a problem in the Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph. Nor is winding noise, since this bearing does not actually have any ball bearings. It relies instead on two low-friction plates sliding over each other. The inertia is provided by a platinum weight underneath the winding rotor, which is positioned on top of the movement and barely perceptible from the dial side. The beautiful and revolutionary chronograph movement can therefore be admired through the sapphire crystal case back in all its glory.
Chronographe Visionnaire Fabergé
The launch of this new chronograph today in particular, the 8th March 2017, is as significant as its contents. Today marks the centenary of the start of the Russian revolution – an event that changed the destiny of Fabergé. The Imperial court in Russia was one of Peter Carl Fabergé’s most important clients, in particular for the Imperial Easter Eggs, which had been an annual tradition at the court started in 1885 by Tsar Alexander III. Peter Carl Fabergé was set to present the Constellation Egg to Tsarina Alexandra in Easter 1917, but the outbreak of the Russian Revolution caused the imperial regime to fall, the Fabergé family to go into exile and any trace of the Constellation Egg to vanish. Until 1999, where the original drawings were found, to be followed later by incomplete pieces of the very egg itself. The story had come full circle.

The first Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph models are available in a choice of red gold and titanium or black DLC titanium and black ceramic for two quite different interpretations, both with an integrated leather strap. The movement is finished to the exacting standards of the prestigious Poinçon de Genève, which Fabergé hopes to certify in the near future so that it can add this prestigious hallmark to a timepiece that fully deserves it.
Fabergé Visionnaire Chronograph

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Fabergé delights in producing the unexpected for its timepieces, much like the famous Imperial Easter Eggs for which the house is famous.

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