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Bridges and watches - Back to front: the most beautiful bridges of the SIHH

Bridges and watches Back to front: the most beautiful bridges of the SIHH

Bridges, these purely structural elements of a watch movement, are increasingly attracting the aesthetic attentions of watchmakers. Here are some of the most beautiful bridges of the SIHH.

Bridges form an integral part of a movement’s construction, and are worthy heirs of Lepine’s famous architecture. Their primary role is to ensure the rigidity of the watch mechanism, but they are now significant decorative elements. There are two reasons for that. The first is the trend for skeletonised and openworked watches, which provide a view of the entire movement. The second has to do with brand image: bridges, with their sharp corners and many acute angles, are particularly challenging to finish, and consequently act as a calling card for a watchmaker’s mastery of the art. Those that have the expertise tend not to be shy about showing it off.

Dial side: an aesthetic signature

A few rare watchmakers have made bridges into a genuine aesthetic signature. Richard Mille springs to mind, as does Roger Dubuis and his stunning star-shaped bridge architecture. But there are others. With his Maestro Mamba, Christophe Claret pursues his beloved Charles X aesthetic, with stepped bridges, sharp angles, exposed screws and, often, openworked bridge heads.

Sans dessus dessous : les plus beaux ponts du SIHH

© Roger Dubuis

At the SIHH, HYT was not far away in the Watchmakers’ Square. The sculptural H20 displays its balance bridge proudly, at the centre of a completely open movement picked out with a blue coating. While the Claret calibre gives the impression of an intensely studied arrangement, obeying the haute horlogerie canons that the watchmaker holds dear, the HYT H20 movement (made by Renaud & Papi) exudes an abundant, luxuriant technicality that is full of self-confidence.

Surface treatments (usually PVD) play a crucial role in the effect that bridges create. Over at RJ–Romain Jerome, for instance, the Spiderman is skeletonised, and only its bridges are coated in black. Because of the powerful contrast, they stand out. RJ–Romain Jerome directs the focus towards its edgy design and aesthetic tension, which brings out the best in the Concepto-designed movement. Audemars Piguet uses the same procedure with its Royal Oak Double Balance Wheel Openworked: in order to make the bridge stand out from the famous double balance wheel, the manufacture made it in gold, to contrast with the lighter colours of the rest of the movement. And it works.

Sans dessus dessous : les plus beaux ponts du SIHH

© Audemars Piguet

Case back: refined functionality

But the bridges we are starting to see on the dial side should not eclipse the ones that are traditionally visible on the back. After all, that’s where they belong! The most iconic bridge is made by Minerva, now a part of Montblanc. Its arrowhead shape has ticked many boxes over the course of its hundred-year history: it’s an aesthetic signature, a detail that’s popular with collectors, a guarantee of quality and a maker’s mark that has virtually acquired the status of a hallmark. It can be found on the calibre 13.21, inside the Montblanc 1858 monopusher chronograph.

Sans dessus dessous : les plus beaux ponts du SIHH

© Montblanc

Finally, some watchmakers at the SIHH have produced pieces whose bridges are equally prominent on the front and back of the watch. This is the case of Romain Gauthier. In the new Micro Rotor Lady, the watchmaker has taken the exercise to its logical conclusion: the bridges are as important as the dials! They are a defining part of the watch’s aesthetic identity. Without them, the Micro Rotor Lady would be something entirely different. Their curves are subtle and refined, as are their finishes, with their many internal angles.

Sans dessus dessous : les plus beaux ponts du SIHH

© Montblanc

Brands

Audemars Piguet is one of the few independent family-owned watch businesses and has been based in Le Brassus, in Switzerland's Vallée de Joux region, at the heart of the fine watchmaking industry,...

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The Hydro Mechanical Horologists at HYT have realised an impossible dream: combining mechanics and fluids in a wristwatch.

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Montblanc has always been committed to the same values: the pursuit of quality and craftsmanship.

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Richard Mille did not simply try to find his place in the watchmaking world – he carved one out for himself, constantly striving not to take anything for granted, and to make innovation and extreme...

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The Roger Dubuis Manufacture was founded on the desire for independence and watchmaking excellence. With remarkable dynamism, Roger Dubuis quickly ignited the world of Haute Horlogerie and has...

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